Primal Experiment: Intentional Power Outage

A few months back, I linked to an article about a guy who experienced an unexpected benefit after Hurricane Irene knocked out his power for several days: he started sleeping much, much better. Instead of staying up late on the computer or with the TV blaring and going to bed at the usual 11:30 or midnight, he found himself yawning around 9 PM and getting to bed at 10. It was the best sleep of his life, and even better – the effects persisted even after the power returned. He had effectively entrained his circadian rhythm to the natural cycle of light and dark. This is basic stuff to you guys, but bear with me.

Just last week, a reader named Melissa emailed me with a similar story. She lost power for three and a half days after a Connecticut snowstorm took out power all across the state. Instead of panicking, she rolled with it. Instead of freaking out over the fact that there were sub-freezing temperatures, no heat, and no water (it froze), she made a fun snowball fight out of a snowstorm. She took it as an opportunity to get “unexpectedly extra-Primal.” I like it. I remember those New England winters, and I can’t imagine a better way to deal with them than to accept the challenge and make the best of it.

That gave me an idea – why wait for the grid to fail to have all that fun? Why not willingly experience all that good stuff without the threat of cannibal hordes and Xbox-live starved teens beating down your door?

So, now, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to spend a weekend – two full nights, minimum – living under a self-imposed intentional power outage. Even if you live in a sunny climate and even if you’ve got a generator hooked up for worst-case scenarios, I want you to completely disconnect from electricity. We’re going to find out what it really feels like to turn off and drop out.

That means:

  • No computers, smartphones, or Internet.
  • No e-book readers.
  • No TV or radio.
  • No lightbulbs or flashlights.
  • Thus, you should be:
  • Stocking up on candles.
  • Splitting wood for the fireplace (if you have one and it’s cold enough to warrant it).
  • Grabbing some good books (no Nooks or Kindles, though).
  • Bringing out the board games.

To give you an idea of what to expect, check out exactly how Melissa got more Primal (in her own words) going without power:

  1. No hot water, so I was a little more “natural” smelling than usual!
  2. I mostly lived off of the rest of my salad greens, tuna with olive oil and dried tomatoes. Also a filling little mixture of coconut milk and whey powder. A bit of beef jerky and almonds, too.
  3. With very limited artificial light, my sleep rhythms seem more natural. Sleep around 8:30 or 9 pm (instead of my usual midnight), wake up when it starts to get light.
  4. A mile+ each way trek through the snow to get to a Target I heard was open so I could stock up on tuna and the like. Haul it all home in a bag over my shoulder.
  5. During the day, when it was nice and sunny, spent more time outdoors to take advantage.
  6. Nice leisure time spent with the cat, knitting and reading (what else but The Primal Blueprint!).

All that in a little over three days.

To those I would add a few other things it’ll allow (force) you to do:

Unwind, Completely and Utterly

It’s one thing to tell yourself, “Don’t check your email after 7 PM” and have your laptop staring at you all night, power light winking seductively. You can still hop on and log in. There’s nothing stopping you but your own will. It’s another thing to be physically unable to check your email. When the power is out, you can’t use electricity. You physically cannot access email (until the battery dies, at least), and this makes a huge difference. I’ve promised myself that I wouldn’t go online after dark only to “just sneak one last peek” before bed. Sometimes it’s good to remove temptation entirely so that you have no choice but to unwind. Removing electricity will remove temptation.

Spend Quality Time with Loved Ones

I mean really spend quality time with loved ones. Not sitting on the couch watching TV with the gang. Not Skype-ing each other from separate rooms in the same house. I’m talking look each other in the eye and exchanging words, telling jokes, playing board or card games, telling stories, laughing about old times, as well as engaging in more intimate pastimes characterized by unintelligible vocalizations. Face time, not FaceTime.

Disconnect from Electronic Media

We’ve gone over this one before, but now the rubber hits the road. This one’s for the political junkies who need their fix every hour on the hour, the Primal blogosphere addicts fastidiously checking every blog for new comments, the gamers, the chronic email/Twitter/Facebook checkers. Basically, it’s for everyone. And it will hurt, at first. You might get itchy, cranky, irritable. You’ll probably flip open your powerless laptop and check your dead phone a few times before you realize that THE POWER IS OUT AND YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT SOMEONE ON THE INTERNET IS SAYING ABOUT SOMETHING. That’s okay, though. Take several slow, deep breaths and settle in for the long (2-day) haul. It’s going to be okay. The benefits are many, of course, with the main objective being the lack of blue light messing with your circadian rhythm, but what about the simple fact that you will be forced to be in the moment without the crutch of electronic media? It’s hard, and a lack of electronic stimulation initially manifests as boredom and restlessness, but that will pass. Trust me.

Disconnect from All Media After Dark

Unless you go overboard with the candles, you’ll be hard-pressed to stay up late reading. Candlelight is still dim and still promotes sleep (by allowing melatonin secretion), and I dare you to read longer than an hour by candlelight. You might be able to; I can’t. I get too sleepy too fast. This is a good thing, I think. At the very least, it’s worth trying out for a couple days, if only to explore the inner workings of your own mind left to its own devices. We don’t get that very often, do we? A total lack of external stimulation is hard to come by these days. Whenever I go camping, I always bring a book with visions of hunkering down in the tent after dark, except it never happens. The book stays unopened, and I lie there amidst the awesome stillness of it all with my own thoughts. I bet you’ll have the same experience. Just don’t freak out, because the mind can be a pretty interesting, unnerving place!

