A new study conducted by researchers at by the University of Colorado may have discovered a cure for insomniacs: go camping. The study, published in Current Biology on Thursday, found that the removal of artificial light for even a weekend pushed sleep times up by two-and-a-half hours.
“Our modern environment has really changed the timing of our internal clocks, but also the timing of when we sleep relative to our clock,” Kenneth Wright, director of the sleep and chronobiology lab at the University of Colorado in Boulder, told The Guardian. “A weekend camping trip can reset the clock rapidly.”
To research this, Wright studied the sleep habits of people camping and indoors in both the winter and summer.
In the winter study, five physically active people were studied for two weeks, with the first 6 days being spent in their normal, electrically illuminated lives. The second week they went camping, with no artificial lighting. It was observed that they went to sleep about two-and-a-half hours earlier when camping.
The summer test involved 14 participants, 9 who camped and five who stayed at home. According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, this study found that those who camped woke up about the same time on the weekends as they did on the weekdays, whereas those who didn’t camp got up one-and-a-half hours later on the weekends as they did on the weekdays.
The study also focused on melatonin levels, and conclusions show that getting more natural light is the key to getting better sleep. Wright said that while camping was used as the medium for this study, the findings show that it’s the amount of exposure to natural light (and not artificial light) that is the true takeaway.
“We would recommend getting more natural sunlight, and that could be starting the day with a walk outside, or bringing more light indoors if you can, or sitting by a window. Equally important, though, is to dim the lights at night.”