A small study by the University of Colorado Boulder suggested that a week of sleeping outdoors in a tent may be help resolve sleep issues, many of which are grounded in our modern, technology soaked lifestyles.
Kenneth Wright, who led the study, said: “Late circadian and sleep timing in modern society are associated with negative performance and health outcomes such as morning sleepiness and accidents, reduced work productivity and school performance, substance abuse, mood disorders, diabetes, and obesity.”
Resetting the Body Clock
To examine how exposure to winter daylight would affect sleep and hormone rhythms, the research team sent four men and one woman to a week of camping in Colorado winter while the days were at their shortest. Participants were not allowed to bring flashlights or smartphones.
What happened? Well, the campers, by living outdoors, were exposed to 13 times more winter daylight than they would otherwise have been in their daily lives. Their internal clocks reset themselves as measured by the fact that their melatonin levels began to rise earlier—two and a half hours earlier. Since melatonin is the hormone that tells our bodies to sleep, the campers ultimately went to bed far earlier in nature than in their normal daily lives.
But Would A Summer Weekend Work?
The researchers did look at that question, in fact. They sent nine active people into nature with no smartphones of flashlights for just two nights in summer to see whether results could be achieved in such a short time and during the long daylight season.
Apparently, even after just two days, the camping experience resulted in earlier bedtimes and earlier waking times in the morning.
How to Reap Benefits Without the Tent
The study, which was published in the journal Current Biology, concluded that daylight can quickly reset our internal clocks. “Our findings highlight an opportunity for architectural design to bring in more natural sunlight into the modern built environment,” says Kenneth Wright.
To make use of these findings at home (without sleeping outdoors in winter), we can make sure to spend as much time outside as possible by taking walks in daylight, the earlier in the day the better. Early morning light is especially beneficial to keeping our body clocks functioning naturally.
We can also open curtains and blinds in our homes and office to increase exposure to natural daylight light whenever possible. Finally, we reduce our exposure to our smartphones and laptops, especially at night. Blue light is known to cause sleep disruptions. For when you must use your electronics at night, consider downloading an app that filters out blue light.