The Lightbulb Experiment: How We (Finally) Started Going To Bed Earlier

February 27, 2018

Brett and I have been trying to go to bed earlier for as long as we can remember.

About two weeks ago, I came across this article about the health benefits of camping. I was interested in what Wellness Mama had to say because camping has played such a major role in my healing journey. Of course, the article didn’t have anything to do with mold avoidance but her emphasis on circadian rhythm got me thinking…

Yes! It was so easy to go to bed early and get up early when we were camping! We’ve lost that since moving back indoors.

I mentioned it to Brett during one of our walks out on the hills. I knew he would be supportive of going to bed earlier. I was thinking maybe we could try getting blackout curtains or turning off the lights earlier each night. Brett had a better idea.

He suggested an experiment. “Why don’t we try taking out all the lightbulbs so that when it gets dark outside it also gets dark in our apartment.”

“Hmm…” I replied, “I hadn’t thought of that! It might be annoying until we get used to it but I’m definitely up for trying it.”

When we got back from our walk we took out all the lightbulbs except for two in the kitchen and one in the bathroom. Brett wrapped them up carefully and stored them in plastic bags in the closet. We committed to trying it for at least a week and re-evaluating the following Sunday.

We both loved it! It worked so well that we never even had a conversation to re-evaluate. We immediately started going to bed at around 9:00pm without having to exert any extra effort. We just naturally spent time winding down together in the evenings and stopped wasting time on our devices (those screens are so bright!). We also immediately started getting up two to three hours earlier. We’re both reading a lot more books, getting more sleep, and yet for some reason it feels like we have more time in our days. It’s wonderful!

Getting on a healthier sleep schedule has been a goal of ours for years and it was somewhat surprising to realize that a simple tweak to our environment could produce such effortless change. We were both amazed! We’d been trying to make this change for years!

Many times when we try and fail to make a change in our lives we assume that we either didn’t try hard enough or didn’t want it enough. Our lightbulb experiment reminded us that often something external is preventing that change or at least making it very difficult. Sometimes a structural change can do more than all the willpower in the world. I doubt we would have lasted more than a week if we had just resolved to turn the lights off at 7:00pm each night.

The desire for change comes from within but our ability to carry it out often depends on us rearranging our lives so that the change flows easily. And this principle doesn’t apply only to things like getting to bed earlier.

Just last week I was telling Brett that I would really like to grow in prayer. “When I was younger I used to pray constantly throughout my day. I really experienced my union with Christ. I feel like I’ve lost that connection with God and I want it back.”

I was expecting some really spiritual advice when Brett, remembering the lightbulbs, said, “I think a lot of that probably comes down to having an iphone.”

I was surprised and had to think for a minute. “You know, I think you’re right. I tend to fill up the little empty spaces I used to spend praying by just checking my phone.”

“Some people might say you just need to love God more or try harder.” Brett replied, “But if the desire is there I don’t think that’s what’s holding you back.”

I agreed and the very next day we set up the Freedom App to block the internet for 16 hours out of every 24 hours. I can’t get online until noon each day and the internet shuts off again at 8pm. We also blocked Facebook completely except for Wednesdays and Thursdays when I share my blog posts with all of you. I’m happy to report that it’s already made me more prayerful and I’ve decided to shrink the time window of internet access even further.

So whether the changes you want to make involve health practices or spiritual growth or something else entirely I would encourage you to consider what external factors might be holding you back. Then don’t be afraid to try something crazy. Take out the lightbulbs if you have to. You won’t regret it.


By the way, Brett and I made a beautiful PDF of my favorite resources for suffering souls. I created the content and he made it look fancy with his superduper graphic design skills. It’s available for free to my email subscribers. Click here to sign up and receive 5 Resources for the Suffering Soul.

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20 Comments

  • Erin

    Wow! That is just awesome! What an inspiring post!!! Thanks for sharing! πŸ™‚

    February 27, 2018 at 7:34 pm Reply
    • Ana Harris

      Thanks Erin! That makes me happy! πŸ™‚

      February 28, 2018 at 6:51 pm Reply
  • Kris

    Love the simple yet effective way you worked on making changes! Excellent and encouraging!

