It’s always tempting to make the most of your evenings, staying up a couple of hours later then you know you should in order to delay the inevitability of work or school the next day. The only problem being that the more often you do so, the more your sleep suffers as a result. It’s a cycle that can lead to a variety of harmful sleep problems, but scientists believe they have come across a way of resetting our internal ‘sleep clocks’ for the benefit of our health and wellbeing.
Specifically, the method involves getting rid of all artificial lighting as soon as the sun sets for a weekend…or a couple of days at any time. Or in other words, replicate exactly what it would be like if you were to go camping – relying only on natural light and allowing natural light to flood into your eyes the following morning.
That’s all according to Kenneth Wright, a professor of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado, Boulder and senior author on a study on resetting sleep cycles. As far as he’s concerned, the easiest way of achieving all of the above is to treat yourself to a brief camping trip. He was reporting on an experiment that sort a number of people sent out camping for a week during the summer months, as part of an experiment with regard to resetting our internal body clocks.
For the purposes of the study, a control group that remained at home was monitored and tested for melatonin levels, just as were those sent off into the great outdoors for a few days.
For the most part, melatonin brings on feelings of tiredness. Just before we fall asleep, melatonin levels rise and then once again drop when we wake up.
“In the modern environment, those melatonin levels fall back down a couple of hours after we wake up,” Wright says.
“Our brains say we should be sleeping several hours after we wake up.”
Before the experiment, it became apparent that the internal clocks of the participants seemed to be entirely out of sync with their sleeping patterns, which in turn led to an effect very similar to jet like. However, when those sent away for a camping trip returned, it seemed that everything was once again back in sync.
“[Melatonin] would go down at sunrise and right when people woke up,” Wright says.
He also noted that the sleeping patterns of general of those that had gone camping had changed significantly – most were going to bed and getting up approximately 2 hours earlier every day. Experts believe that the use and over use of artificial lighting is wreaking havoc with our internal body clocks, resulting in the vast majority of people fighting what feels like a state of constant jet lag.
If so, the solution could be as simple as taking a well-deserved camping trip for a few days, or simply getting rid of every artificial lighting device and appliance around the home for a while!