Researchers from the University of Colorado have found that doing a camping travel during this time of the year with the absence of electric light might function as a cure for insomnia.

The investigation, published in the journal Current Biology, showed that the participants of the study who traveled and camped during February improved their sleeping time by two and a half hours. Kenneth Wright, Jr. of the University of Colorado, Boulder, was the principal author of the study, as Ellen Stothard and Andrew McHill, also of UC Boulder, were co-first authors.

Image credit:  Gazettereview.com / Millstreet2014.com
Image credit: Gazettereview.com / Millstreet2014.com

The investigators analyzed several sleeping behaviors in participants in both summer and winter. In the winter season, the five participants involved in the study remained in an electrically illuminated environment for six days, as the team assisted the persons on improving their sleep cycles.

Afterward, the same five participants camped in the woods for six days with the complete absence of electrical light. They were able to start campfires for illumination, as the team also assisted them. The individuals included in the study were part of a group of hardy colleagues between 21 to 39 years old and were sent to the Rocky Mountains.

The results showed how the sleeping cycle of participants was modified, as they started to sleep 2.5 hours earlier in average when sleeping in the woods. In the case of the 14 to who camped during the summer, they only presented improvements of one and a half hour change in average.

Study findings and conduction

The research team did some measurements regarding the participants’ melatonin level found in both environments. Melatonin is a human hormone that helps in the regulation of the person’s sleep cycle. The team also registered the illumination present for the individuals in every scenario as the light functions on the releasing of melatonin.

The results of the investigation demonstrated that the amount of light during the winter season in indoor spaces is usually reduced when compared to outdoor spaces and lightning. The results of these measures during the summer months was considerable distinct.

Image credit: Hellobc.com
Image credit: Hellobc.com

According to the researchers, the amount of lighting is crucial in the understanding of the effects of camping as a way to reduce insomnia. In the winter there is less amount of artificial light than in summer, defining that season as the best suitable option.

“Our findings highlight an opportunity for architectural design to bring in more natural sunlight into the modern built environment and to work with lighting companies to incorporate tunable lighting that would be able to change across the day and night to enhance performance, health, and well-being,” Wright, senior author of the study, said in a statement.

The participants presented sleeping lapses of 10 hours in average, which represents a fantastic improvement in all cases. The researchers said that they were exposed to light levels almost 14 times higher than the normal levels they receive at home. This produced a daytime that was considerably more active concerning each person’s organism.

Scientific recommendations for people with insomnia

Wright explained that it is common to think that camping is kind of torture to some people, but this must not discourage patients in any way. He stated that there are a lot of ways of overcoming insomnia and avoid all the fatigue present during work or study time.

The recommendations from the team of researchers are for people to receive more sunlight than in regular basis, to perform different walks during the day, sitting near a window, or trying to include even more natural light to the home’s indoor spaces. However, they also suggest reducing the amount of light received during the night.

Image credit: Trca.ca
Image credit: Trca.ca

Derk-Jan Dijk, director of the Sleep Lab at the University of Surrey, criticized the study as he said that the number of participants was not enough to really explain the effects of the light on the people’s sleep cycles. He explained that other factors like the temperature could affect the insomnia condition, as he added that artificial light could be another factor affecting the person’s biological clock.

“This should inspire people to look at all of the environmental factors that affect sleep rather than looking at the internal biological factors. There are some people who say ‘I can’t go to sleep early because I’m a late type, it’s in my genes’. But it’s exposure to artificial light that drives our clock later so we struggle to get out of bed in the morning,” Dijk said regarding the publication of the study.

Dijk stated that this study must not be a recommendation for people to start camping everywhere as a solution for insomnia. He warned that exhaustive investigations must be conducted to actually define all the factors that affect sleep cycles and the implications that every environment has on this issue.

The research team said that further studies will be carried to determine how light exposure affects sleep and other ambits of health.

Source: The Guardian