A new study suggests that a week of camping can reset your “body clock,” prompting a healthier sleep schedule.
Being outside for seven days and nights allows your body to adjust to a natural light-and-dark cycle, which is often disrupted by unnatural light sources—such as laptops or cell phones—that are used after dark.
“It’s clear that modern environments do influence our circadian rhythms,” said Kenneth Wright, the study’s senior researcher. Circadian rhythm is simply a fancy way of saying body clock. Our circadian rhythms use light signals in order to govern when we should wake up versus when we should fall asleep.
Put simply, the light that our electronic devices give off when we use them at night prompt our bodies to stay awake longer than they naturally would. The artificial light tricks our brain into thinking it’s still daytime.
Campers who spent time outdoors and away from technology reported being able to go to sleep earlier and being able to wake up earlier. Their circadian rhythms were in tune with a natural light-and-dark cycle, meaning they could fall asleep at sunset and wake up at sunrise. In the wintertime, this meant a longer night’s sleep, considering the sunset and sunrise are further apart than in other seasons.
The results of the study display the positive aspects to aligning your body clock with nature’s natural light cycle. Getting more sleep has multiple health benefits, including improved memory, spurred creativity, improved sports performance, improved grades, sharper attention and lower stress levels, among many other things.
The study also proves that it is possible to achieve this alignment —granted you give up artificial light and spend some time outdoors.
Photo: trec_lit, CC-BY
Elizabeth Chambers is a health intern with Paste and a freelance writer based out of Athens, Georgia.