How Sleeping Outdoors Can Reset your Circadian Rhythm

Poor sleep habits seem to be a given these days. With all the blue light emitting from our devices, the noises from our neighbors, and the temptations of afternoon coffee on every street corner, the fight to obtaining a good night’s sleep is more challenging than ever. More and more people are popping pills containing melatonin, buying blackout curtains, ambient noise machines, and turning to pretty much any device that will promise some answer to the Sisyphean task of getting a good night’s sleep. The solution, however, isn’t in your Amazon recommendations. It just might be outside of your front door. 

Camping has long been toted as a great remedy to rest and recharge, but did you know that the simple act of sleeping outside can reset your circadian rhythm?Current Biologystudy from 2017found that one of the biggest contributors to a poor sleep schedule were misinformed light cues. Your body wants to be asleep when it is dark, and awake when it is light. Therefore, artificial lights, blackout curtains, and all the other modern inventions of today’s world that alter your perception of day and night are just confusing the body. This confusion causes restlessness, insomnia, and a whole slew of other issues that keep us tossing and turning at night. 

By camping, you are only exposed to natural light (well, some light from a flashlight may creep in, but it’s nothing compared to the lights on inside your home at night). This natural light triggers your “master clock” (aka the 20,000 nerve cells in your hypothalamus that tell your brain what time it is) to wake when it’s light and sleep when it’s dark, getting your body back in sync with it’s actual sleep need. Camping also tends to force people to leave their tech devices at home. If there are no outlets, how can you charge your iPhone? Less screen time is always another great way to not only your body’s master clock, but also recharge your mental well being as well. 

And if you’re sitting there, audibly laughing at the mere notion of camping (yes, we see you over there with your hair dryers and your temperature-controlled bedrooms), there is still hope. Just getting a little more natural light into your day can help reset your body’s internal clock. A recent studymonitored office workers who were in offices with windows v. offices without windows. The workers exposed to more sunlight during their days had much better reported sleeping habits than those who did not have the exposure to natural light, which not only made them more productive, it also gave them greater senses of happiness and wellbeing. 

While getting actual natural light is best, there are still other alternatives to getting some more light into your day. Daylight simulation alarm clocks gradually light up a room with natural light, signaling to your body that it’s time to wake up. If you’re in an apartment with low light, or you have a job where you must rise before the sun, these solutions can be really beneficial to getting your body back to basics. 

If you’ve been struggling to get a little more sleep, try getting outside however you can! Or, you know, just sit by a sunny window while you’re going about your day. You might just master your own “master clock”! 

Rachel Collins