A weekend camping trip may be the solution to everything from a lack of productivity at work to diabetes, according to a study published Thursday in Current Biology.
Melatonin levels in the body regulate the body's sleep schedule, increasing when it's time for bed and falling when it's time to wake up. But NPR reports most people's melatonin levels don't fall until a few hours after they wake up because our modern environment has thrown the body's natural circadian rhythm all out of wack. This creates a kind of minor jet-lag every morning. The problem is a combination of too little natural light during the day and too much artificial light at night.
A simple fix? Get back to nature. Researchers sent groups of subjects into the Colorado wilderness to do a little camping without artificial lights of any kind, the BBC reports. According to a press release, just two days of camping in the summer caused melatonin levels to rise 1.4 hours earlier. A week of camping in the winter caused them to rise a whopping 2.6 hours earlier.
Campers were going to bed earlier and sleeping more to fit with nature's — and the body's — natural rhythm.
Past studies have shown that healthier sleep patterns can reduce the risk of heart attack, mood disorders, obesity, and more. For those who can't go camping, researchers suggest getting as much natural light as possible during the day and turning off phones, TVs, and laptops well before bed. (In related news, nonstop artificial light might even affect your bones.)