Trouble Sleeping? Try Camping as a Natural Sleep Deprivation Solution!
Adopting a natural sleep cycle is crucial for those battling behavioral, psychological, and substance-abuse issues. Naturally the sun regulates our normal sleep cycle, but in our modern lives this sleep pattern is disrupted by overexposure to artificial light and electronics. New research suggests that sleeping outdoors can improve the quality of sleep by resetting the internal clock, thus helping to alleviate many of the issues that stem from improper sleep and thus an effective and natural sleep deprivation solution.
Overexposure to artificial light disrupts natural sleep patterns.
Electric light has transformed the way we live, allowing us both to work indoors and far into the night. Overexposure to artificial light, like the kind that comes from TVs, computer screens, or video game devices, disrupts the natural sleep cycle by altering the body’s release of melatonin.
Melatonin—the “night hormone”—regulates the sleep cycle. Naturally, melatonin levels increase when the sun begins to set, preparing our bodies for sleep. In the early morning when the sun begins to rise, these levels taper off, allowing the body to wake up refreshed.
Our current lifestyles have altered this natural cycle. When these levels remain high in the early morning, as they do when a person does not adhere to these natural patterns, it makes it difficult to wake up energized and negatively contributes to many behavioral and psychological problems.
Negative sleep patterns can contribute to:
- Weight management issues
- Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
- Substance abuse
Research has shown that camping can reset the natural internal clock.
A recent study published in Clinical Biology highlights that sleeping outdoors can improve the quality of sleep by resetting the natural internal clock.
Professor Kenneth Wright Jr., a sleep researcher in the Department of Integrative Physiology at the University of Boulder in Colorado, found that after just a short time camping, the internal clock naturally resets—drastically improving the quality of sleep.
Participants of the study had their melatonin levels monitored for one week of normal daily life, and for one week of camping. Wright found that after just one week of sleeping outdoors, melatonin levels began to rise and fall in sync with the natural light-dark cycle.
Using sunlight and campfires as the only sources of light, participants were exposed to more than 400 percent of the normal daily intake. What this research revealed was that the internal clocks of the participants had been re-calibrated to take the natural cues from the sun. After a week of camping, the body naturally shifts the release of melatonin to earlier in the day, closer to sundown. Participants did not get more sleep, but rather a better quality sleep based on the timing of when melatonin levels peak and fall.
According to Wright, “light provides a time cue that syncs our internal clock to the external environment,” allowing for a better coordination of our daily behavior, such as when we eat, sleep and perform at our best.
Wilderness Therapy syncs the internal clock with the external reality.
When teens and young adults participate in a Wilderness Therapy program, through camping their natural circadian rhythms reset after just a short time. In this approach to treatment, they see an added health benefit that is not present in a strictly traditional treatment model.
Healthy sleep patterns facilitate the ability to treat and manage the issues that these teens and young adults face. In this natural setting, participants use the sunrise and sunset to signify when it is time to get up and wind-down for the night. Hormone levels become regulated, allowing for treatment to address the underlying issues associated with behavioral, psychological or substance-abuse problems.
This increased exposure to sunlight while camping can reduce the physiological, cognitive and health consequences associated with the disruption of our natural internal clock. Wilderness therapy provides the setting for those battling certain problems to reset their internal clocks, helping them to take the steps toward improving their health and learning to self-manage their issues.
For more information about camping as a natural sleep deprivation solution and Wilderness Therapy, call Rites of Passage Wilderness Therapy at (800)794-0980.