Dr Kenneth Wright has published a study that shows a weekend out camping resets the clock inside our bodies that influences sleeping habits. Now while camping might not be for everyone, the essence of this is about being exposed to natural light, and let’s face it, away from our computer screens and mobile phones.
The scientists argue that time in the great outdoors could help those struggling to sleep and get up in the morning and boost health because exposing ourselves to more bright light in the day (and less at night) could help.
Our “circadian” rhythm anticipates day and night to co-ordinate how our body works, monitoring alertness, mood, sleep, physical strength and it’s heavily influenced by light (hence the issue with mobile phone screens before bed). Light helps the clock keep time, but modern life with artificial light, alarm clocks and smartphones has altered our sleeping habits.
Dr Wright said: “we’re waking up at a time when our circadian clock says we should still be asleep” (anyone with an alarm clock can vouch for that), and it’s damaging our health with suggested links to type two diabetes and obesity.
Dr Wright’s study organised a series of camping trips that removed the use of artificial light, except in the form of a campfire. The first thing they realised is that the people camping were exposed to 13 times more light than they were at home, even in winter.
They also noted that their melatonin levels started to rise two-and-a-half hours earlier than before the expedition and they went to bed earlier too. The campers were now sleeping and waking in tune with their body clocks.
Dr Wright said: “we’re not saying camping is the answer here, but we can introduce more natural light to modern life.” He suggested things like going out for a walk before work and cutting down in the evening by using less artificial light and recording TV shows rather than watching them late at night to help us sleep.
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