New research shows you can reset your ‘clock’ with a camping trip
Having trouble getting good sleep? Grab your tent and head for the great outdoors. According to new research, a weekend spent outdoors can reset out-of-whack circadian rhythms and restore healthy sleep patterns.
Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder conducted two studies with volunteers who agreed to go camping for a week in the summer and another group who agreed to go camping for a weekend in the winter, according to a university news release.
Those who camped in the summer saw their melatonin levels rise 1.4 hours earlier than those who didn’t camp. In the winter campers, the results were even more pronounced: Their melatonin levels rose 2.6 hours earlier.
“These studies suggest that our internal clock responds strongly and quite rapidly to the natural light-dark cycle,” says Kenneth Wright, lead author and integrative physiology professor. “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 those who can’t get away or prefer hotel rooms to tents, Wright recommends getting more natural light during the day and putting away all electronic devices well before bedtime.
Showers as good as baths in presleep routine
To improve your sleep, experts say a hot shower before bed can be just as relaxing as the more often recommended warm bath, according to a Feb. 21 article on Time.com. But don’t take either one too late in the evening. “You don’t want to heat yourself up right before bed,” says Dianne Augelli, a sleep specialist at the Center for Sleep Medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. The body naturally heats up throughout the day and then begins to cool at night in preparation for sleep. A warming bath or shower too late in the evening interferes with that process. A perfect time is about 90 minutes before bed.
New Mexico schools give teens permission to nap
Instead of chastising students for falling asleep in class, some high schools in New Mexico are allowing students to take short, school-sanctioned naps. According to an article on NBCNews.com, students at high schools in Las Cruces can take 20-minute naps between classes in newly installed sleeping pods. Student Selema Graham told NBC News that she often loses sleep before a test or other big day at school and has used the pods to catch up on rest.
“I was more settled, and my mind had cleared a bit so I was able to get through,” Graham says.
Sleep trackers can interfere with sleep
People using wearable devices to track their sleep with hopes of getting a better night’s rest may suffer the opposite effect, according to researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, who presented a series of case studies in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Problems with sleep trackers, like a Fitbit or Apple Watch, range from the fact that most aren’t very good at gauging sleep to the fact that people can become obsessed with the trackers’ data, causing sleep-disrupting anxiety. According to the researchers, about 15% of U.S. adults own a wearable fitness/sleep-tracking device; 50% would consider purchasing one.