BY BROOKLYN PINHEIRO
In modern times so much can be artificial, from artificial intelligence to artificial lights. And unless the idea of robots is paralyzingly terrifying to you, only one of those things is keeping you up at night. Lack of light in our workplaces and artificial lights in our homes is messing with our body clocks. Due to TVs, lamps, and smart phones we absorb light in the evening when our bodies aren’t programmed to be doing so and because a lot of us work inside all day, we’re not getting the sunlight when we’re supposed to.
This effects our circadian rhythm, the thing that coordinates our bodies’ sleep schedule. This rhythm works on a roughly 24-hour clock responding to light and darkness in our environments. When we disrupt our circadian schedule by confusing it with light that’s not supposed to be there or lack of light when it is, we end up with messed up sleeping patterns.
Dr. Kenneth Wright from University of Colorado, Boulder, sought out to see if putting people back into nature would have an effect on their sleep. He sent out volunteers on camping expeditions armed with watches that tracked the amount of light they were exposed to. The outdoors-men weren’t allowed any light sources after the sun went down besides the glow of a campfire.
During a week of winter camping the volunteers got 13 more hours of sunlight than they regularly did in the same time. Blood tests also found that melatonin, the hormone in charge of making us sleepy, started ramping up in the body 2.6 hours earlier than it did in their daily lives which caused them to fall asleep sooner. Another experiment showed that a majority of the benefits could be gained by escaping the city for just a weekend. These effects of this sleep reset started to deteriorate once the campers were back into their daily routines.
Sleep deprivation has serious health repercussions from high blood pressure to stroke so knowing the proper way to rest is in your best interest. But if you can’t make it out to the wilderness there are things you can do in your regular life that can get your circadian rhythm back in tune with nature’s cycle. Snag the desk closest to the window, walk whenever you can, dim the lights at night and avoid screens when you should be sleeping. However, if you do need an excuse to get away from it all, sleep is as good a reason as any.