Get Outside and Play

You know what I did when I was a kid and there was nothing good on TV and computers filled up entire rooms? I went outside and played. Without electricity to fall back on for entertainment, I bet you’ll get the hankering to go outside and scrounge up some of your own. There’s a ton of fun stuff outside (not to mention sacred stuff, too), much of which I’ve talked about before, but it takes effort. And when you can access millions of songs, movies, TV shows, books, and blogs with the touch of a few keys, effort-based entertainment starts looking like, well, too much effort. No more. Without electricity, all you’ve got is the entire world around you. A world you can taste, smell, grab, and climb. So get out there and do it! I mean, what else is there?

This is your chance to finally try out all the “other stuff” we write about around here. The blue light avoidance, the sleep cycle entrainment, the divestment from the tyranny of the LED, the socializing, the quietude, the time alone with one’s thoughts, the forest bathing – this is the time to actually do this stuff, rather than read about it and think to yourself, “Oh, that sounds interesting.” Now you actually have to do it.

A few tips:

  • Don’t actually turn off power to your entire house. You might need it in an emergency, and I don’t think letting your refrigerated and frozen food spoil in the name of purity is worth it. Just turn off the laptop, the phone, the lights, and disconnect all elective electronics.
  • Make sure your schedule is clear. Finish all your work and let people know that you’re going to be out of commission (and that they’re free to come visit in person!).
  • Go longer if you can. Two days should be the minimum, but go for three or even four if you can manage it.

I love electricity and modern technology, and I appreciate all the luxuries it allows. But it’s also something I take for granted. It’s something I’ve come to expect as a given, an essential aspect of life that I give little thought to, like the presence of oxygen and the influence of gravity on everyday life. I think that’s probably true for most of us reading this post. This experiment, I think, will make that clearer than ever.

Once you’ve successfully completed your intentional power outage weekend, report back with your findings. Did you enjoy it? Was it more restful? Stressful? Was it unbearable? If so, why? Was it a nice surprise? How so? What did you learn? Did you sleep better? Is this something you’ll try to work into your daily life from now on, or was it a nice vacation but not anything you’d care to repeat? Give it an honest shot and let us know how it went!

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

122 thoughts on “Primal Experiment: Intentional Power Outage”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. I love this idea, but I live in the city and have streetlights streaming in through all the windows. Ive avoided getting curtains, though, because I want the natural light slowly building up in the mornings. Any ideas?

    1. wooden blinds that you can pull all the way up during the day. 🙂

    2. I recently was given a Yoga Eye Bag (i’m not that into yoga)and was wondering what to do with it… but since I have florescent artificial light streaming into my bedroom 24/7 from an open apartment stairwell – which is really bothersome now that its dark at 4:30pm here in Vancouver – I decided to give the eye bag thing a go. Its meant for meditation after a yoga class, to block out the light. It works really well for falling asleep, and by the time morning comes, its fallen off my eyes and the natural light can wake me up!

    3. I’d love to hear some ideas too. I lived with my bro in Chicago for 5 weeks. Some nights I slept well and others I did not sleep so well because there was light shining in all night long.

      1. Shift workers use “blackout” curtains.

        Or you can have dark curtains that extend past the window frame to minimise any lights at night and pull them aside to maximise the daylight.

        One option is to keep the room dark and don’t worry about the daylight until you have removed any sleep debt you may have…..or keep your room dark on days off or during holidays.

        But ensure any appointments are in the afternoon just in case or have an alarm clock in another room, set on radio for the best time to wake. I keep the volume down [unless I have an early appointment]so that if I am still in a deep sleep I don’t hear it.

        Another option if you have blacked out your room is to have a light automatically turn on at dawn….which you will have to adjust for the seasons…..

        Turn you bed into a ‘cave’ with dark curtains….

        Have non-reflective furniture and paintwork etc…..

        The options are endless…..

    4. I just use a simple eye mask that my sister-in-law actually got all her bridesmaids. It’s super cheap, so it usually falls off in the middle of the night, but that just means there’s a better chance of the morning light waking me up again!

    5. “Light Pollution”caused by poorly designed and excessive lighting is bad for your health, disrupting your circadian rhythm. We need to start demanding better and less intrusive lighting. Maybe in a lot of places we don’t really need so much light. We could even see the stars again – now that’s a primal experience! Take a look at – the International Dark Sky Association

    6. Consider the streetlights shining in as being the full moon. Or, if you really must, blind yourself with dark glasses or a blindfold?

    7. We put up black-out curtains and then invested in an alarm clock that slowly lights up over about a twenty minute period to simulate the sunrise. It also has the option to play various sounds (I like the singing birds) or the radio. The noise starts low and then builds. It’s not the same as natural light in the morning, but it’s the only option I have for making sure all the ambient light during the night doesn’t make its way into my bedroom.

  2. I lived in Slovakia for 6 years and once spent 10 days in a cabin with no electricity, heat or plumbing (an after Christmas ski trip). We cooked on a wood stove and had to haul water from about 1/2 a mile away. It was a lot of fun and the only thing I missed was being able to wash my hair. I had many similar adventures while living there and remember them with great fondness.

