Getting Back to Nature

Why Camping Has Shown to Improve Sleep

In a recent article by Civilized, it was shown through studies that a weekend under the stars had excellent effects on resetting the body's natural circadian rhythm and helped to improve the sleep of the campers that were part of the experiment.

Their findings?

Natural light source helped to cue the body when it was day and when it was night.  The campers in the study got to bed nearly 2 hours earlier than usual and woke naturally with the dawn as the sun rose.  The campers could only rely on the light of the campfire and the sun -- meaning no flashlights, lights, phones, etc.

It is now becoming more and more apparent just how negative the effects are of blue light emission from your TV, laptop, or smart phone is and what it can do to melatonin levels.  Researchers at University of Colorado concluded that “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.”

If you think about it, look how long it took for humans to evolve to walking on two feet (answer: several thousand years).  Thomas Edison's light bulb was only invented 138 years ago and guess what?  It's been wreaking havoc on our body's natural circadian rhythm ever since.  

Our bodies have still not evolved to shorter sleep times and are still incredibly sensitive to light and dark.  When it comes to human evolution, 138 years is just a blip on the radar.   Thanks to Tom, we can trick our bodies into thinking it's still daylight.  However, the sleep we are losing has been linked to weight gain, heart problems, and more.

If lack of sleep can have this effect on us, imagine what it's doing to our kids?  That's why when I teach the families I work with better sleeping habits, cutting down or eliminating screen time is key to a successful sleep training program.  I also discuss with my parents the importance of keeping the room dark both for night time and naps.  Why? To help re-teach the brain that light is for wakefulness, and night is for sleep.  And, for the special needs kids I work with their brains and bodies already have a hard time regulating all of their bodily functions.  Why would we complicate things by throwing off their circadian rhythms as well?  Sleep is a vital process for brain growth and restoration for all children -- they need their rest!   

Now, back to camping.  It's not something that we all have the luxury of doing on a regular basis.  However, if you and your family are feeling particularly tired and drained, consider a weekend away and unplugged the way Mother Nature intended it.  Can't get away?  Consider a electronics free weekend to help your body hit the "reset" button.