Can’t Sleep? A Weekend of Camping Could Reset Your Circadian Rhythm, Study Suggests
With all the distractions of modern life (hello, Netflix), many of us are struggling to fall asleep at night and then find it hard to drag ourselves out of bed in the morning.
But the results of a new study suggest that a weekend of camping could be enough to help reset the circadian rhythms that are keeping us awake.
Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder monitored the sleep patterns of people living their regular lives at home versus those who spent a weekend camping without artificial light. The research discovered that the campers went to bed earlier, and follow-up results also showed that their melatonin expression had shifted for the better.
Melatonin is a hormone released in response to darkness at night to make us feel sleepy, but the problem is that many of us are staring at our screens for longer than ever before, which means melatonin is getting released later than it should be. Simply put, our body clocks are getting out of whack.
But the research team showed that camping — away from artificial light — even just for a weekend, could help fix the sleep problem.
The study compared nine people who went camping during the Northern Hemisphere summer with five people who stayed at home. The campers fell asleep up to 1.8 hours earlier than those who stayed home, with the campers waking up earlier too.
An even bigger difference was seen when the researchers sent five people camping for a week during the winter solstice. The extra time in the outdoors resulted in melatonin being released in their bodies 2.6 hours earlier than before the experiment.
The study suggests that even as little as a weekend away from artificial lights could help reset our circadian rhythm for the better.
“Late circadian and sleep timing in modern society are associated with negative performance and health outcomes such as morning sleepiness, accidents, reduced work productivity, poor school performance, substance abuse, mood disorders, diabetes, and obesity,” commented Dr. Brian Queen, the founder of Advanced Sleep Solution Centers of America, upon his review of the study.
“The findings demonstrate that living in our modern environments contributes to late circadian timing regardless of season and that a weekend camping trip can reset our clock rapidly.”
For those who hate the outdoors, that’s okay too. The study also suggests that simply increasing daylight exposure in our normal lives could also do wonders. “The findings highlight an opportunity for architectural design to bring in more natural sunlight into the modern built environment and to work with lighting companies to incorporate tunable lighting that would be able to change across the day and night to enhance performance, health, and wellbeing,” explained Dr. Queen.
And that’s how to get a good night’s sleep!