    1. Do you mean “not being able to wash your hair?” Just wondering…

      Sounds like an absolute blast though. I will be trying all kind of stuff like this in the future when my financial situation is straight – I’m on my way!

      1. No, she got the grammar right. She “missed” being “able” to wash her hair. Meaning, she couldn’t wash it.

        Missing “not” being able to wash her hair is sort of a double negative…meaning, she was washing her hair and missed “not” being able to.

  3. Cool. My husband is on his way home from Afghanistan for R&R so I have way too much on the to-do list to try this right now…but I’m thinking the first week in December will be a GREAT time…Can’t wait to hear how it goes for everyone!

  4. this sounds a little like what happens in our house ( and other observant Jewish households) every Friday night.
    The computers are shut down, the phones are off, cars are off limits, no TV, many people have guests (face time!) and going to sleep early just happens! It continues into Saturday (the Sabbath) when we walk to synagogue, again talk face to face with friends, play family games with the kids…etc. If there is a holiday before or following, then we get 2-3 days of the same! AND ITS AWESOME!

    1. True, but you can set your heat so that you have some, and your stove to continually heat your food…. not exactly like being without power. But Shabbat can be sort of like a planned power outage.
      I think I’m just grumpy since we’ve only had our power back for 4 days after not having it for 9. And no school for the kids for 11 days…

  5. I am always my happiest when in a natural setting with no blinking, buzzing, beeping, whirring, humming, blaring electronics around me. Just peace and, if not exactly quiet, at least a world of sounds that aren’t explicitly designed to elicit my fight-or-flight response every 17 seconds.

    I already turn off all my screens and plug my phone in to charge out of sight and (mostly) out of mind pretty much as soon as I get home from work. I do leave electric lights on for cooking and whatnot until it is close to bed time, then it’s off with the lights and out with the oil candles to relax in the bedroom until it’s time to sleep. The other advantage to this is that it often leads to cuddling and talking with the Mate, which often leads to… well, other things. 😀

    1. Also, I never check email on weekends unless I have a specific message I want to send to someone about something important. And only personal email, never work. Weekends are much more recharging that way.

  6. I’m surprised not more people do this forcefully over the winter all the time. We get power outages all the time and have candles stock piled.
    I hate artificial lights and dont even turn them on when I go to the bathroom in the evenings.

    I could live forever without electricity, already dont have a cell phone, no e-books or any other electronic device here, xept my alarm clock, and even that is always turned “off”…meaning it shows the time in black letters, but no lights to see them in the dark.

    When I take baths I light a giant candle that smells like pine. No other lights on.

    I sleep like a baby.

    1. You get power outages all the time in the winter? Where do you live? I’m super curious. I live in Michigan where snow is quite present. Power may go out during blizzards like last year but this does not happen every year.

      No cell phone? Really? I’ve actually had thoughts of ditching my cell phone too. But, it can come in handy for emergencies. It can be a benefit to have it on me while possibly being lost in the wild, in a ditch after sliding off the road in the winter, etc. And, at only $27 a month on the family plan its not a big expense.

  7. We had an ice storm in my area a few years back that took out power, cable, and phone for about 10 days. the only drawback was my house uses an electric stove. So we had to cook on a propane burner outside. We got to know our neighbors very well. and have more good stories than bad.

    I am involved with my son’s scout troop. We camp every month (yes even the winter). A great investment for surviving off the grid is the Boy Scout Handbook and the Field Guide. Both of these books can be bought by anyone and provide lots of good ideas and check lists to help you go without.

    1. Lol. I’m in the same boat with, yes, my parents. Loving parents who are ok with me living here through Thanksgiving before I head down to Chicago with my bro who lives more primally when I stay with him.

      Here, at the rents, the TV is on in the morning and again at night. It’s outrageously peaceful here even though they are both home. Holy shit… as soon as I began to type that sentence my mothers business phone rang. That is truly hysterical.

      With all this being said, I, and probably you, can set a limit to when we use technology ourselves – or at least part of it.

      I find myself on the computer late and I’ve been wanting to stop it. In order to actually engage in this I am going to have to announce it on my blog!

      1. Suggestion: use technology to use technology…..can you have your computer shut down at a certain time in the evening…or set an alarm in your ‘office’ to remind you.

        I have an alarm in the bathroom that goes off for one minute at 8pm.

    2. Yep! just do it and will adjust….it took me two years to get the tv out of the bedroom… threats, no whining. Every now and then I just made a statement that it wasn’t to be replaced when it died. He adjusted… tv in the house is more than enough…..the sky didn’t fall in.

      I am working on having a smaller tv and moving it from the “central fireplace” position in the lounge room when or if we replace it.

  8. What an interesting idea to “primalize” – I’ve always wanted a cabin in the middle of no where with nothing but some horses and running water. No phones, electronics, power, TV… NOTHING. It would be so nice to get away!

      1. Share!….create the “cabin effect” right in the middle of the house? Or in your bedroom? Or half/half, half the house primal and half modern?

        I’m all ears….

  9. Power outages are a regular occurrence here in NH – heck, we even lose it in the summertime in our neighborhood out in the country. Our power was also knocked out from that same storm that hit CT last weekend. It was somewhat relaxing, but it also opened us up to how dependent we are on electricity, and also how vulnerable we become without it (and without adequate preparation).

