We have discussed the relationship between sleep, exercise and health already. Many people struggle to get a good night’s sleep nowadays and this has an impact on our appetite and energy levels, which in turn affects how much we eat and how little we exercise. Now some new research suggests that we can reset our body clocks in a week – simply by going camping.
It is thought that one of the biggest causes of sleep deprivation is simply our modern lifestyle. Just like New York City, or bodies never sleep. Humans evolved to sleep when it becomes dark, however, most people simply turn on the lights and many look at a screen late into the night. While lighting is certainly not new, in recent decades it has become much more prevalent. The first electric lights were only introduced to homes on a large scale 100 years ago, but even then homes would only have a few relatively dim lights. Before then gas and oil lamps were used, and these would need to be managed more carefully, and would never be left to burn unnecessarily. Today homes have many bright lights in each room.
Are we doing too much?
One problem of modern society is that there is simply too much to do. The Internet, social media, satellite and cable television all contribute to the fact that we do not go to bed as early as we should.
There was a time, not so long ago, that at night everything would stop. Evening entertainment involved listening to some music or reading a book. There would be no television and certainly no Internet to distract people from bed. Even the pubs and bars would close by 11pm. Now everything is 24/7. No wonder so many people are suffering from sleep problems.
Light and media detox – go camping!
The answer seems to be a light and media detox – take some time out away from unnatural light sources and modern digital media. The easiest solution is to head out to the countryside to a camp site where you can enjoy spending a little time around a camp fire under the stars before turning in to bed at around 10pm.
The new research showed that time spent with only natural light helped to reset the human circadian clock, and this is vital to help improve the quality of sleep at night.
“We find that after exposure to only natural light, the internal circadian clock synchronizes to solar time such that the beginning of the internal biological night occurs at sunset and the end of the internal biological night occurs before wake time just after sunrise.” Kenneth P. Wright et al. 2013.
Camp, don’t glamp!
In recent years there has been a trend for wealthier people to go “glamping”. Glamping is a combination of the words glamorous camping, and it generally involves staying in a luxurious ready prepared tent which will have lighting, cooking facilities, hot water, fridges and electricity, some even have wi-fi. While these make great vacations it is not likely to have such a positive effect on your body clock.
Other advantages of camping
Camping has several health and social advantages over other types of vacation. Being outdoors tends to make us more active – we walk and play when outside. Camping is great for kids especially who will usually play non-stop all day before going to bed almost the moment it gets dark. Children are far more likely to request to go to bed when camping than when at home.
Camping is also a great way for a family to bond, as the whole family has to stay in close proximity and work together. Children usually love being able to help with putting up the tent and arranging the camp site as well as assisting with chores. Camping is also much cheaper than staying in a resort or hotel!
If you are not familiar with camping consider joining an organization of experts. Enroll children with social groups such as Scouts, Girlguiding or Woodcraft Folk group. Or just buy yourself a tent and some sleeping bags and take a family holiday to a camp site.
Just remember one simple rule if you plan a camping break – Be Prepared.
Entrainment of the Human Circadian Clock to the Natural Light-Dark Cycle by Kenneth P. Wright et al. Current Biology, 01 August 2013.