Camping in nature regulates our internal clock and enables restful sleep
Lack of sleep and disturbed sleep are unfortunately widespread these days. For example, many people sit in front of their computers or smartphones late at night. This affects the sleep of those affected. Researchers have now found that there is an easy way to fix such sleep problems. Leave your smartphone and other gadgets at home and sleep in a tent for one night.
The University of Colorado scientists found that sleep problems could be solved quickly and easily by many people. Affected people would simply have to stay in a tent for a few nights and refrain from using artificial light. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Current Biology".
TVs, smartphones and computers rob us of sleep
Many people are probably familiar with the problem: we don't really want to go to bed so late in the evening, but then watch TV again too long, sit in front of the computer for too long, or move around on our smartphones until late at night in social networks. As an antidote to insomnia, lack of sleep and disturbed sleep, experts are now recommending that those affected leave their technical devices at home and simply spend a few days in a tent in nature.
Electrical lighting and technical devices worsen our sleep
The medical team found that people sleep about two hours earlier if they are denied access to technical equipment and electrical lighting because they spend a few nights in a tent in nature.
Weekend trip in the tent can set the internal clock correctly again
A weekend in the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado was enough to reset people's internal clocks. Here, it was possible to prevent artificial light from delaying our bedtime until late at night, the experts say. Our modern society has changed the timing of internal clocks and this affects our bedtime, says author Kenneth Wright of the University of Colorado. A weekend trip in the tent could quickly reset this internal clock.
Doctors send test subjects to camp in the Rocky Mountains
To explore the sleep-changing effects of the natural environment, author Wright sent five robust colleagues aged 21 to 39 for a six-day camping trip to the Rocky Mountains in December. They left all of their technical gadgets behind. That left them with only sunlight, moonlight and a campfire for lighting.
Participants were more active and received a lot more natural light
The campers went to bed on average two and a half hours earlier than at home. They also slept almost ten hours a night, the scientists say. In comparison, they usually slept at home for about seven and a half hours. The study found that participants were much more active during the day and were exposed to natural light up to 13 times higher than they typically received at home.
Researchers are investigating camper melatonin levels
Immediately after the trip, the campers then returned to the laboratory, where scientists examined the rise and fall of melatonin (the sleep hormone) in their bodies. Melatonin started to be active more than two and a half hours earlier than before the trip. This is how the body was prepared for sleep earlier. Even with the small number of people in the study, clear effects were found. These were the same for all subjects. How our so-called circadian clock reacts to the natural light-dark cycle is part of our fundamental physiology, the researchers explain.
A similar test was carried out in the summer
To see how quickly the natural environment can change people's sleeping habits, Wright sent nine people aged 19 to 37 on a weekend weekend camping trip to the mountains. Torches and flashlights were allowed on this excursion. For comparison, five other test subjects stayed at home.
Campers also went to bed much earlier in the summer
Even on the summer trip, weekend campers went to bed earlier than those who stayed at home. The effect was more pronounced at the weekend. In modern apartments with artificial light, the subjects went to bed almost two hours later, the scientists say. Through the weekend outdoors, the campers were exposed to four times more natural light compared to the other participants.
Follow these instructions if you don't feel like camping
For anyone who doesn't feel like camping at all, there's good news: you don't have to go camping to get the benefits of sleeping. Try to get as much sunlight as possible during the day. Take a walk, for example, or try to let more natural light into your home, the authors advise. If you can, stay at a window more often. It is also very important that you absolutely dim the lights at night.
Exposure to artificial light affects the body clock
The results should inspire people to look at all environmental factors that can affect sleep, rather than shifting sleep behavior to internal biological factors, the experts explain. There are many people who think that they cannot sleep early because it is in their genes. In reality, however, exposure to artificial light may affect your internal clock. (as)