Scientists Say Camping Can Reset Your Biological Clock

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A new study at the University of Colorado shows that outdoor camping resets the human biological clock.

In the modern age of street lights, late working hours, bright phone screens, the human biological clock is normally unadjusted, leading to more people getting less and less sleep.

According to a new research study, spending the weekend outdoor camping could be the perfect way to reset your biological clock.

How Does Our Biological Clock Function?

Science tells us that a hormone called melatonin monitors our sleep pattern- or circadian rhythm-.

The release of the hormone is partially dictated by our surrounding light environment. If less light- especially long wavelengths are detected, our melatonin increases, inducing drowsiness and therefore prompting us to sleep.

A group of scientists at the University of Colorado tested the effectiveness of camping in the wilderness, and therefore being exposed to only natural day-night lighting, in fixing our sleeping patterns.

The Study

The new two-part study published in Current Biology, took a group of participants to camp at Colorado’s Eagle’s Nest Wilderness for the weekend, while another group of participants spent them at home.

The campers weren’t allowed to use any source of light other than the campfire and the sun, while wearing adapted watches that measured the amount of light they were around.

After two days, researchers carried out tests in order to examine the internal clocks of each group.

The scientists then tested the saliva from each group to measure the amount of melatonin in each participant. In the camping group, melatonin levels started rising 1.4 hours earlier than the group that stayed at home.

In the second part of the study, the same thing was carried out in the winter, when the sun sets earlier. The melatonin in the camping group then, started rising 2.6 hours earlier than the group that stayed at home.

“These studies suggest that our internal clock responds strongly and quite rapidly to the natural light-dark cycle,”  the lead author, Kenneth Wright, an integrative physiology professor at the University of Colorado said in a statement.

“Living in our modern environments can significantly delay our circadian timing and late circadian timing is associated with many health consequences. But as little as a weekend camping trip can reset it.”

Health Issues with Disturbed Sleeping Pattern

The disruption of the circadian rhythm does much more than disrupt your sleeping pattern. Disturbed circadian rhythms are also associated with health problems such as poor cognitive performance, mood disorders, diabetes and obesity.

Scientists suggest getting more natural sunlight and reducing artificial light from bright laptop or phone screens at night.

Wright added: “Our findings highlight an opportunity for architectural design to bring more natural sunlight into the modern built environment and to work with lighting companies to incorporate tunable lighting that could change across the day and night to enhance performance, health and well-being.”