    An exercise like this one you propose, Mark, is a valuable learning experience, but only if you see it as such – instead of a period of waiting to get back to your usual routine. It might be just the excuse someone needs to actually power down the PC at the end of the day.

  10. What a great idea! Thank you for the post. But, as another reader suggested, the challenge for me is not electronic gadgets but “other people’s light.” For example, the town where I live keeps bright streetlights on all night. It is impossible to create real darkness even with curtains. We modern humans live in a cage, that’s for sure. It’s so weird, and sad, to realize that some of the bars of the cage are made from light.

  11. I think the benefits of this are pretty much endless. But in reality the hardest thing for most people is the lack of distraction. No TV or internet is scary just because we have to keep ourselves occupied! Having to listen our own minds without getting stories from TV and internet is a daunting task.

    1. True but I think we can all do it. I think taking baby steps is key. What if one just decided that they would do without all technology 15 minutes before the normal time?

      Let’s say one is on the computer up until they crawl into bed. I’m sure there is an average time of let’s say 11. Why not shoot for turning off the computer at 10:45 and not touch the phone, tv, ipad, etc. as well? Sit and reflect on the day. Be grateful for all that he or she has.

      Do this one night. I’d guess that most would wake up and realize that what they did was amazing. Hopefully they would be up for doing it again. Then, after a few days or a week, make it 10:30 and go on from there.

      Some are awesome at going cold turkey while others need the baby steps. I prefer baby steps in most areas.

    2. Having acoustic instruments in the house is wonderful when the grid goes down. I have a piano, guitar, cello and a few little toys. Keeping music alive is a blessed distraction, and great fun!

  12. “Spend Quality Time with Loved Ones”


    I might not have any loved ones left if I switch their electricity off for a weekend!!

    1. Haha! This is the only thing preventing me from doing the same. Too bad because I’d really like to try it.

      1. Lol I was thinking the exact same thing… it’d probably have to be a weekend alone for me!

        1. Yeah, my family would never go for it. My kids maybe but my husband, oh no. Shame I’d love to do it. Maybe when I have a few hours to myself I can try a mini-challenge.

    2. Just do it for one night. Announce to the family that no technology is allowed past Dinner. What’s the worst that could happen of just trying it for one evening? Play a board game instead. Cards. So much to do without technology.

  13. I spent 12 seasons commercial fishing at a remote site in Alaska. No electricity at all. Used coleman lamps and stove. Transistor radio with one station for entertainment. Slept in a tent or uninsulated cabin. Drinking water obtained from stream. Heat via woodstove. Cut all my own firewood. I really loved that lifestyle. Felt much healthier during the 6-8 weeks I spent doing it despite all the heavy work involved.

    1. “Despite” all the heavy work? How about partly because of it? 😀

    2. I wanna marry you! JK

      I, too, love living in the wild. Every chance I get, I go to the woods and camp along a 2-track road near Lake Michigan.

      What with our weather lately, I could have fit in a camp last weekend too but the downed leaves were calling me to rake and make compost.

      Living in the wild is the best time for life style contemplation.

      Cheers – Pam

  14. You just pretty much told my story! Last week’s Oct. power outage was what flipped my internal Primal switch, I woke up & remembered how it felt to live primal, I loved having no electricity & living basically. With no computer or movies I actually started reading books again! 🙂 I read The Other Side of the Mountain which is a great model of Primal living. It led me back into Primal eating (after falling off the wagon for several months & gaining back all my weight) & I have been working on my blog. As soon as we got power back the first thing I did was to delete my Facebook account. I have committed to eating Primal for the next year & just ordered your book. (finally) One day I really hope to live even more simply than I already do, maybe even minus electricity & a computer. This just really demonstrates how this is not just a diet. It is a mentality that becomes connected to everything in your life. Thanks for sharing, I hope to have my own experience & thoughts posted on my blog in the near future.

  15. This is a great challenge. It would be interesting to see how the experience changes when it’s planned versus unexpected. Growing up in rural New Hampshire, we were without power for over a week on many occasions. Pretty “experiential” when you’re snowed in at the same time!

  16. I’ve actually been doing this the last two weeks. I’ve always put limits on when to use computer/tv, but I decided to go powerless these weeks, at least at home. It’s been great. Sleeping deeply and well, less stress, and I really enjoy my bedtime reading by candlelight. The fact that evening means candles has forced me to get better organized with my time during the day, too.

    1. What types of books do you read? I’d love to read by candle light at around 8 pm or so until I feel like I’m about to fall asleep. For the past 1.5 years I’ve only been reading primal related books. I’m reading Mark’s new book right now and wish to read “Sugar Nation” over again.

      Both of my sisters and good friend who has lost 100 pounds living primally love Harry Potter.

      Tell me folks… should I start? I’ll be able to borrow the books for free. Ok, why not do it?

      1. I just finished a book called Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, and I loved it. A truly amazing story. About a guy who was an Olympic runner who was later drafted in WWII and was stranded on a life raft before being taken as a POW by the Japanese.

      2. The Harry Potter books are great. They are so much better than the movies because you get so much more detail. Plus, I don’t know about anyone else but, when I read I have a movie playing in my head anyway.

