Can't Sleep? Scientists Say Camping is the Solution

Feb 03, 2017 08:17 AM EST

Having trouble getting some shut-eye? Maybe it's time to pitch a tent and catch some on sleep somewhere outdoors. According to a recent study published in Current Biology, camping could be the perfect solution in getting your internal biological clock in order.

The lure of so many other things to do -- television, video games, mobile phones -- can keep people from sleeping for hours. Camping not only takes you back to basics, but it also cuts back your usage of artificial light. Going outdoors for a spell lets the body follow its natural sleeping patterns -- in sync with the rise and fall of the sun -- without disturbance, a report from The Guardian revealed.

A team of scientists observed five people aged 21 to 39, who went on a camping trip to the Rocky Mountains for six days on December. They were equipped with no gadgets nor torches. Instead, their sources of light were limited to sunlight, moonlight and campfire.

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The researchers discovered that people tend to sleep two and a half hours earlier than they did at home when they're dropped somewhere without their usual gadgets and artificial light. The campers also slept longer, an average of almost 10 hours of sleep compared to their usual seven and a half hours.

Upon testing back at the laboratory after their camping trip, the campers retained the positive effects. The melatonin, also known as the sleep hormone, increased in the body two and a half hours earlier than it did before their expedition outdoors.

"Even with a small number of people we saw robust effects," Kenneth Wright, University of Colorado in Boulder director of sleep and chronobiology, explained. "It was the same in everyone. How our circadian clock responds to the natural light-dark cycle is part of our fundamental physiology."

The team sent a different group of nine people aged 19 to 37 to the same mountains. This time, they only spent a weekend outdoors and they were allowed to bring torches and headlamps. As a comparison, five other people stayed at home. Even with the shorter period of time, the campers in this case slept two hours earlier than the others.

Even without camping, Wright believes the study shone a light on the significance natural light plays on sleeping patterns.

"We're not saying camping is the answer here, but we can introduce more natural light to modern life," he told BBC News. "It is something we as a society can regulate without people having to change behaviors."

Creating homes and offices that allow more natural light in can go a long way, as well as modern "tuneable" lightbulbs that can be adjusted to shine brighter during the day and be dimmed during nighttime. Taking a walk early in the morning and cutting back on the use of artificial light at night can also work wonders to an individual's sleeping habit.

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