If you have a messed up sleep pattern and a sickly body, pitching tents may help fix your health issues. According to the two-study paper published in the Current Biology, camping, especially in the winter may have a positive impact on wellness.
"These studies suggest that our internal clock responds strongly and quite rapidly to the natural light-dark cycle," said lead author and CU Boulder integrative physiology professor Kenneth Wright in a statement.
"Living in our modern environments can significantly delay our circadian timing and late circadian timing is associated with many health consequences. But as little as a weekend camping trip can reset it."
For the first study, the researchers gathered 14 volunteers. 9 of the participants went camping in the Colorado mountains for a summer weekend, while the other 5 stayed home. After the camp that lasted 2 days, campers had their saliva tested, their melatonin rise had shifted 1.4 hours earlier.
"Weekend exposure to natural light was sufficient to achieve 69 percent of the shift in circadian timing we previously reported after a week's exposure to natural light," Wright added.
The campers maintained their regular sleep schedule, preventing the "social jetlag" that contributes to Monday morning grogginess as a result from the clock shifting later over the weekend.
The second study involved five volunteers who went camping for one week near the time of the winter. They returned to the lab to have their melatonin tested hourly for 24 hours.
The results showed, they had been exposed to 13 times more light by day as in their typical weekday environment during winter. When the campers returned home, their melatonin levels began to rise 2.6 hours earlier.
The same with many animals, the campers' biological night had naturally lengthened to align with the season. When light hits photoreceptors in the eye, it alters the master clock which then signals a cascade of events that impact rhythms in our body, influencing not only when we sleep and rise, but also the timing of hormone releases that impact appetite, metabolism and more.
"Our clock influences much more than sleep," Wright noted. He said it can affect health, including poor cognitive performance, mood disorders, diabetes and obesity.