A new study suggests that a week of camping outdoors can reset our biological clock, also know as the circadian clock. The circadian clock is an internal clock that alerts your body to sleep, as well as to rise in the morning. This master clock in the brain controls the release of melatonin, a hormone that engages the body to sleep. Scientists have been able to record our ability to sleep, as well as what makes us feel so tired once we wake by measuring the amount of melatonin in our blood. If your melatonin levels are still high when you start your day you feel groggy and tired, as these levels are meant to rise in the early evening and then are supposed to taper off in the morning before a person wakes up.
There have been many health problems linked to deprivation of sleep and even linked to not getting a restful enough night’s rest. Diabetes, obesity and heart disease just to name a few, have all been associated with insufficient sleep.
Sleep with the Stars
The research conducted by Dr. Kenneth Wright and colleagues from the the University of Colorado found that subjects who spent more time exposed to natural light and less time relying on electrical lighting, shifted the times they slept and rose in the morning up to two hours earlier, while the total number of hours they slept stayed the same. After a few days of being exposed to only natural light, our internal clocks align with solar time. Solar time is the time when the sun is visible so night begins at sunset, and ends when we wake just after sunrise.
Our circadian clock will also adapt to seasonal changes in the natural light-dark cycle as animals also adjust their sleep pattern in the winter so they can spend more time sleeping as the nights grow longer. Wright explains the changes in their internal clock is also responsible for weight gain and changes in fur color in many animals.
The study did not conclude on the exact amount of days needed to have a full reset, but those involved hope that further and more in depth research can discover this. If you feel tired and need to reset your clock but are not much of a camper, reduce your use of electronics at night at least an hour before bed and try to expose yourself to sunlight longer during the day!