Amish Evenings

My wife is away on business this week. I am parenting solo, which is something that I am used to at this point.

Since starting Crossfit and learning about how to improve the quality of my sleep, I have been aware of the impact of blue wavelength light and sleep. I have even purchased some amber lens glasses, although wearing them over my glasses makes it awkward. And it didn’t really make too much of a difference, but I have learned why.

From a 2011 article in the The New York Times:

Dr. Brainard and other researchers have found that light composed of blue wavelengths slows the release of melatonin with particular effectiveness. Until recently, though, few studies had directly examined how blue-emitting electronics might affect the brain.
 
 So scientists at the University of Basel in Switzerland tried a simple experiment: They asked 13 men to sit before a computer each evening for two weeks before going to bed.
 
 During one week, for five hours every night, the volunteers sat before an old-style fluorescent monitor emitting light composed of several colors from the visible spectrum, though very little blue. Another week, the men sat at screens backlighted by light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. This screen was twice as blue.

So this is does not bode well for new LED bulbs. On why CFLs could be making things worse:

[…] the University of Basel team also compared the effects of incandescent bulbs to fluorescents modified to emit more blue light. Men exposed to the fluorescent lights produced 40 percent less melatonin than when they were exposed to incandescent bulbs, and they reported feeling more awake an hour after the lights went off.

Specifically, as to why my amber lens googles didn’t work:

In addition, the quantity of light necessary to affect melatonin may be much smaller than once thought. In research published in March in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, a team at the Harvard Medical School reported that ordinary indoor lighting before bedtime suppressed melatonin in the brain, even delaying production of the hormone for 90 minutes after the lights were off, compared with people exposed to only dim light.

So, while my wife is away I decided to make an experiment of it, Amish Evenings.

An Amish Evening starts at sundown and has no electrically powered lights, no active screens.

I setup candles on the dining table, explaining it to the kids as an opportunity for a fancy dinner. We didn’t turn on the lights when going to bed, reading our bed time stories by candle light. I’m sure they thought it was weird, but by bedtime they were both really ready for bed. I think they were out almost as soon as their heads hit the pillow.

As for me I had a quiet, candle lit evening.

I had my iPhone streaming music to a Bluetooth speaker1. The Pandora station was a jazz standards station, so there wasn’t any need for me to select the next song or skip a song that I didn’t care for.

I journaled and read on my Kindle by the light of a candle.

By 8:302, I was ready for bed. I used one last candle to help guide me up the stairs, get ready for bed and then blew it out. I slept great. The kids did too, although that could be attributed to the Daylight Savings time change.

I am not sure where this is going. It probably isn’t reasonable to drop using electricity at night, but it might be informative as to when to turn the TV and lights off at night.


  1. Blacked out with vinyl electrical tape. ↩
  2. Checked on my watch, no back illumination only LumiBrite. ↩