Many of us have trouble falling asleep at night and struggle to get out of bed in the morning. We should think about packing our backpacks and hitting the great outdoors. US researchers have found that a single camping weekend can restore our natural rhythm, and put us in tune with the seasons.
In order for our body clocks to adjust to the seasonal day-night cycle, we only have to spend a few days in nature. Anyone who suffers from sleep problems due to modern environmental conditions such as artificial lighting can be rebooted after a couple of nights under the stars. Sounds simple? It is.
Healthy sleep is extremely important
US researchers at the University of Colorado in Boulder recently published their findings in the journal Current Biology. The scientists led by Kenneth Wright found that outdoor daylight is the key to quick success when it comes to healthy sleep. “Going to bed late adversely affects health,” said Wright.
The modern world allows us to live in a way far removed from the natural day-night rhythm, thanks to electrical light and other technological conditions. Sometimes we might work or watch a film late into the night, while in the wild we would be long gone to sleep. For our bodies, this kind of “deception” is not good in the long run - the result is general sleep problems. These can, in turn, lead to other more serious health problems, such as fatigue during the day, mood swings, diabetes or obesity. When camping, we are exposed to significantly more natural light in the day, which sets us up to sleep at night.
Nature restores your natural sleep rhythm
The hormone melatonin plays an important role in helping us to fall asleep and wake up. Very roughly, when it’s dark we secrete the hormone and become tired; when it is bright again, the body stops the production and we wake up. With artificial light, the natural melatonin secretion can get out of hand and cause sleep problems.
The good news is melatonin levels can be brought back to normal by putting yourself in a natural light environment and enjoying daylight. The US researchers found that melatonin activity can be shifted after a camping weekend, so after a couple of nights in nature, the body begins to secrete the hormone an hour or two earlier, helping us to fall asleep. The formula for successful slumber is a lot of daylight during the day and darkness at night.
Tip: If you want to try the “camping trick” yourself, avoid using electric light and adjust your sleep time as much as possible to natural brightness. One easy way is to stop watching films on the smartphone or tablet at night.
Alternatives for camping
If you’re not the camping type, there are alternatives that can have a positive effect on your natural day-night rhythm. Whether in summer or winter, try to get outside during the day and soak up plenty of sunshine to help you fall into your duvet at night. You should also avoid artificial light as much as possible in the evening. In addition, regular sleep times and physical exercise like sports, for example, are beneficial. It’s also very important to shun those smartphone displays and laptop or TV screens just before bedtime.