Science Says You Should Take A Camping Trip Once In A While
A camping trip, as it turns out, does wonders for our mental health and general well-being. In our ever more technologically intensive, modern world, we tend to stay up late, browsing our phones, or simply just sitting too long, we tend to put a big pressure on our bodies’ natural functions. Our sleeping schedules are particularly affected by this, and in turn, our minds.
Don’t worry, though, because there’s a simple solution to this. Take a sleeping bag, possibly a tent, several thicker sweaters, matches, marshmallows, and go for a night in the wilderness.
“Our modern environment has really changed the timing of our internal clocks, but also the timing of when we sleep relative to our clock,” said Kenneth Wright, director of the sleep and chronobiology lab at the University of Colorado in Boulder. “A weekend camping trip can reset the clock rapidly.”
An earlier study on the subject revealed that electrical lighting already causes some two hours of delay in our internal clock, caused by melanin fluctuating levels. What this basically translates to is that we go to bed later than we should, and this has a negative impact on our body. A study back then showed that camping for a few days during summer can balance back and put our bodies back in rhythm with our internal clocks. The question, however, remained whether the same thing applies in winter.
To find out, scientists have asked nine volunteers to set camp outside during the winter solstice (when the days are shortest), while another five people stayed home and act as the control group for the study. No flashlights, phones or any other source of external light was allowed. As it turns out, the results came back even better than those during summer time.
As the data points out, during winter, when the days are shorter, we normally are exposed to 13 times less light during the day, than if we were outside camping. Moreover, people went to sleep 2.5 hours earlier when they were outside than if they stayed indoors. Like other animals, humans are susceptible to exterior stimuli like the changing seasons. So, in winter, because the days are shorter, we should be sleeping more; but we don’t. This lack of winter sleep has negative impacts on our lives in the long run.
“Late circadian and sleep timing in modern society are associated with negative performance and health outcomes such as morning sleepiness and accidents, reduced work productivity and school performance, substance abuse, mood disorders, diabetes, and obesity,” says Kenneth Wright at the University of Colorado Boulder.
“Our findings demonstrate that living in our modern environments contributes to late circadian timing regardless of season and that a weekend camping trip can reset our clock rapidly.”