7

votes

Sleeping in total darkness

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created March 12, 2011 at 5:49 PM

I know most paleo types advocate sleeping in total darkness, and it makes sense to me in terms of the best possible rest. But does it make sense in an evolutionary sense? From my own reading, it seems that "cavemen" actually spent very little time in caves (where it would be pitch dark) and more often than not slept outside or perhaps under a crude outdoor shelter. Having spent a fair amount of time camping, I know that places far away from light pollution, on a cloudless night, give off a pretty good amount of light just from stars, and on a full-moon night that's enough light to read by. So, would early Man really have evolved to sleep in complete darkness?

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on March 13, 2011
at 10:47 PM

i totally agree with your text.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on March 13, 2011
at 07:11 PM

its a function of any light that has been tested. artificial or natural.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on March 13, 2011
at 07:11 PM

actually this is a bad example. We know that a penlight place behind the knee for 3 seconds, (artificial light) turns off endogenous melatonin immediately. So all artificial light has dramatic neurohumeral changes quickly. And those changes are registered in our neurostransmitters and to the hypothalamus and leptin recpetors.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on March 13, 2011
at 07:07 PM

Brad I do not. It shuts off endogenous production. Only time I use it is to treat adrenal fatigue of overtraining to turn off endogenous cortisol production. My belief is that one sign of chronic hypercortisolism and bad sleep in a calcified pineal glad on CT. It amazes me how many I see on head CTs. But any time I see it I ask about sleep history and it never fails......they have bigtime issues.

A6cffe7397214f338ae098613eea6737

(50)

on March 13, 2011
at 12:36 PM

So true. Somehow it feels so natural to sleep with a moonlight (despite a city-dweller's expectation that it should be dark during the night), and so unnatural to sleep with the light from the street lamp.

A6cffe7397214f338ae098613eea6737

(50)

on March 13, 2011
at 12:34 PM

That's what I ended up doing as well. I also noticed that it is not just the light from the street lamp but also the light from the whole city itself that light up the night. It so weird that I can go in the middle of the park where there is no street lamps yet it is so bright that I can still decrypt characters on the book's page (with some extra effort, obviously).

Aebee51dc2b93b209980a89fa4a70c1e

(1982)

on March 13, 2011
at 05:11 AM

Dr. K, do you advocate supplementing with Melatonin?

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on March 12, 2011
at 09:00 PM

It helps augment your fat burning metabolism. I would suggest that you read the lastest version of Williams endocrinology, the published data on SOCS3 and IL-6 and a current biochemistry book and then Lights Out. It is a very very complex issue to understand that requires many disciplines and some serious backround information. I had to go back and add a yr of extra training to my professional degrees before I got it.

Eea4c0f072bb5caa74c1fbe6dfab5f46

(942)

on March 12, 2011
at 08:59 PM

yes, brad, but all day you are. And plus, I was responding to the questioner's observations about camping and there being plentiful sources of light.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on March 12, 2011
at 08:58 PM

complex issue but I am going to give you the short answer. In times before artificial light Melatonin from the pineal gland was the key hormone controling fat metabolism. To prove that would take alot of biochemistry drawings but i promise its factual. When artificial lights became common melancorts peptides influence over the hypothalamus was somewhat usurped by leptin and leptin signalling. Works OK provided you dont eat a ton of carbs or are already leptin resistant or born without the leptin gene (very rare) With lights leptin becomes the power broker. Turning the lights out is smart

Aebee51dc2b93b209980a89fa4a70c1e

(1982)

on March 12, 2011
at 08:50 PM

Yes, I see what you mean, but that doesn't have to do with sleep, as I am no where near a tv, an ipod, or any burning electric lights while sleeping.

A6cffe7397214f338ae098613eea6737

(50)

on March 12, 2011
at 08:42 PM

Total darkness is an interesting way to work with the psyche (following the keywords I provided above) but I believe it should not be brought into every household lightly.

2507b557331c8a674bc81197531e609a

(4994)

on March 12, 2011
at 08:21 PM

I couldn't answer such a specific question as to how much is needed, I just personally make sure I get as much as possible in a dark a room as possible to make up for the deficit I have inevitably built up over time. No they wouldn't have had total darkness every day, they would have had way more hours in darkness overall though, the total hours in the dark are dramatically less now, hense the reason for trying to claw some of it back.

