Tag Archive | better sleep

My (copycat) experiment with no artificial light and sleep and much more.

A few weeks ago I was listening to the radio and John Tesch told me about an experiment a man had done to see if he got better sleep with no artificial light after sundown.  Yes, that means no lights, no TV, no computer, and so on.  I am a huge fan of simplicity, and a crummy sleeper from way back, so this idea appealed to me on many levels.  Lest you think that I do whatever I half-hear John Tesch tell me to do to improve my life, I did not immediately pull out the candles.  No, I needed to research this idea first, and it was then that I came upon the fine blog of J.D Moyer.  Mr. Moyer and his family have twice gone without artificial light after sundown, once in the month of June, and once in the month of February.  He has a young family, and they cosleep as I did with all of my kids, so his desire was for more and better sleep for himself and his family, and it worked.  It is an excellent blog post that includes a link to a lengthy, but worthwhile, New York Times article.

It was after reading his blog detailing his family’s experiment, and the positive results, that I dragged out my candle collection.  I commenced that night, turning off all lights and the computer at sundown.  I told a few friends what I was doing, and they seemed scared for me by the mere thought of me being in nothing but candlelight for an evening.  I assured them that “real light” was just a switch away.  Yes, I was looking for better sleep, but my reasons for undertaking this ongoing experiment went a lot deeper.  You might say that the reasons went clear down into my very soul and I felt as if I was strongly being called to return, or move forward, into a higher level of simplicity, and away from the many distractions of today’s world.  I was being called closer to God.

There were also practical reasons for my decision to start this experiment.  If you search through my blog you will find that my son and I live in a little cottage in the woods.  I love the solitude and nature all around me.  However, the cottage gets very little natural light inside, so my electric bill has been obscene no matter how careful we are.  Since I heat the cottage entirely with wood in the winter, and the stove is gas, the power bill is all lights and appliances.  At the same time, I use my cell phone as my sole source of internet, and I had gone over on my data plan two months in a row, which hurt a lot.  I realized that my dedication to my Facebook owners page was the culprit, or more to the point, my ego, and my desire to see the page grow.  The Facebook page was also pulling me away from real pages, in actual books, like the Bible.  I needed an excuse to step away and this was it.

At the same time, I was suddenly dealing with chronic pain coming from what I found out to be extensive arthritis in my spine.  The pain was so obnoxious that a prescription strength anti-inflammatory medication was needed, as well as physical therapy.  My physical therapist tells me I have excellent flexibility, which comes as no surprise, but my core muscles are weak.  Blame it on having carried seven children.  That is what I do. 😉  I am a nurse, so I know that being chronically tired because of poor sleep makes any pain feel magnified, so I wanted to see if I got better sleep without artificial lights, and if I would have less pain as a result of getting more sleep.  It seemed that weakness of my core, both physical, and spiritual, were my biggest problems, and something as simple as turning out the lights at sundown might be the cure.

The first night, and every night since, has been heaven.  At sundown, the candles are lit, the computer goes off, and I read the Bible for a while.  I may sit up to do some reading, or I may dance to music by candlelight.  Some nights I do not feel like dragging the candles upstairs and downstairs repeatedly, so I just get into bed to read.  I am usually yawning and ready for “candles out” within 30 minutes to an hour.  I do sleep better and those periods of quiet wakefulness that Mr. Moyer mentions are truly lovely.  Some mornings I am up by 5 a.m., but I feel well rested, and I enjoy an hour of quiet, and a cup of coffee, before my son wakes up.  To my literal relief, with each passing day, I have less back pain.  In fact, it has been almost non-existent the last day or two, and because we vacationed last week, I was less than faithful to my core strengthening exercises. My middle of the night cravings for a couple of homemade cookies seems to have vanished, as well.

The most important aspect of the experiment has been my realization of just how thirsty I was spiritually, though.  I drink up the Bible when I read it each night and I discover more than I ever have.  I am also reading several devotional masters from throughout the centuries and so many speak of simplicity in a way that resonates with me more deeply than ever.  Mr. Moyer spoke of missing TV.  We don’t have cable TV–only DVDs and I rarely watch one just for me.  I feel like I am missing nothing and gaining everything.  I have gained freedom from something that I was allowing to enslave me–the computer.