    February 28, 2018 at 6:45 pm Reply
    • Ana Harris

      So glad Kris! πŸ™‚

      February 28, 2018 at 6:52 pm Reply
  • J'avail Haltom

    You are so right abiut turning things off. It’s the distractions thst keep us from doing what is really meaningful

    February 28, 2018 at 9:01 pm Reply
    • Ana Harris

      Thanks J’avail! I’m glad it resonated with you. I definitely agree.

      March 1, 2018 at 12:43 pm Reply
  • Mary Taylor

    Love the post & congratulations on getting your life back! Inspring – I think I’ll try limiting the hours I can get on the Internet! Such a distraction!

    February 28, 2018 at 9:19 pm Reply
    • Ana Harris

      You’ll love it Mary! It’s so worth it. πŸ™‚

      March 1, 2018 at 12:43 pm Reply
  • Ellen Pederson-Lewis

    Ana, absolutely love this blogpost! Glad you and Brett are doing well. Ellen

    February 28, 2018 at 11:56 pm Reply
    • Ana Harris

      Thank you so much Ellen! πŸ™‚

      March 1, 2018 at 12:44 pm Reply
  • Natalie

    Love both of these ideas! ❀️

    March 2, 2018 at 2:17 pm Reply
    • Ana Harris

      Thanks Natalie! 😊

      March 6, 2018 at 3:56 pm Reply
  • Chris Barratt

    Wow, Ana!! This all is so good and so true. I appreciate your ideas so much. Yes, devices have changed our lives and not all for the better. Probably more worse in so many ways. Loved this post. Sorry I haven’t been on and commenting much. Like you, I’ve been trying to do more things God tells me in my days so it doesn’t leave much left over. Still think of you often, and pray for you!!

    March 3, 2018 at 8:06 pm Reply
    • Ana Harris

      So good to hear from you Chris! I definitely agree with you. I’m glad you’re doing more of what God tells you. Thank you so much for your prayers! πŸ™‚

      March 6, 2018 at 3:57 pm Reply
  • Stacey

    Hello Dear Ana,
    I really loved this discipline! It inspired me! On another note, I just downloaded your 5 resources – so wonderful! It looks like the Tim Keller sermon doesn’t link directly to the sermon anymore. They recently updated Gospel in Life so I’m wondering if that’s why? (I used to work at Redeemer, and still go there)! I believe I remember listening to that sermon – was it called Heman’s Cry of Darkness? If so, here’s the direct link now: https://gospelinlife.com/downloads/heman-s-cry-of-darkness-5556/ I remember that sermon being so profound. I haven’t listened to it since my health problems and I forgot about it, so thank you for highlighting it! xo – Stacey

    March 3, 2018 at 9:49 pm Reply
    • Ana Harris

      Thank you so much for letting me know Stacey! Think it is probably because they updated their site. I’m so glad you caught that and will ask my husband to fix it for me. That’s so awesome that you get to go to Redeemer. I sort of feel like Redeemer was my church while I was sick because I listened to the entire free sermon library. 😊

      March 6, 2018 at 3:59 pm Reply
      • Stacey

        Oh, Ana, I’m so glad Redeemer’s sermon’s helped sustain you during your sickest days! I let the guy who ran Gospel in Life know this, so he can be encouraged in his work. Love to you. xo

        March 7, 2018 at 2:12 pm Reply
        • Ana Harris

          Oh wow! That’s awesome. Yes, please thank him for me. Many of those sermons made a deep impact on me and kept that mustard seed of faith alive in me. It’s so cool to “meet” you Stacey. πŸ’•

          March 7, 2018 at 4:21 pm Reply
  • Sharon Cleek

    Thank you, Ana, for the idea of how to put all those little empty spaces to good use . I have quit wandering around the house thinking what can I do for 3 minutes! I pray, sing, think about how awesome Jesus is and all he has done for us, thank him. If place and time allow, I read my Bible on my phone. God is sure using you for his glory. Thank you for your faithfulness in the midst of all your hardship. Love you.

    March 4, 2018 at 7:13 am Reply
    • Ana Harris

      That’s so wonderful Mrs. Cleek! I read my bible on my phone too. πŸ™‚ Thanks for your encouragement. I love you too and am so thankful for all the prayers you’ve offered for me these last several years. πŸ’•

      March 6, 2018 at 4:03 pm Reply

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