Growing up I was very lucky to spend much of our holidays in the great Australian outdoors. I loved nothing more than the end of the school term approaching and the opportunity to head off on an adventure of camping with my family. Pitching a tent, exploring, catching fish, cooking rabbit stew and spending time by a campfire are just a few of the memories of these great adventures.
It just so happens these adventures can also help reset our internal biological clock, positively influence hormonal levels and improve sleep schedules.
A study published in Current Biology monitored eight participants (6 men, 2 women with an average age of 30 years) go about their normal activities for a week and then monitored a week of camping without access to flashlights or electronic devices.
The results showed that on average, the participants’ bedtime shifted about 2 hours later when influenced by electrical lighting (which includes mobile phones, laptops, iPads etc) compared with when they were camping and only exposed to sunlight and campfires.
In addition, the participants wake up time was also earlier than during their normal lives. The researchers suggest that sleep patterns synchronized with sunset and sunrise, even though some people in the study were either night owls or early birds in their normal lives.
This study is a clear reminder of how both natural and artificial light effect our biological rhythms.
There is no doubt that modern society spends far more time indoors in artificial light and less time outdoors in natural light. However, there are a few things you can do to combat the impact of modern technology on our natural cycles.
- Get more sunlight in the morning and midday hours.
- Morning and lunchtime walks are perfect for this.
- Wind down for at least an hour before bed to help restore your natural sleep-wake cycle.
- Taking a bath 1 – 2 hours before bed can help relax your body before bed.
- Avoid TV and computers.
- Don’t drink yourself to sleep with alcohol.
- It is also best that you avoid stimulants such as coffee later in the day as they can be sleep disruptors.
- Herbal teas such as passion flower and chamomile are better options to promote a good night’s sleep.
- Sleep quality can also be improved with calming nutrients such as magnesium, taurine and glutamine.
If you’ve been thinking of booking a camping trip, now might be the perfect time to get started.