I notice much more.  Did you know that it is getting darker earlier each night now?  “Of course it is,” you are thinking, but have you really noticed?  I listen to the other rhythms of my body more instinctively now, too.  If I am hungry and want dinner at 4:30 p.m., that is when I have dinner.  Everything simply feels better by candlelight and if I go to sleep at 9:30 p.m., so what?  Gone is the fear that if I go to bed early I will be up far too early.  It just does not matter anymore.  My son loves it, too.  He is an early to bed sort of guy, so it suits him fine as long as there is a small night-light left on in the stairway.  I sleep much better without the night-light, but him screaming “Mom, there is no light!” at 3 a.m. is far more disruptive, so…  I had no idea I was that sensitive to even a tiny amount of artificial light, but it seems that I am.  I was happy before, but I am happier and think better in the afternoon now.

I am old enough to remember when unplugging meant turning off your TV, or using an acoustic guitar instead of electric if you were a musician.  Now we live in an age where entire blogs are devoted to the art of “unplugging,” and articles are written in magazines and newspapers.  Many articles detail the procedure as if it were akin to quitting heroin or crack.  We have to prepare to unplug, we have to notify people, we can expect this or that feeling on day three, and on and on.  Life it too complicated if we need instructions on how to turn off our computers and cell phones for a few days.  Life is far too complicated if we are all deeply sleep deprived and overly stimulated and fat because we are attached to one device or another all day and night long.  Life is too complicated if the thought of reading by candlelight is scary.  Gads!  What are we all doing to ourselves in the constant attempt to be heard, and seen, and to accomplish…what is it again?  To have more?

No, I have had enough and have just enough.  I want no more than that, and less is even better.  I have no desire to possess anything more than good health, a good attitude, and good relationships full of love.  My relationship with God must come first, and I am glad to have been reminded of that.  Being well fed spiritually, and well rested physically, makes me so much better able to love all of the wonderful people in my life.   Thank you, God, for sending John Tesch and J.D. Moyer my way.

Gifts and blessings are delivered in so many forms.  My most recent gifts came via electronic devices, both of which I am about to turn off for the night.  You might consider doing the same for a time.  I have found it to be a joy filled, delightful, experience.  If you do decide to try this experiment, please report back to me with your results.  I would love to hear anything, even something as simple as someone noticing the stars for the first time in years.

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Anger, grudge holding, and the cure—Forgiveness

I’ve never been any good at holding a grudge, though I have admittedly tried.  In the past, I have been more apt to forgive easily.  Some would say too easily.  The problem was not that I forgave, it was that I also forgot, which meant that I stayed in bad relationships too long, or looked past completely unacceptable behavior, which kept me wide open for hurt after hurt, and certainly to abuse.  There is a middle ground, I believe.  We can forgive, let go of anger, hurts, and bitterness, and still remember that the behavior and actions were awful, and that we did not deserve that type of treatment.  We can then make healthy choices about who we keep in our lives, and who we do not.  Keeping anger in our lives is never healthy, nor is holding grudges, yet may people do, to their great detriment.

I know some lovely people who hold grudges and carry around things that should have been forgiven long ago.  We can all do this at one time in our life or another.  For instance, for the longest time I could not completely forgive my first husband for moving me away from the west coast, my family and homeland, against my wishes.  Despite all of the rotten things that happened during, and after, our divorce, we’d come to a point of forgiveness, but this was the one thing I could not let go of, try though I did.  I’d forgive him for the move over and over, and think that I’d finished the job, only to get triggered by something and realized I was far from done in my forgiving.

I hated that I could not forgive him completely.  It took me moving back to Montana for nine months, and coming back to Maine of my own choice, more or less. (The state of Maine fairly insisted that I come back to go to prison 😉  I am here by choice now, having realized finally that my home is wherever my heart is, and my heart is with my children, all on the east coast.  He also did something amazingly cool by taking my 7 year old into his home while I was in prison.  We talked two days ago, and when I got off of the phone with him I realized that it was finally done.  I had forgiven him completely.