A6cffe7397214f338ae098613eea6737

(50)

on March 12, 2011
at 07:39 PM

Precisely that I observed myself whilst sleeping in the forest in Europe. Yet the level of light is not constant; it does change every day and also with the season progression. The dynamics is not straightforward.

A6cffe7397214f338ae098613eea6737

(50)

on March 12, 2011
at 07:37 PM

It does make sense but the problem is how to answer the key question: How much darkness is needed? Total darkness *every* day is not what people had before artificial light, isn't it?

84666a86108dee8d11cbbc85b6382083

(2399)

on March 12, 2011
at 07:09 PM

Game. Set. Match.

04293f705870e1837b8670d3c1cd5f67

(2261)

on March 12, 2011
at 05:54 PM

I have asked myself this question many times. I get the best sleep while camping. But, I agree that I get better sleep at home in darkness.

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9 Answers

4
A6cffe7397214f338ae098613eea6737

(50)

on March 12, 2011
at 07:35 PM

I have been experimenting with sleeping in the total darkness for 2-3 years now so can speak from my own experience. Please be very careful with it. It may bring very serious consequences that you may not easily track from the symptoms to the cause.

After going hardcore for several months, I settled on covering the window with a cardboard (wrapped in blackout material), and leaving a small gap of 10cm to let the external light come in. That works more-less OK. I do not know how to recreate natural light-dark dynamics and the artificial lighting on the street certainly is not natural (because it does not fluctuate, it's constant).

My current reasoning (based on my experience only) is that if you expose yourself to man-made total darkness for too long, then you seriously misguide your internal mechanics (especially, the body clock) because you remove external sources like moonlight and clouds that helps your body and brain to understand what's going on around and do necessary adjustments and synchronizations.

I speculate that if you expose yourself to a prolonged periods of darkness (say, 6 months sleeping in the darkness every night for 8 hours or so), you create very subtle background for your body and brain and you may end up with serious changes in brain's chemistry levels. I found that such changes are difficult to track using logical/rational mind. You may discover (with a surprise) objectless stress and anxiety, and you may have difficulties trying to pinpoint exactly what creates that subjective uneasiness; in such case, just bring more light for several days, that will allow your brain to relax a bit; then you can compare your feelings and decide what to do next.

The bottom line: Be gentle with the darkness. It worths to try but slowly. The whole thing is not that innocent as it may look.

There are several keywords that you may want to research

  • Universal Healing Tao: Darkroom - They try to explain the underlying chemistry. Please note how lengthy requirements for the food intake are.
  • Dark Retreat (Dzogchen).
  • Bipolar Disorder: Light and Dark.

Also you may want to try

  • Flotation Tank

2
2507b557331c8a674bc81197531e609a

(4994)

on March 12, 2011
at 06:58 PM

In the not so long ago past, before electricity, we would have had far longer exposure to darkness, far longer hours in darkness, therefore the amount of melatonin we would have produced would have been greater The theory is, as we are in darkness for such a short time now, you need to make it as dark as possible so the amount of melatonin you produce is more than if there were some light being let in. Does that make sense?

A6cffe7397214f338ae098613eea6737

(50)

on March 12, 2011
at 07:37 PM

It does make sense but the problem is how to answer the key question: How much darkness is needed? Total darkness *every* day is not what people had before artificial light, isn't it?

2507b557331c8a674bc81197531e609a

(4994)

on March 12, 2011
at 08:21 PM

I couldn't answer such a specific question as to how much is needed, I just personally make sure I get as much as possible in a dark a room as possible to make up for the deficit I have inevitably built up over time. No they wouldn't have had total darkness every day, they would have had way more hours in darkness overall though, the total hours in the dark are dramatically less now, hense the reason for trying to claw some of it back.

2
Eea4c0f072bb5caa74c1fbe6dfab5f46

(942)

on March 12, 2011
at 06:47 PM

The big difference here is natural light vs. artificial light. Our evolutionary brains/eyes evolved looking at heavenly bodies and fire. Not ipods, tv's and electric light bulbs.

Eea4c0f072bb5caa74c1fbe6dfab5f46

(942)

on March 12, 2011
at 08:59 PM

yes, brad, but all day you are. And plus, I was responding to the questioner's observations about camping and there being plentiful sources of light.

Aebee51dc2b93b209980a89fa4a70c1e

(1982)

on March 12, 2011
at 08:50 PM

Yes, I see what you mean, but that doesn't have to do with sleep, as I am no where near a tv, an ipod, or any burning electric lights while sleeping.

