What to fix your sleep schedule? Maybe try camping.
It should come as no surprise to the well-read gentleman that the science of sleep is getting a lot of attention these days, not least because of the numerous and significant effects that poor sleep can have on your health. A new study published in Current Biology suggests that an easy way to normalize your sleep pattern is to simply go camping.
Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder tracked the sleep patters of eight volunteers, of an average age of thirty, for a week as they went about their normal lives. Each participant had a watch with a sensor on it, for the purpose of measuring both their light exposure and when they moved, indicating sleep patterns. They also submitted saliva samples, which the researchers used to measure their melatonin, a hormone which aids in sleep.
During the second week, researchers sent the study participants camping in Eagle Nest Wilderness, because they were the world’s luckiest research participants that week. They wore the same sensors, but were forbidden from bringing any other electronics that emit artificial light, including flashlights.
Over the course of the week, all eight shifted to a sleep schedule that mimicked the rising and setting of the sun—even the night owls. They slept the same amount of time as they did in the first week, they merely fell asleep and awoke an average of two hours earlier, and they did so without alarm clocks.
Researchers say the results are linked to the aforementioned melatonin levels. Melatonin naturally decreases when one is exposed to light, and naturally increases when it gets dark. By eliminating artificial light sources, participates started producing melatonin as it got dark, and because they were exposed to natural light all day, their melatonin levels decreased during the day.
Of course, it isn’t practical to ship off to the woods every day (for most of us, anyway), so what’s the modern, city-dwelling, office-working man to do? Well, any increase in your exposure to natural light will help, so perhaps an early-morning walk or lunch outside is in order. Furthermore, it could be beneficial to lay off the electronics an hour or so before bed. Need a relaxing before-bed routine that isn’t playing xbox? We recommend a book and a Scotch. Can’t beat that.