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The Seven-Day Cure For Sleep Problems

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If you can’t fall asleep at night and then feel exhausted in the morning, the malfunction of your internal clock may be to blame. But a solution to your sleep problems may be just out your back door.

What you need to do is sleep in the backyard. Or go camping.

According to researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder, sleeping outdoors for about a week gets your body back in sync with its natural day-night cycle. Their study shows that a week of exposure to true dawn and dusk without electric lights can reset your physiological settings so that you sleep better and wake up more refreshed.

“By increasing our exposure to sunlight and reducing our exposure to electrical lighting at night, we can turn our internal clock and sleep times back and likely make it easier to awaken and be alert in the morning,” says researcher Kenneth Wright.

The researchers examined the internal circadian timing of eight adults after one week of routine work, school, social activities and self-selected sleeping schedules with a normal exposure to electrical lighting. Then they took those same people out camping in Colorado, with sunlight and campfires only. No flashlights or even smartphones were.

They found that a typical, modern environment causes about a two-hour delay in the circadian clock that is indicated by fluctuations in the hormone melatonin. People tend to stay up until after midnight and to wake up around 8 a.m.

But after a week of natural lighting out in the open, all measures of circadian timing shifted two hours back, and sleep schedules followed, even as the total time spent sleeping stayed about the same.

If you can’t sleep outdoors, the scientists suggest you at least get some sunlight during the day and turn off your computer and phone earlier at night.

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