84666a86108dee8d11cbbc85b6382083

(2399)

on March 12, 2011
at 07:09 PM

Game. Set. Match.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on March 13, 2011
at 07:11 PM

actually this is a bad example. We know that a penlight place behind the knee for 3 seconds, (artificial light) turns off endogenous melatonin immediately. So all artificial light has dramatic neurohumeral changes quickly. And those changes are registered in our neurostransmitters and to the hypothalamus and leptin recpetors.

1
5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on March 12, 2011
at 08:43 PM

I wonder about this also, especially from the standpoint of fires. Certainly humans once moved into Europe and much of Asia would have had fires for warmth and safety. And I've read a lot of speculation on humans naturally having periods of wake and sleep during the night so that at anytime some members of the tribe would have been awake to guard, tend fire, or whatever. Perhaps the very reddish light of fire would not stop melatonin production? On the other hand, Lights Out references studies that ANY brief light exposure can cut off melatonin production. Was this tested on a variety of wavelengths?

I definitely sleep longer and more solidly with as close to zero light as I could achieve, but it's still a puzzle.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on March 13, 2011
at 07:11 PM

its a function of any light that has been tested. artificial or natural.

1
4781cf8ae1bfcb558dfb056af17bea94

(4359)

on March 12, 2011
at 07:57 PM

Agree with you -- the moon is very bright. I think the pure darkness thing is over-emphasized.

A6cffe7397214f338ae098613eea6737

(50)

on March 12, 2011
at 08:42 PM

Total darkness is an interesting way to work with the psyche (following the keywords I provided above) but I believe it should not be brought into every household lightly.

0
Ac1e55cf06c2180f4008ff01953d10dd

on March 13, 2011
at 02:12 AM

I live in a city, full of artificial lights inside and outside homes. That is why I need some dark curtains to get a dark room at night. On the other hand every time that I go to the country side, without artificial light around, I love to keep the curtains open at night, and fall asleep watching the stars. I am totally adapted to natural cycles in that sense, but not really adapted to a city habitat. After all it has been only three or four generations since electric light was invented...

A6cffe7397214f338ae098613eea6737

(50)

on March 13, 2011
at 12:36 PM

So true. Somehow it feels so natural to sleep with a moonlight (despite a city-dweller's expectation that it should be dark during the night), and so unnatural to sleep with the light from the street lamp.

0
A68f24168bc0de414a038037e287b581

on March 13, 2011
at 12:03 AM

How timely! Just today I decided to move my curtains to the side and bring sheers back. I liked the dark atmosphere in my bedroom, but I have noticed after a few weeks that I just can't get up in the morning! during a workweek the alarm clock does the job, but during the weekend I was sleeping till 10-11am and wasn't really fully refreshed. Before I put full curtains up, I was waking up by myself on weekends around 8.30, after nice, 9h sleep. Now I can sleep even 11h! It's really too long and I blame the darkness. My body can't register that the sun is up and it was time to get up. I will still roll down my basic blinds to cover direct light from a street lamp, but not to completely cover it up.

A6cffe7397214f338ae098613eea6737

(50)

on March 13, 2011
at 12:34 PM

That's what I ended up doing as well. I also noticed that it is not just the light from the street lamp but also the light from the whole city itself that light up the night. It so weird that I can go in the middle of the park where there is no street lamps yet it is so bright that I can still decrypt characters on the book's page (with some extra effort, obviously).

0
08ce57b1bbb3bda8e384234389c36d94

on March 12, 2011
at 08:44 PM

No one ever said Paleolithic man slept in total darkness all the time. Starlight, reflected moonlight or even direct moonlight is not going to ruin anyone's sleep.

The problem is that most of us stay up well after the sun goes down and are still asleep after it comes up. It makes sense to blackout your room in those circumstances to maximize darkness and approximate the level of melatonin production experienced by our ancient ancestors.

0
62b205d8d5c8fb09f2eea515f12cbd26

on March 12, 2011
at 06:54 PM

Sure,they had fire to protect themselves against animals; and also:if you've ever been in Africa,then you know how much light the moon gives! It's almost like daylight...

A6cffe7397214f338ae098613eea6737

(50)

on March 12, 2011
at 07:39 PM

Precisely that I observed myself whilst sleeping in the forest in Europe. Yet the level of light is not constant; it does change every day and also with the season progression. The dynamics is not straightforward.

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