For those that are having trouble getting sleep that they so desperately need, a new study has found that camping may help to reset the body’s natural sleep cycle and help people start sleeping well again. According to researchers on the study that was published in Current Biology, camping helps to get our internal clocks synchronized to what is known as the solar day. This also helps the body to get melatonin levels back to normal naturally.
The study, done at Colorado University in Boulder, took place in a state that is famous for the beautiful camping and hiking available. The researchers were from the Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory used these camp sites to their advantage as they used the sites to keep an eye on eight study participants, some male and some female. They were an average of 30 years old, and agreed to be watched for a week as they lived their lives under electric lights.
During the second week of the study, participants were moved outdoors to the Colorado Eagles Nest Wilderness and watched as they enjoyed camping without any electronic devices, or flashlights.
The researchers needed to have the participants wear wrist monitors during both weeks to help them gather accurate measurements that included the amount of light that they were exposed to, the time that they were exposed to the light and the activities of the participants, especially sleep.
At the end of each week, researchers took down information about the circadian clocks of the participants in the lab, by taking measurements of melatonin levels, which is a hormone that tells the body it’s the beginning of a biological night time.
After they had a chance to study the results, the researchers came to the conclusion that, in general, the group’s biological night times started about two hours later when they had exposure to electrical lighting, or essentially everyday living, when compared to when camping and only being exposed to sun or fire light.
What many find to be the most fascinating part of the study was that, in addition to going to bed later, participants also woke up before the biological night time ended if they had exposure to light from electrical lights. The scientists have admitted that electricity, and having the ability to light and warm homes and businesses, which has been going on in most of the country since some time in the 1930’s; is one of the biggest inventions ever, they still worry about the effect it has on naturally occurring sleep cycles.
Scientists do feel that it is possible to reset the sleep cycle and get better sleep with a few techniques:
- Spend more time getting sunlight through the morning and middle of the day to push internal clocks earlier.
- Pass on the late night television and laptop use, so the internal clock can be more in sync with solar days.
As always, it’s necessary to unplug and enjoy nature once in a while, if for no other reason than it may help to reset your natural clock.