Science in Action: Sunlight and Sleep (progress report)

I’ve collected even more observations supporting the idea that outdoor light improves my sleep, as discussed earlier. Now I’d like to get some idea of the dose-response function. To sleep really well do I need two hours of outside light? Four hours? Eight hours?

I’ve started to rate my sleep on a scale where 50 = average sleep (average for the months before I started spending more time outside) and 100 = best sleep imaginable (which I got after standing about 10 hours). And I’ve started to use a stopwatch to measure how long I spend outdoors. I’ve also been using a light meter to measure the strength of light in various places. When I’m outdoors it’s almost always in the shade. Today I discovered that sitting indoors next to a cafe window the incident light was just as bright as when I sit outside. Great to know because indoors I can plug in my laptop.

A 1994 book chapter from Daniel Kripke‘s lab reported a correlation (0.24) between low light exposure and “abnormal sleep.” So the connection I am now studying has been plausible for many years. The measurements I am now making are easy, but no one made them. Perhaps too many people believe that anything other than a double-blind trial with control and experimental groups is, as Peter Norvig, Google’s Director of Research, believes, a “mistake.”