I am back from my holiday on the beach and ready to rock! Well not exactly, I’ve come back to reality hitting the ground running. Back to the grind as they say. I went on a road trip stopping at Port Macquarie to sleep in a tent in the torrential rain. Then two days later we trekked up to Byron Bay to try to sleep in a tent in the boiling heat. The views were nice, we went to the beach every day for a run and a swim, which is my favourite thing to do on earth.
When I arrived back a friend of mine sent this nice article about camping and resetting your body clock. I’ve read about this before too, it is believed that in the modern world where we use electricity and lights when the sun goes down, we are more prone to things just as stress. This is because we are up for longer and our quality of sleep is affected. This in turn causes higher levels of cortisol production. We know that too much cortisol is not a positive thing either, it’s thought that it’s a big contributor to lifestyle-related conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease.
Camping food I managed to put together
Our sleep wake cycle is dependent on what we call the circadian rhythm. This cycle is influenced by light and this in turn influences certain hormone secretion. When the sun light drops the body starts to release a hormone called Melatonin, which is a sleeping hormone. When light touches our skin again this is dampened down and we wake up.
With unnatural lighting like lamps, and all the lights in your home this cycle is prolonged. We don’t get a gradual reduction in light at night, slowly increasing our melatonin levels. What usually happens is we turn out the light in our bedroom then try to get to sleep. For people who are very light or bad sleepers this can cause major issues with trying to get to and stay asleep.
In this study scientists took a group of 8 people camping for a week and measured their body clock and stress hormone levels. Through this experiment they didn’t allow them to use torches or any unnatural sources of light unless it was a campfire. What they found is that natural light improved everyone’s internal circadian body clock. This resulted in less cortisol stress hormone production.
When they compared the groups normal average light exposure when they were back home from camping, on average people had four times the amount of light exposure than when they went camping. This was due to unnatural lighting, TVs and computer screens.
They even found this in a group of hospital patients, in another study in which they measured the sound and light levels in the hospital ward. They found that higher sound levels impacted sleep ability. In addition if someones bed was close to the window they were exposed to more natural light for longer periods of time during day light savings. The more light someone was exposed to and of course the noisier the room was, the less people slept.
The maze at the local winery
These results are very interesting, and suggests that camping could be good for your health. Not only to relax by being on holiday but also to reset your body clock getting it inline with the proper sleep and wake times according to the natural sun light. You could even translate this into the home environment by having tighter control on your sleep routine and use of light at home.
I can’t say I felt this way during my camping trip though. It was very relaxing during the day but with the amount of drunk screaming people in the mind of the night it was difficult to sleep at all. At the communal camp site, there were people obviously drinking to celebrate the fact that they were on holidays, but screaming at each other or having loud brawls was very inconsiderate. As you can imagine it was very difficult to sleep and equally difficult to try to sleep in at the start of a 40 degree day!
Like anything thought, this type of stuff can be affected by circumstance, noisy tent neighbours for example. But let me give you some tips to improve your sleep:
- Dim all lights in the house at least 1 hr prior to bed time
- Where light loose fitting clothing to bed
- Try to stop eating 1 hr prior to be
- Do not go camping in a caravan park over New Years, you’re bound to get drunks causing a ruckus. Go to a national park instead
Hope you sleep with the fairies tonight 🙂