BY: SAMANTHA TAPP
With the world available at your fingertips in the form of a smartphone, or the ability to binge watch any show at all hours of the night, or with the never-ending nagging list of stresses running through your head as soon as it hits the pillow, it’s no surprise that a lack of sleep is a common issue. In fact, one in three Americans don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis. With a quick Google search, lists of natural and unnatural remedies fill the screen explaining how to achieve a healthy amount of sleep. But, this remedy might be the best yet. Researchers have found a new way to increase the sleep you get and satisfy your wanderlust at the same time.
According to a new study, spending a weekend camping is the fix you need. Published in Current Biology, researchers conducted a two-part study to determine how spending a brief period of time outdoors really does positively affect people.
“These studies suggest that our internal clock responds strongly and quite rapidly to the natural light-dark cycle,” said lead author Kenneth Wright, an integrative physiology professor at the University of Colorado. “Living in our modern environments can significantly delay our circadian timing and late circadian timing is associated with many health consequences. But as little as a weekend camping trip can reset it.”
The first part of the study included a group of participants travelling out to Colorado’s Eagle’s Nest Wilderness for a weekend in the summer, while another group stayed at home. The camping group wasn’t allowed to use any source of light, except for the campfire and the Sun. To measure the amount of sunlight they were receiving, participants wore adapted watches.
After two days the researchers studied the campers’ saliva and discovered that their melatonin rise began 1.4 hours earlier. This is significant because, as the researchers explained, sleep patterns are governed by melatonin. The hormone is responsible for physiologically prepping the body for sleep and arranging the biological sleeping rhythm, aka the circadian rhythm. The hormone is released partially by the surrounding light environment.
Part two of the study was basically the same as the first, except that it was conducted in the middle of winter. After the brief winter camping trip, researchers found melatonin rise began 2.6 hours earlier.
“Our findings highlight an opportunity for architectural design to bring more natural sunlight into the modern built environment and to work with lighting companies to incorporate tunable lighting that could change across the day and night to enhance performance, health and well-being,’ said Wright.
It may not be possible for you to convince your boss that you need some more time off to go camping to get some more sleep, but the researchers said that another solution may be simply getting access to more bright natural daylight and shutting down phones and laptops a couple of hours before going to bed.