There are a lot of what I term average grudge holders in the world.  I have a dear friend who has a friend she adores.  Of her she says, “She’s always been a very good friend to me, but there was the one time in high school where she said something that really hurt me.”  High school for her was about 60 years ago.  She carries other things around that she’s been unable to forgive, and they have added up, and I can see how they weigh her down.

There are other people who are masters at grudge holding.  They carries their grudges around with them, heavy in their pockets, and at the end of the day they take out their grudges, and look at them, and polish them up like precious jewels, then they return them to their pockets to carry around the next day.  Rinse, repeat.  So, why do some people hold grudges?  Many people use grudges to cut themselves off from the person who hurt them.  They feel that this distance protects them, but in reality it effectively cuts off the chance for positive communication, resolution, and forgiveness.

Chronic grudge holders often have anger problems that they are too afraid to face, so they hold grudges, and shame and blame, because it’s easier, and safer for them, than looking at themselves and taking personal responsibility for their part in the conflict, or events.   Grudge holders do not understand that people are human, and say and do things that hurt others, often with no malice involved.  The anger festers, the grudge grows and takes on a life of its own, and the person holding the grudge is left miserable, trapped my their own anger, and depleted of joy.  Oftentimes, their pride it too big to recognize just how badly they are hurting themselves with their undying anger.

When you are dealing with a narcissist, or a narcissistic sociopath, you are dealing withe a whole different ball of wax completely.  The narcissist, or narcissistic sociopath, will not just hold a grudge, they will hold a grudge and they will seek revenge, often stopping at nothing to right the perceived wrong.  God forbid you leave leave one of these people and try to divorce them.  The abuse that they exacted upon you will generally only escalate, and often they will use, and abuse, the court system to try to see to your ruination.  So distorted is their world view, and so disordered is their personality, that it is impossible to them to forgive, and let go, because they simply do not care what their vengeful acts are doing to others, even their own children.  They hurt, so they want to make you hurt, without taking a speck of responsibility for their own behavior.

I know a whole family who operates like this.  They blame and shame and tear down but never stop to see the hideousness of their own behavior.  The son held a grudge towards his parents for favoring his little sister, something he felt set him up for a life of failures.  This lead to several, years long, estrangements between him and his parents.  They’d say something he didn’t like, and he’s cease all contact with them for years.  I simply could not “get it” until I spoke to his parents during one of these estrangement periods.  His parents told me stories of his lifelong habit of lying, his inability to keep a job, and about the time, when he was 19 or 20, when he came home from work late at night and woke his father up several times in a row, so they told him to move out.  That had happened 25 years prior!  Yes, I did have an “aha moment” about the son’s behavior at that point.  It had been modeled for him all of his life.  I have seven kids and I have been awakened more than once by one coming home late at night.  My response was always, “Thank you,God!  They are home and safe.”  Then I went back to sleep.  Sadly, narcissists do not learn to forgive, and let go, and move on, nor do they want to learn.

Forgiveness is the cure for anger and grudges, though, and it is an excellent cure with many benefits.  People who forgive have less stress in their lives, lower blood pressure, sleep better, have a stronger sense of spirituality, better relationships, and are more loving and giving.  Forgiving people are happier, healthier people.  Forgiveness is good for you!

Forgiveness, like love, is not just a feeling.  It is a conscious choice and an definite action.  You have to make the choice to forgive, and keep working at the forgiveness.  This is especially true when the person you are working to forgive is still trying to hurt you.  Keep working at it anyway, for yourself, and your family. Forgive as many times as you need to forgive.  Ask God for help.  Forgiving does not condone the behavior, words, or actions, of the one who hurt you, but it frees you from needing to hold onto your hurts.  Freedom is an excellent feeling, and place to be.

It’s never too late to begin to forgive, and today looks like a great day to me. Like any dance, it will be two steps forward, one step back, but with practice and resolve, it is a dance that you can master.