Do you think your insomnia is down to your circadian rhythm, or your body’s internal clock, being out of sync? If so, the answer to getting it back on track may be as easy as going on a camping trip!
It seems that camping isn’t just a vacation activity - it can also be one of the most natural ways to reset your body clock. The Study Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder wanted to see what effect a week of camping in the wilderness, away from exposure to artificial light, would have on the circadian rhythm and sleep. They were curious to learn whether exposure to natural darkness and natural light could reset the body’s internal clock.
The average age of participants in the study group was 30, with the group comprised of two women and six men. All individuals were monitored for a week prior to the camping trip. Exposure to light, as well as the sleep and wake activities of each were observed and monitored. After this data was compiled, the subjects spent a week camping. During the course of the week, the only light they were exposed to was sunlight, moonlight, and firelight. They were not exposed to flashlights or any other source of artificial light.
Researchers also monitored melatonin levels during both weeks of testing. Melatonin is a hormone in the body that is produced at night and stimulated by darkness. It works with the circadian rhythm and helps prepare the body for sleep.
The Resulthen comparing the week of normal activity to the week spent camping, the study showed that melatonin levels normalized in each participant and their sleep/wake cycles were brought back in sync after a week of exposure to nothing but natural darkness and light.
The body's process of releasing hormones to prepare the body for sleep occurred two hours earlier when individuals were camping. Even those who seemed predisposed, or who had a preference, for being an early bird or night owl saw this change.
If insomnia has been plaguing you, a week long camping trip may be all you need to send it on its way. While camping isn’t for everyone, many insomniacs would agree that roughing it for a week is a small price to pay to regain control over their sleep once and for all.
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Wright, K. et. al. "Entrainment of the Human Circadian Clock to the Natural Light-Dark Cycle." Current Biology. August 19, 2013. Accessed October 6, 2015.