Need to rejigger your internal alarm clock？ An outdoor camping trip may help. It happens to the best of us： We stay up too late too many nights or sleep in too many weekends， and our biological clocks get out of whack. Once the circad...
Need to rejigger your internal alarm clock？ An outdoor camping trip may help.
It happens to the best of us： We stay up too late too many nights or sleep in too many weekends， and our biological clocks get out of whack. Once the circadian rhythm is disrupted it can be tough to reset.boudoir pillow cases
Fortunately， there’；s a fun， and unorthodox way to rejigger those internal alarms： Spend a few days sleeping in a tent outside.
By studying a group of people while camping， Kenneth Wright Jr. and his five colleagues from the Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory at the University of Colorado Boulder observed how the body’；s internal clock shifted to match the environment’；s natural light cycle. They published their findings in the journal Current Biology.
First， the researchers tracked six men and two women in their typical lives to observe when they sleptnursery lumbar pillow， how much light exposure they had and when their brains released the hormone melatonin. Melatonin signals to our bodies that it’；s dark so we know it’；s bedtime. But light exposure， including artificial light， controls melatonin’；s release.
When the eight adults spent a week camping， they slept in tents and ditched all artificial light – flashlights， cell phones， lanterns – everything except camp fires.
The campers got four times as much light camping as they did at home， especially in their first two hours after waking. The light we get in those first two hours is critical to resetting our circadian rhythm. It winds up our body’；s natural clock so the body knows how much time should pass until bedtime.
But between sunset and bedtime， campers were exposed to three times less light than in their modern homes with all their light fixtures and screens. That’；s when light exposure has the biggest impact in delaying our clocks， as our brains don’；t get the message it’；s time for sleeping with all that stimulus around.
Outside， the campers’； sleep cycles shifted. They slept as well and as long as they did at home， but night owls got up a little earlier and early birds stayed up a little later. Their sleep cycles synchronized more closely with the environment’；s light-dark cycle.
Melatonin levels told the story. At home， the participants’； brains released melatonin two hours after they went to bed， peaked in the second half of the night and switched off over an hour after waking. While camping， melatonin switched on two hours before sunset， peaked in the middle of the night and switched off around sunrise， nearly an hour before they woke up.
If you typically feel groggy instead of refreshed each morning， your body is probably still flooded with melatonin， even if you got enough sleep. Resetting your clock with a few days in the great outdoors may help. And the best way to sleep while camping？ Leave electronics at home and use campfires instead of lanterns.
If you’；re a night owl who slips back into staying up too late once you’；re in the real world again， check out How Night Owls Can Thrive in a 9 to 5 World.
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