There's no doubt about it - artificial light harms our natural sleep pattern.
Thanks to the lightbulb, we stay awake far later than we used to.
Thanks to electronics, we're exposed to different forms of light that confuse our bodies and drive our internal bodyclocks haywire.
Many people who struggle with sleep identify themselves as insomnia sufferers, when in fact they're suffering from a condition called delayed sleep phase syndrome.
That being said, trying to 'force' your body out of this negative cycle can often lead to insomnia.
So if your internal body clock isn't running right, what can be done?
Well, a great first step is making sure you get lots of natural light during the day - and particularly early in the morning when you first wake up.
In the evening, dim your house lights if possible and limit your use of electronics that emit light (tablets, computers, televisions).
Alternatively, just go camping!
Researchers have found that camping for a week can reset our internal body clock (also known as the circadian rhythm).
In a small study, researchers concluded that artificial light delays our circadian clocks by 2 hours. On average, participants in the camping study normally went to bed at midnight and got out of bed at around 8am.
Melatonin levels in the participants were still at high levels for several hours after they woke up, indicating that their bodies weren't yet ready to be awake (melatonin levels rise naturally before we go to sleep, and fall during the night as we sleep).
After a week spent camping in Colarado (with no electronic devices or artificial lights), the waking and sleep patterns of every single participant matched the rise and fall of the sun.
Participants still slept for the same amount of time, but their internal body clocks 'regained' those lost 2 hours, and fell into a far more natural rhythm.
In addition, researchers found that during the camping experiment, campers were exposed to four times more sunlight than before.
So if you find yourself unable to fall asleep until late at night and feel unrefreshed when you wake up, maybe it's time to grab a tent and spend a week in the great outdoors!
Source: Current Biology
Last updated: August 2, 2013