Current Biology

The Early-Camper Gets the Worm, According to Wilderness Study

By Mikal October 26, 2014

Outdoor Education Research

It’s common knowledge that hanging around the outdoors, whether that be running bases on the baseball field or trekking in the backcountry — is nothing less than beneficial for you. There’s all that fresh air, exercise, a release from the stresses of everyday life — we could go on infinitum.

So now we have a new study that has scientists telling us there are additional pluses to participating in the wilderness-based activities, and these bennies can result in former sleepy heads who can’t seem to get up in the morning finding themselves leaping out of bed with a spring in their step and a song in their hearts.

According to a recent article in Current Biology, it appears that a large, consistent concentration of florescent lights in schools and the workplace, reading lamps at home, stadium floods and other artificial illumination sources, can really screw up your sleep pattern. And that doesn’t even account for the screen glow from computers, tablets and smartphones.

The study — albeit a small one — claims that an overabundance of artificial light at the wrong time can change sleep patterns and make us grumpy and sluggish in the mornings.

But a week in the wild, these scientists assert, synchronizes the body’s clock to become more attuned to the Sun and natural light sources, such as a candle or a campfire. In fact, sleep researchers maintain that by taking away artificial light, former night owls and other party animals who have a rough time hitting the deck in the morning, find themselves up and at ’em bright and early with more energy than ever before.

Kenneth P. Wright Jr., Ph.D., of the Department of Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado in Boulder, says the brain’s “clock” lets us know when it’s time to hit the rack. However, unlike an alarm clock, this so-called circadian clock can be affected by artificial light sources, keeping you awake later at night and making it more difficult to get up in the morning.

Wright says that (more…)

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