Camping helps to reset our natural body clock

Starlight campingThe joys of camping are without number, aren’t they? You are never lonely because there mosquitoes, the ants, the flies and the occasional lethal spider or snake to keep you company.  New research has shown that camping can also reset our body clock to a more natural state.

For the new study researchers monitored men and women for a week as they went about their normal activities as they worked in a city. Then in a second week the subjects were monitored while they went camping in the wilderness without access to flashlights or any electronic devices. The monitoring of the people included wrist monitors that recorded the amount of light they were exposed to, the timing of the light and the subject’s activities including sleep.

At the end of both weeks the researchers also measured levels of the hormone melatonin, which is a hormone that governs your biological clock. The results showed that the biological night-time of the subjects began on average two hours later when they were living their normal city lives exposed to electric lighting, compared to when they were camping and only exposed to sunlight and campfires. Additionally, in their normal city life people woke up two hours before their “biological night” was finished.

In the wild, the biological clocks of the subjects synchronised with sunrise and sunset.

Intriguingly, despite a lifetime of exposure to artificial light it only took one week for the body clocks of the subjects to come in line with the natural rhythms. It was also notable that regardless of whether people reported themselves as “night owls” or “morning people” their body clocks got into the same rhythm after a week in the wild.[1]

Disruption of our normal circadian rhythms can bring about a plethora of problems, including weight gain, poor concentration, fatigue and depression. Who knows, maybe a week camping with family or friends might be just what you need!

To watch a video on the research study, please click the link below:


Source: Wellbeing magazine, August 2013

[1] Wright, K.P. Entrainment of the human circadian clock to the natural light-dark cycle. Curr Biol. 2013 Aug 19;23(16):1554-8