I love sleep. One of the most pleasurable daily gifts God gave, I think, is good, happy sleep. I love to snuggle in layers of warmth on a crisp morning and feel the delightful tug of autumn luring me from bed. I feel a sense of celebration for the wonderful night of sleep I had and when I get up, it is a pleasure.
Over two years ago, I first wrote The Finale: Becoming the Morning Person I Always Wanted to Be, an article in a series about my transition from living as a night owl who went to bed around 2 p.m. to acting like a morning person who consistently gets up and goes to bed early.
That change has stuck. This was the sleep plan that worked for me when every sleep tip I’d tried—and there were many—failed. Except for a 2-3 month stress-filled period when I abandoned my sleep plan, we have continued it ever since. And in that short period when I wasn’t following it, I felt awful. I hated slipping back into night owl ways. My husband missed our new life, too. We both realized how much the sleep plan had added to our lives and couldn’t wait to return to sweet calm and order.
Yesterday, I edited the original Finale post so it would be shorter and easier to read. You can find it here. In cutting things from the post, I found some things worth keeping, but since I had crammed too much information in the original, I decided to move them. What follows is a summation of the material I cut.
Before we started our candlelight sleep plan, my husband didn’t have sleep problems to speak of; I was the one with trouble. Yet, once we started it, he began to tell me how much more rested he felt mornings, that getting up was easier, and that he no longer felt as tired during the day as he often had. For both of us this was a nicer way to live. In addition to candlelight (which I wrote about in Finale), here are some of the other changes we made two years ago:
1.) We stopped using artificial light at night besides our candlelight. A TV counts as artificial light. So do blue LED lights on computers and glowing computer screens. Instead of using my cell phone, I preferred to use my land phone by evening. We turned off our refrigerator light that popped on every time we opened the door. Why? I read that in some animal experiments, a sudden bright light after dusk was the equivalent of early morning sun to the circadian clock. In other words, bright light, once your body thinks it is after dark and melatonin has been picking up, can possibly shut the melatonin tap and keep it from increasing for a while. Maybe there is even a component apart from melatonin that causes an increase in alertness with bright light. Whatever the case, I am sensitive to it.
I’ve also read that if you get up at night to go to the bathroom and turn on the light, the light’s effects on melatonin will cause your sleep to be less effective for the rest of the night. This could help explain some of those mornings when you slept all night, yet you wake feeling like you had only half a night’s sleep.
2.) We used blackout curtains over all our windows, including our bedroom, and covered our alarm clock to make the bedroom as dark as possible.
3.) We bought an inexpensive dawn simulator to have light in the morning. We thought it was nice, but not entirely necessary. For me and my husband, the dimness at night seemed to reset our bodies’ light sensitivity. I began to find that just a tad bit of window light poking through was all it took to get me wide awake when we’d had total darkness except for candlelight the night before. On the other hand, my husband really liked the dawn simulator. He would wake to the dawn simulator and then when he rose, he would throw open the window blinds, illuminating the room for me to wake by. I prefer waking to outdoors light; it invigorates me better than a dawn simulator.
However, even without extra light, in following this plan, I just naturally wake up when I’ve had enough sleep. It’s not as much fun to wake in the dark, but I think the key to making it easier is going to bed early enough to get enough sleep. In times when I rise before dawn, rather than turn the house lights on, I love to light a candle and watch the sunrise through the window, experiencing the growing brilliance of morning more fully.
We have made modifications over time as I wrote in my newly edited Finale post and sometimes I miss pure candlelit evenings, but we have kept the gist of it. It has made our lives better. Good sleep is good.