    2. Bedtime reading by candlelight sounds like a good way discover fire. And not in a good way.

      1. …my thoughts too….but I have decided to look in the homeware department for elegant candle holders with glass covers or maybe attach them to the wall above or beside the bed…..what do you think? Doable….

  17. Sounds like a great idea, but all I can think of is my winter store of frozen berries thawing out, and my expensive grass-fed beef and eggs going bad. And I’m a dainty lady and I like my flush toilet, thankyouverymuch.

    For a second I was tempted to switch over to the emergency preparedness websites.

    I guess the way I would do it would be to separate out the vitals (fridge/freezer/heat/water) from the non-vitals (light, other electrics), and power down the non-vitals on a timer.

    Or I could just go camping…

  18. I used to love the ice-storm induced, Yuletide power outages we had growing up. The whole family huddled together playing games in the evening (I played outside most days even with the power on), sleeping in the same room because we had no way to keep our metal trailer warm with no electric heat, boiling water fetched from a nearby spring because the pipes froze….

    I would love to give this a try, but will have to work out a way to do it while living in group housing. Hmmm….

  19. How am I supposed to go to sleep and wake up with the sunlight in the winter? It’s dark at 6 pm and stays dark until 7 am. And next month it will be dark at 5 pm and the sun won’t rise until 8 am. I can’t sleep that long…

    1. You don’t have to go to sleep at sundown. Light some candles or an oil lamp and read, or play a game, or sit and chat if you have company, until you get sleepy. Then go to sleep. You’ll end up naturally waking up at sunrise or a little before with no effort after a few days.

      1. Exactly. Not that I wish to do exactly what Grok did BUT, grok was up past dark for sure. Bonfire anyone?

        I love this idea overall and will be experimenting with it. I’ll be announcing a challenge on my blog when I’m ready.

  20. There’s a book about a gal and her three teenage children who did this for 6 months. Not a full power outage–merely total separation from wired devices.

    It’s called Winter of Our Disconnect by Susan Maushart.

  21. I’ve been intrigued by this idea since coming across this article ( a few months ago. I’m planning to give it a good long go during my summer break over Xmas – but might just have to do some shorter practice runs…

    PS. Damn you Mark Sisson, I need to buy some new pants because I’ve lost so much weight since starting and (mostly) continuing with the 30-day challenge in September… 8)

  22. My husband and I also experienced benefits after we lost power here in Rhode Island for a few days following hurricane Irene.

    I felt like I had never truly experienced ‘darkness’ (and living in the city, even with this power outage, I know that still wasn’t ‘true’ darkness), but… this was incredible to me. We had a freezer chock-full of a grassfed beef; a 1/4 side of beef. We just felt fortunate that nothing beyond a power outage was happening… we didn’t end up losing any of our beef anywho. We took the opportunity to eat a considerable amount less. We have gas heat, however, and still cooked at least one meal… it was wonderful.

    Everyone on our street was losing their minds; we could literally hear people shouting obscenities with regard to the power outage. We were so calm, so balanced… we had such fun. We never slept so well in our lives. Admittedly… we were a little disappointed when the power returned.

    Now, 95% of the time, we don’t even bother to use electricity. In the evening, perhaps a small lamp, or candle… we do, however, find ourselves on our computers often. Regardless, since this ‘happening’, we pretty much let the outside light guide how the ‘inside light’ should be.

    Recently, we strayed from these patterns (my husband had an oral surgery, so we were sleeping/awake at strange times). I am so anxious to have my sleeping habits fall back to where they were!

  23. Fun, fun idea! I think my kids would enjoy the challenge too!

    Anyone else using the time change to reset their inner clock? I had been going to bed well after 11 most nights. This week though, it feels like 11 at 10 so I am using it to get myself back on track and just go to bed! For the first time ever I am grateful for the whole daylight savings concept. 🙂

  24. This experiment will no doubt result in adding to the population explosion.

    1. Remember The Great Northeast blackout of 2003? It lasted for days, and 9 months later………you got it.

    2. At our house it does result in more activity that used to lead to conception when we were younger.

  25. I live alone, and am unemployed to boot. While I like the idea of being less-reliant on technology, and have spent large portions of the last year without it due to extenuating circumstances, my computer gives me a link to the “outside” world. I do try to power down earlier than I used to, but I spend so much time alone that having that outlet keeps me sane!

  26. So much to learn from this post. It brings to mind a favorite quote:

    “An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.” – G.K. Chesterton

    Which essentially means that we can take an inconvenience and turn it into an adventure. It seems to me that that’s exactly what Melissa did.

    And, as the post points out, why wait for the grid to fail to have all the fun?

    Never underestimate the power of the disconnect. That’s what I tell myself on weekends, when I remove myself entirely from email and Twitter except for the rarest exceptions. It’s powerful indeed. I highly recommend it.

    Love the idea of extending disconnect to all media after dark. Moving things around a bit in our schedules, this is something I’ll bet many of us could do for sure.

    In 2 weeks I’m having major foot surgery. For many months after that, I’ll be completely non-weight bearing. Which means I won’t be able to do what’s become one of my favorite things – stand in my kitchen chopping mountains of vegetables, preparing Primal food, and listening to NPR.

    This is going to change things for me in ways that parallel the snowstorm’s impact on Melissa. Like her, I’ll have to manage with simpler fare. (Avid Primal follower that I am, I’m already stocking my freezer and pantry, much like Grok would prepare for winter).

