Everything on the internet is true! Said no one ever.
The circadian system is responsible for regulating a ton of physiological and behavioral rhythms and one of them is sleep. Too many all-nighters, parties, NetFlix binges, and late-night texts disrupt our natural sleep cycle seemingly to the point of no return.
But, there’s hope. If you’re willing to go off the grid for a while, science shows that it’s possible to reset our biological clock by doing one awesome, fun thing: Camping.
Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder has discovered that a 7-day break from the chaos we call life can be rather ife-changing. The sacrifice? Unplugging your electronic devices, striking out for the wild unknown, and living a solitary 7 days solely with natural light. It’s said that said one week of mountain-man living will reset your biological clock and put your body and mind back in synch with the world around you.
The best part of the study conducted by the university is that it’s practically guaranteed to work. Whether the participants were early birds or night owls, the synchronization of participants’ internal circadian clocks happened in just one week for each and every participant. According to professor Wright, “Our genes determine our propensity to become night owls or early birds in the absence of a strong signal to nudge our internal circadian clocks to stay in synch with the solar day.”
How does it work?
Our cells are affected by natural daylight and the cycles of the sun, dictating when we need to get ready to sleep and when we need to wake up. Today’s world, with a constant assault of stimulants, messes with our entire natural system inside and out. the number of diagnosed sleep disorders is a clear sign of a serious disconnect in our biological clocks. It was only in the 1930s that electric lighting was becoming the norm. Before that, people relied on the sun and moon alone for their work patterns, as well as their sleep patterns.
After the participants spent their week camping with only the glow of a campfire and no electronic devices, including flashlights, researchers recorded the timing of participants’ circadian clocks in the laboratory by measuring the presence of melatonin. The release of melatonin is one way that our bodies signal the onset of our biological nighttime. Melatonin levels decrease again at the beginning of our biological daytime.
The participants didn’t get off Scott free – they were monitored again after their woodsy retreat and the findings were supportive of the theory. When the subjects were exposed to 4 times the intensity of light compared with their normal lives, the test subject’s biological night times started close sunset and ended at sunrise. Not only that, but they also woke up just after their biological night had ended.
The reality is, most of us can’t run away for a week in the woods, but there are others ways to gain a similar effect on out internal clock by cutting out electronics before bedtime and unplugging and removing anything with a power source form our sleeping quarters. Hey, good enough, right?