Fix Your Broken Sleep Schedule By Going Camping

Getting in tune with natural light cycles and breaking your screen addiction will help you fall asleep at night.

Fix Your Broken Sleep Schedule By Going Camping
[Photo: Henn Photography/Getty Images] [Photo: Henn Photography/Getty Images]

For many, this is a drudgingly familiar cycle: You know you need to get a good night’s sleep, so you try to go to bed early. But you just aren’t tired, so you read for a while on your phone. The blue-tinted light from the phone’s screen tricks your brain into thinking you’re still in daytime sunshine, and it refuses to produce sleep-regulating melatonin.


Despite this, you finally nod off, only to be awoken, seemingly moments later, by your alarm clock.The only way to convince yourself to start the day is with a hefty jolt of caffeine. Then, that night, the cycle begins again.

But there’s a way out, says new science: A few days spent camping will reset your circadian rhythms, as long as you embrace the natural darkness.

[Photo: Jake Ingle via Unsplash]

Our sleep/wake pattern is, in part, governed by the Earth’s own cycle of day and night: Previous research has shown that our biological days and nights shrink and grow to fit the lengthening days of summer and the longer nights of winter. However, our world of artificial lights and sunlight-colored screens messes with this process by making our brains think we need less sleep than we actually do.

The new study, from researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder, shows that a week spent camping–and abiding by the natural length of day and night–is enough to completely reset our biological sleep clocks. After seven days sleeping under the stars, we become fully synced with the Earth. A week in the wilderness is impractical for most people, but there’s good news: The same study shows that just a weekend sleeping out is enough to get a 69% shift in circadian timing. That is to say that after a weekend spent camping, you’ll sleep a lot better when you get back home.

And good sleep is a big deal. “Late circadian and sleep timing in modern society are associated with negative performance and health outcomes such as morning sleepiness and accidents, reduced work productivity and school performance, substance abuse, mood disorders, diabetes, and obesity,” study author Kenneth Wright told CU Boulder Today.

To really reap the benefits of your newly synced sleep cycle, you’d need to stick to regular sleeping and waking times for the rest of the week, after returning from your camping adventure.


The biggest takeaway here is that, if you want to sleep properly, you either need to venture out into the mountains for a weekend or make some pretty significant changes to bring some mountain-like qualities to your home: Try getting an e-reader (or some paperbacks) instead of using your phone or tablet. Kill the excessive overhead lights in your apartment. Take breaks and soak up some natural light at work. But whatever you do, cutting down on screen time should be the goal.

About the author

Previously found writing at, Cult of Mac and Straight No filter.