The Official Magazine of the Bluewater Cruising Association

How Do Cruisers Sleep? – Research Participants Wanted

Marion Lougheed

December 3rd, 2015

Sleep may be one of the only human universals. Yet as natural and basic as sleeping sometimes appears, many people fail to get enough sleep to feel rested or they fall asleep at socially unacceptable times.

Long-term cruisers may experience sleeplessness in a variety of ways. Once they step on board, cruisers train their bodies to new rhythms, including when and how they sleep. Away from the pressures of constant productivity, wakefulness in the night offers many benefits: beginning a passage at the optimal time in relation to tides and weather; watching the stars; realizing that the anchor has dragged and the boat is adrift;  witnessing the beauty of bioluminescence, or simply enjoying the sounds of water slapping on the hull.

As independent microcosms, cruising sailors are free to plan their own schedules and they answer to no one in terms of when and how they sleep. By rejecting productivity as the ultimate ideal, they serve as a natural experiment to analyze how people experience sleep and sleeplessness, beyond the reach of mainstream social narratives and obligations.

Despite cruisers’ unique experiences, almost nobody has considered them from an anthropological perspective – until now. If you meet the eligibility criteria (see details below), you are invited to participate in a research study approved by Simon Fraser University, which aims to learn about how cruisers experience sleep and sleeplessness.

As a former liveaboard on my Catalina 27, I look forward to hearing about your experiences.

Participate and Share your Experiences

Who is eligible?  Adults who have been cruising full-time for at least a year and have spent any amount of time in the Pacific Northwest (British Columbia or Washington State) at any point during their cruising, whether departing from the region, stopping over, or simply passing through.

What do I have to do?  You can participate as much or as little as you want. Ideally, I would like to do an informal interview with you in the next week or so (about an hour) and then another one later in December or early in January. These interviews can be on the phone or on Skype, or even by email.

 Additionally (or instead), it would be great if you could keep a very basic sleep diary. It will simply entail noting the times you were asleep as well as the times you were resting or trying to sleep, and but stayed awake. Then there’s an optional section (well, it’s all optional, really) where you can free-write about your sleeping and waking experiences for that day. You can keep the diary for any amount of time, between a week and a month.

How do I participate?  Email Marion Lougheed with any questions and to let me know that you are interested. If you have any concerns about the project, you can also contact my supervisor, Dr. Jie Yang by email, or phoning +1 778-782-4297.

This study was approved by Simon Fraser University’s Research Ethics Board and the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. All information is kept confidential, unless you choose to have your identity revealed. Individuals and boats will only be discussed under a pseudonym and all identifying information will be removed. The study’s results will be published as a Master’s thesis, as well as in various other academic and popular forms available to the public.

Photo credit:  Josh Parrish (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.


  1. Dr. Michael Swangard says:

    My wife & I lived on our sailboat for 5 ½ years cruising the Med, then down the coast of Africa to the Canaries then across the Atlantic to St. Lucia. We spent the next 6/12 cruising the Windward and Leeward Islands, then de-commissioning in Ft. Lauderdale and transporting Arctic Swan II by truck to Vancouver.
    I kept a fairly detailed log book so we could be helpful. We are also BCA members.


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