    My, how resourceful we folks are on this blog! All good, you know? 🙂

  27. I can attest to the wonderful things that happen when you turn off the power. I am an assistant scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts (former scoutmaster), and I love nothing better than to take a weekend off without electronics. I always sleep well (unless the boys are misbehaving ;). Last summer, we did a ten day hike at the Philmont scout ranch. My scouts used the emergency cell phone to call home once, when we hit the top of Mt. Phillips (~2 miles high) and were sitting on the rocks watching the sunset over New Mexico and Colorado. It was an awesome moment. Everyone needs a moment like that. Get out in the wilderness. Leave your electronics at home. You will be glad you did.

  28. Just talked to my (very non-primal) roommate about this, and she’s all for it! She plays guitar so it should be fun!

  29. Let’s see if anyone tries to combine this experience with an intermittent fast.

    1. Yes – that would definitely be my approach. Ideal timing really – although without all the electronic media around to ‘distract’ oneself maybe more time can be spent in the kitchen (without electric appliances of course) creating some essential raw primal recipes!

  30. I have been primal for 6 years. I lost power for 6 days and was not affected at all. I go to bed around dark, and get up after eight solid hours anyway. I don’t watch TV, but read instead. I usually grill my food on the BBQ year round. All in all, I was happy to see that I was more primal than I thought. I did pitty watching the folks who are late nighters, it was thier worst nightmare.

  31. We just experienced 9 days of this experiment first hand, due to the snowstorm in CT. (30% of my town still does not have power, 11 days later)

    While it was nice to bond as a family and forage for food easily cooked and not easily spoiled, the energy needed for the body to not experience hypothermia in an unheated house made us all truly uncomfortable.

    Being forced to live in darkness rather than than choosing to was also very disconcerting. We DID go to sleep much earlier and wake earlier or at the same time, but the rest we got was not as restorative since we were so cold.

    Having no internet connection was both good and awful, as it left us terribly unconnected to the world – nobody’s phones worked and for many, email and Facebook is the only way we communicate with one another. Neighbors were outside spending time clearing trees and branches, but we usually see our neighbors.

    Eating became a challenge as well, particularly feeding my children. No ready access to perishable food or ability to cook other than the grill makes for hungry and impatient family members. Eating out happened way more than we’d have liked (though I’m thrilled to report I ate no grains at all). The fact that the storm hit the night before my birthday and I woke up to a birthday gift of a tree having crushed my car is another matter altogether…

  32. Ha! I told my kids we were going to do this, this past summer while reading little house on the prarie books! (We homeschool). Never got around to it though… now I want to do it again… we will try this… maybe as a way of preparing for the holidays and spending good family time together! And catch up on sleep (just quit working nights after 3 years)

  33. I agree with most of that with the exception of an eInk Kindle. I would include the Nook and the Kindle Fire in the power off, but my version is not one of the backlit devices and I see no difference between using it and reading an actual book. It also wouldn’t be difficult to power it during a real outage as it uses so little juice and can be charged by a solar charger even in the low-light of winter.

    Definitely need to turn the other electronics off after dark though, but it hasn’t been easy for me to do when the only chance I get to read, watch TV, browse the web, play my PS3, or even do dishes is after the wee one is in bed.

  34. I do this very same thing several times a year, but at my buddy’s place in the country. They don’t have any running water, electricity, or indoor plumbing at their cabin. It’s pretty bare bones, and it’s pretty fantastic.

    Their is nothing like being somewhere where you can experience total silence and darkness. It’s very rejuvenating,

  35. “Not Skype-ing each other from separate rooms in the same house.”

    Is this a joke or do people really do this?

  36. Unfortunately, since I am a busy graduate student who needs to write papers and read books all day, I couldn’t possible participate. Plus I live in a non primal household.

  37. that’s why I love camping 🙂 Nothing like sitting by a fire at night..and hanging with friends.. I wish summer was all year.

  38. Hi all, I’m actually the Melissa featured! We lost power on Saturday, Oct 29, and got it back Wednesday, November 2. Would you believe that some people here in CT STILL do not have their power back? It’s crazy! I think it was worse at first because we were pretty unprepared for it, and then we lost cell reception to boot. Once I got into survival mode I got into a good routine. Not being able to cook anything was a pain at first, but totally manageable. Try it! At least if you are doing this on your own terms, you can decide when you’ve had enough (instead of the power company deciding that for you!)

  39. Well, the first 3 days of Storm Alfred and no lights was cool. The 8pm bed time was good for me. And, I got to the point where a 45 degree bedroom was warm in the AM. But, when I had to toss my refrigerated / frozen food it was a bummer. The final straw was when I woke up to my 4 y/o clinging to me like glue for warmth. We had to bail out to my ‘rents for heat then. BUT, it did remind me that I don’t NEED the lights, and the TV, and the PC.


  40. This would be a cool experiment, and I don’t think it would be a challenge for myself so much as for my fiancee. I love candlelight and reading books and spending time outside and sleeping. But he’s a ‘come home from work and watch tv for 5 hours then go to bed’ kind of guy.

