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Last Updated May 16, 2023
Inspired by Linda Geddes’ BBC story of living with only candlelights for a week, I decided to use only candlelights for an evening.
Being a health coach and a sleep expert selling and sleeping on organic latex mattresses and organic sheets with a bedroom set up for sleep success, my sleep hygiene is pretty good. I still have a couple of days in a month where I lose sleep for a few hours at the beginning of the sleep or in the middle of it. I believe this is normal; as humans, we all go through inevitable stress, hormonal changes, especially for women and changes in sleep schedule.
The electrical lights we have in our homes coupled with light from the screens mess up with our circadian rhythms and sleep hormone melatonin, so I wanted to experiment and see if I experience any difference in my sleep quality or mood with candle lights.
Growing up in India, we were used to load shedding, power-cuts, blackouts or brown-outs pretty much every day. My grandparents’ house was in the countryside, and they had more issues with electricity than us. We spent evenings there, sometimes studying using kerosene lamps due to low voltage lighting. At home, every night, we had up to an hour of scheduled power cuts. During those times, we lit a single candle and gathered around it and played with wax, played Antyakshari, a parlor game of songs and told many funny stories. It was inconvenient due to the hot weather and mosquitos but a fun experience. We all went to bed early, before 9 pm those days, and I wonder if the reason for that was the dim atmosphere or other factors like less homework, and absence of devices, Netflix and social media.
When I moved to a dorm in my medical school, they had very low watt bulbs and dark corridors to save on electricity bills. I got into trouble with the matron for secretly changing the bulbs to high watt in my room.
Now here I am, wishing for dimmed lights and candle lights again in my life. Being in the United States for more than 2 decades, we rarely experience electricity outage issues. Our homes and streets are always lit with bright lights. Although I burn candles occasionally for a peaceful time, it was just a single candle next to me, and I never left it burning due to the fear of catching fire.
That evening, I turned off all downstairs lighting while my family was working upstairs. I slowly lit all my candles, tea lights, tapered candles, pillars, votives, scented candles, whatever I could find. It looked magical and serene. The whole space looked like a serene sanctuary lit up with a peaceful ambiance. I wanted to live those old days.
I called my teenage son to show the beautiful atmosphere I created. He came down, and he was dumbfounded. He, a polymath and pragmatic person, exclaimed it was not climate-friendly as it has more carbon emissions than electrical lights and lectured the dangers of catching fire. He started blowing out one by one and turned on the lights. But then he thought for a second and started putting back the flame to the wick of all those candles back again and turned off the lights. He took a picture of it and commented it looked beautiful but decided to go back to his computer and well-lit room upstairs.
I went back to it, enjoying the flickering flames with my warm water mixed with ACV. Are candlelights a green earth-friendly option? Well, if you are burning paraffin-based candles, they are from crude oil, which is getting scarce and many claim that it emits more greenhouse gasses than a light bulb. But when we burn a candle, we are not trying to match it by burning ten candles to achieve the brightness of a bulb. If we do, we run into the problem of not being earth-friendly. Also, beeswax candles are considered to be carbon neutral so replacing all paraffin candles with beeswax is something we all should consider.
After an hour, I decided to turn it out as the scent from all the scented candles was becoming too much. The biggest lesson learned with this experiment: go for unscented candles.
I think the quality of my sleep was satisfactory with no significant change, but I believe an hour of that definitely gave me a better mood and me-time. Will I do it again? Definitely! I have to be prepared with more candles to light up every nook and corner and a family discussion and agreement before doing it.
Scented candles, if you really like them, should only be lit one at a time for a short period of time. Most of the candles I had were scented. I bought them based on the strongest smells and realized I should settle for something very mild and made with essential oils rather than synthetic fragrances.
A coconut or mango scent may bring back my childhood memories of growing up in India, or a cypress fir scent may remind me of freshly fallen snow, but a mix of all of that puts my brain in a bewildered state and reduces the indoor air quality.
Paraffin wax is typically bleached with highly toxic chemicals dioxin and mixed with carcinogenic acrolyn and stearic acid, which is a by-product of slaughterhouses. Yuck, my outlook towards candles has completely changed.
Consider beeswax, stearin, non-GMO soy wax, rapeseed wax or coconut wax candles instead of toxic paraffin candles. There are many candle brands out there with no lead, synthetic fragrances, animal by-products, chemical dyes, or colorants.
Blue light emitted from the screens disrupts your melatonin production and spoils the purpose of candlelight evening. So opt for other activities like reading or good company during that evening.
Clear the area of any flammable material and keep candles on a heat resistant surface. Keep them out of children and pets.
Keep them in your sight, and if you leave the area, extinguish the flame.
If you want to spend an evening with candle lights only, one or two is not going to be enough. You will need at least one candle per room and two candles for larger areas like the family room. So stock up on them.
Trim the wick to ¼ inches and clean debris from the melted wax to reduce the amount of soot released into the air and to get the most burning time out of it.
If you are unable to do a whole evening of candlelight, don’t get discouraged. Candles are great to help you relax, so light them for dinners, morning or evening coffee/tea time, me-time or we-time in the bedroom.
Lighting candles creates a vibe that inspires relaxation. With that relaxation, you also might notice eating slowly and thus eating less.
If you are with your partner, it creates romantic feelings. The dim environment from the candles allows your pupils to dilate, which is a subconscious signal of attraction, especially from a woman to a man. If it does not help you to sleep, a romantic evening with your partner might. Or it could help you lose weight.
Consider inviting your friends or family for a candlelight only get-together. They will be equally amazed and enjoy this new peaceful experience. You may want to avoid kids, though, for candlelight parties.
Expose yourself to morning sunlight to balance out your circadian rhythm and improve your mood and health. Morning sunlight could be the most magical thing you could witness on this planet. This magnificent light has the ability to make your candlelight nights more meaningful.
So there you have it! Candlelight only evenings are not as difficult as they seem. By just following the easy peasy tips given above you can make sure that everything goes off without a hitch.
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Disclaimer: What is said in this article has been referenced from multiple sources and is intended only for educational and informational purposes. Please note that no content in this article is a substitute for professional advice from a qualified doctor or healthcare provider. Always consult an experienced doctor with any concerns you may have regarding a health condition or treatment, and never disregard any medical suggestions or delay in seeking treatment because of something you read here.