Camping & your internal clock

Backpacking Campsite in Rocky Mountain National Park

A study published last week in Current Biology found that camping can help reset your internal clock to its natural state.

Researchers from the University of Colorado took a group of study participants camping in Colorado, with no electronic light allowed. The only night time lighting was that of the fire. At the end of the week, all eight participants’ sleep patterns shifted to follow the natural light patterns.

Previous research has found that electric lighting disturbs the natural biological rhythms of sleep that all life forms on Earth has evolved to anticipate sunrise and sunset. Since the 1930s, we have stayed up much later than nature intended.

The scientists studied the sleep hormone melatonin, and — after observing the group in their normal, day-to-day lives — found that artificial lighting made the volunteer’s internal clocks off by around two hours. Melatonin rises just before we go to sleep, and gradually diminishes over the night until we wake up. However, researchers found that levels of the hormone remained elevated in the study’s participants for several hours after waking, contributing to feelings of drowsiness in the morning.

These levels returned to normal after the camping trip, though the time the participants stayed asleep was the same. Researchers attributed this to increased exposure to natural sunlight, which was around 400% more than the volunteers were used to in a typical day.

The study’s authors recommend small changes in your routine that can help return your clock to its natural state, such as taking a walk outside first thing in the morning, and dimming lights in your home — including from electronic devices — during the evening.

Those changes sound great, but we have a better idea: Go camping!

Help reset your clock on a two-three day backpacking trip. Or, for the full effects, schedule a whole week in the Colorado sunshine.

Having more natural sleeping patterns will boost your energy levels, increase productivity and mood, so be sure to tell your boss that when you request your time off.

And remember; leave your phone at home!

(But not before calling us to set up a reservation: 720.242.9828)

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