    *sigh* At least he likes meat and vegetables…

  41. Sounds like fun to me, it would be tough to get my wife and kids to commit.

  42. I live in Alaska, and we’re starting winter so there’s not much sunlight (and I have school, so I miss most of it). Is candlelight much better than fluorescent bulbs? Or should I lie, cheat, and steal to get my dose of natural sunlight?

  43. Actually I lived it, too. I was without power for about 6 days after Irene, and 8 days after the snow thing just now. The Irene thing was fine — I hiked around the neighborhood. The snow thing was more problematic as it got dark faster at this time of year, and it got dark well before I wanted to sleep. I like to read prior to sleeping, so I did get to read by lantern-light, but after a few days, I admit to boredom with this. At any rate: I did learn to appreciate the benefits of electricity. And of simplifying. And, I did save most of my food.

    1. Why I couldn’t hike at night in the dark: It would be a death sentence, considering how people drive around here.

      Temps dropped down to the upper 40’s here. I have a really good sleeping bag and I remained toasty in it.

      I did have great fun with the grill. Took half days from work, so I could grill with some daylight.

  44. When cyclone yasi came through north Queensland (Australia) we lost power for 9 days! I really did have to learn that social medias weren’t all they cracked up to be- and this has comefor me at the perfect time I’m getting rid of social media (will keep skype as ilive thousands of kms away from family ) and am learning that it’s not the end of the world!

  45. We have a summer cabin (over 100 years old) that does have some electricity and water supplied by a truck every spring. I miss spending time there as I’m on Vancouver Island summers now. Still, on VI the grid is tenuous and we usually spend some Primal time when the electricity goes out — for an hour, a day or longer. Surprise Primal is often the best kind.

  46. oh woe is me. If only a college student could do this. Maybe over vaca

  47. A few years ago we had a really bad ice storm and the power was out for over two weeks. After four days the phone and water also went out. It was January in South Dakota, so it was chilly. I also had the best sleep of my life! At about 8-9 pm I was ready to sack out. I didn’t really mind the power and phone being out, but I did miss the water. Boiling drinking water and taking a sponge bath in a freezing room was no fun.

  48. Funnily enough, we had a power cut yesterday (5 hours long, so not too bad), but we’re now entering the realms of power cut weather. I am lucky – my house is already heated with wood and coal, I have a coal-fired Aga (range cooker), so I never really have to worry about power cuts. Oh, and my television broke yesterday, too! So this post is rather timely. I think, though, that we’ll get enough practice over the winter if last year was anything to go by. 10 days was our record last year ….

  49. I lived like that for about 2 years of my life back when I was in Russia. I stayed in a small village in Georgia ( Russian Georgia ) with my grandma and we didn’t have electricity, and we only had cold water available 1 hour a day ( the government only allowed 1 hour a day ). We used those kerasine lamps ( the one that looks like a candle ) and we heated our house with one of those large cement stoves where you place wood to burn it. It was a very simple life but everyone in that village seemed to survive just fine.

    We didn’t even had bathroom inside of our house, it was outside just like our homemade shower box with a bucket of rain water, which was heated by sunlight ( you can call it primal living 😉 ), but my grandma calls it surviving.

    My grandma still lives in that village, exactly the same way, she doesn’t see a point in living a different life.

  50. I just want to point out that if the circadian rhythm is a matter of light and dark, then it’s unfair to lump ereaders in with computers and television–baby, bathwater, etc. The majority of ereaders have no built in light source, so it’s really no different than reading a book except that (for me) there’s no eyestrain involved trying to read those tiny fonts.

    I think this is a cool idea, and I do try to limit my screen time in the evenings before bed and it’s helped me a lot. However, we’re about to move and go off-grid, so I’m planning to enjoy my electricity while I’ve got easy access to it. 🙂

  51. I guess this would be fun for people who don’t live in New England. I live in New Hampshire. We lose power all the time, last week I went without power for 4 days and let me tell you, that was no picnic. I had to get up freezing, go to the gym and take a freezing shower (the gym ran out of hot water because soo many people were showering. You don’t want to go outside in the snow because once you come back in guess what? Your still freezing!! Had to throw away all of my food in the fridge and freeze. Sorry guys, no power is no fun.

    1. If you have snow outside then why are you throwing away food? Bring that snow inside and use it to preserve your food.

  52. Years ago we lost power for a week because of an ice storm. I never slept better in my life. At first I thought it was because we were sleeping in absolute darkness. That was a factor, but after the power was back my sleep became disturbed again even though I went to great lengths to darken our room. I am convinced that noise is another factor. I think the sounds of the refrigerator, water heater, etc. cause me to not sleep as well as I could. I would love to wear ear plugs to see if that would make a difference, but don’t dare to do it because I’m afraid I wouldn’t hear if something is wrong in the house. I don’t think we are even aware how much noise we are surrounded by all the time.

  53. When I lived in Colorado last year, my roommate and I went down to the Springs to visit his parents. They live in Black Forest, which is a pretty rural area (dirt roads, wood stoves, in other words HEAVEN). We were snowed in for 3 days while we were there, and although I was a bit restless for the first couple hours, I found all sorts of things to do: I read more than 100 pages of a book, helped chop firewood, cleaned the guest house we were staying in, baked bread (this was in my pre-Primal days), shoveled snow out of the driveway, had snowball fights… I can honestly say it was those 3 days without electricity and artificial stimulation that made me fall in love with Colorado. I dream of a life of having the luxury of remaining connected to “civilization” but not drowning in the middle of it. If I didn’t live under my mother’s roof, I’d do this every night. Awesome post Mark, thanks! =)

  54. It feels great to disconnect from all the conveniences. I do it with my friends during summers, when we bike out of town into the “wild”.
    Biking with no lights through a forest is liberating.

  55. I’m doing it this weekend, and adding not driving my car, except for two appointments on Saturday.
    I look forward to walking or biking everywhere to get my groceries, meet with friends, etc.

  56. I have discussed this with my Grok and we decided to give it a try this weekend! Although the heater is staying on. I would not sleep well if it was below freezing in the house.

  57. I’ve always had trouble sleeping and had tried everything, but recently stumbled upon something that really works. Before bed I go sit on the back porch and get really cold. I sit out there barefooted with no shirt, reading in the dim light of a string of white Christmas lights (not LED). I usually stay out for about 45 minutes. When I come inside and curl up under the blankets it’s like I’ve been shot with a tranquilizer dart. Best sleep of my adult life. Not sure what I’ll do when the weather warms up — ice bath maybe.

    1. This reminds me of a website I was on the other week talking about letting your babies sleep outside in their prams, and a lot of European countries are BIG advocates of freezing cold sleeping for babies. They do rug them up, but the general “old wives tale” goes that babies sleep much better in the open air and the cold is favoured. Im talking freezing countries. Lots of readers sent in comments to this site I was on saying they had many memories as toddlers being popped into the garden or verandah (porch) and being left to sleep outside in winter. Of course then a zillion americans piped up and pooh poohed it and talked about how dangerous it is blah blah blah. (Only having a slight dig here – just tired of people stating the dangers of every suggestion). Same site had a blog about European (Danish I believe) mothers leaving their sleeping babies in prams outside coffee shops on the sidewalk while they visited with girlfriends. This is also common throughout Europe in incited near panic in American readers about how wrong it was. Its not wrong people its just a cultural DIFFERENCE! Don’t be so insular for goodness sake! LOL I LOVE this idea, and after my uni exams are over next week Im going to de-internet myself. Im so over staring at this damn screen…. GROK ON everyone. Mark you legend you’ve changed my life xo

  58. Very interesting, Mark, as always. Though I wasn’t affected by the power outage, I’ve noticed how my body has been gradually become more and more “hungry” for radio programs and less and less for TV programs. It may not be a full-on forced power outage, but radio, unlike TV, doesn’t seem to interfere with my sleep pattern (which is now in line with the circadian rhythm and very restful).

  59. Having had various power outages over the past few years (icy snowstorms, usually), we didn’t mind most of it – the biggest problem for me is actually simply my tropical salt water aquarium – you have to keep the water circulating, and some sort of decent temps (above 70, pref) to keep everything in the tank alive…otherwise, been there, done that. 🙂

  60. I started on this the very day the post was posted. Found candles, let it get dark, etc. Now on day 3 of letting it get dark. The thing I like: the day ends! You have a deadline and it’s dark. Not dark-thirty, as some of my neighbors say. So work can actually end at some point, instead of continuing on into the night. I feel very rested during the day and energetic after a long dark night.

    1. Also I found that we do talk more at night when we just have candles and no electric light or tv.
      It was hard to knit, though, by candlelight.

  61. Take care!! Many of my friends were conceived as a result of the 73′ power cuts in the UK. Nothing else to do.

  62. mark, have you ever been to Israel? lights out is a weekly occurrence(Shabbat)for the entire population. It is a beautiful thing.

  63. April 27 tornadoes destroyed power poles here. No power for 8 nights. Never been so bored in all my life. Tried to read by flashlight…no good. Tried to converse with spouse…no good..he can not stay awake without some stimulant and apparently my conversation was not stimulating, for EIGHT nights. Sat in the dark by myself and waited hours for sleep to come.
    In addition we had no power to run our sump pump in the basement. Tornadoes brought massive amounts of rain. Rain settled in basement and in our central gas heating unit. Lost everything in our side by side and our big freezer. Curfew was imposed so we had to leave town and be home by dark…no chance for entertainment. Did get carry out food a couple of nights. Spent days picking up debris, cutting downed trees.Wasn’t fun.
    We are not on municipal water system, had no power for well pump, could not flush toilet…for EIGHT days. Had to fill portable water tank elsewhere and transport to our house so we would have water to pour into toilet in order to flush. No water, hot or cold to bathe or wash hair. Traveled to relatives one afternoon to shower, just smelled bad and felt icky the rest of the time.
    Had my fill of powerless days and nights. Will be using every electrical appliance every chance I get until my power is taken away from me. I suffered enough to last me the rest of my life. Having no power is no picnic.

  64. I’m planning on doing this next week when my family go away. My slightly modified version is: No clocks (including electronic ones,) no electricity, no transportation except my own two feet. I decided for my own sanity to include a means to warm water for showering and hot drinks, warm food and heat the house.

    But ostensibly, I’ll be without light, computers, clocks, a car. My pile of candles is growing…

  65. This challenge reminds of one of my favourite books: “Gaining Ground” (also called “Abra”) by Joan Barfoot.

    This is what we all do when we go camping (real camping, not campground camping). Everyone gets in sync with the sun pretty fast.