How to Turn Your Clock Back on a Camping Trip

Sleep schedule a bit off kilter lately? A camping trip might be the perfect New Year’s resolution to get yourself back on track.

The increased use of artificial light in favor of natural light – especially before bedtime – is proven to disrupt our natural circadian rhythm and sleep patterns. This leads to restless nights and weary days.

But there may be a pleasant solution. Research has shown that one week of camping under the stars will reset your body’s inner clock back to its normal rhythm. It’s as simple as leaving the alarm clock at home and letting the sun and moon do their thing.

The Science Behind Camping to Reset Your Body Clock

A study conducted by the University of Colorado shows that humans will naturally sync their sleep schedules with the sun if they’re in a situation that allows them to eschew use of electric lights – essentially, camping is the perfect solution.

The issue comes with relying on artificial light after the sun goes down; this practice disturbs natural circadian rhythms by shifting the sleep schedule to later. On the other hand, the study found that abiding by only natural light moved sleep schedules forward, leading to earlier rising times and earlier bed times – more in line with humans’ natural cycles. The study found that this shift helped ease the “physiological, cognitive and health consequences of circadian disruption.”

The study looked at sleep cycles over a two week period for eight participants who were around 30 years old. For the first week, subjects were allowed to self-select their sleep schedules. In the second week, they camped in tents and used only natural light and that of campfires. They were not allowed to have electronic light sources like flash lights and cell phones.

After the second week, the participants’ body clocks aligned with solar time: “After exposure to natural light, we found the timing of the circadian clock to be approximately two hours earlier and [sleep-promoting hormone] melatonin offset to occur more than 50 minutes prior to wake time, suggesting that if human circadian and sleep timing was in synchrony with the natural light-dark cycle, the circadian low point in brain arousal would move to before the end of the sleep episode, making it easier to awaken in the morning,” the researchers wrote. In a nutshell, aligning your sleep schedule with the sun makes you better rested and makes waking up easier.

Where to Go on a Camping Trip near Seattle

A week-long camping trip off the grid may seem like a luxury to city dwellers. But if you plan a trip in advance, allowing for plenty of time to request time off and set logistics, a camping trip can seem more realistic.

There are scores of great established campgrounds near Seattle. Book a site in a national park or forest via the National Recreation Reservation Service or in a state park. Also check out some of our favorite places to camp in Washington to enjoy starry nights.

Have any suggestions for a nice camping trip in Washington state? Tell us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram!

Megan Hill

Megan Hill is a freelance food, outdoors, and travel writer living in Seattle. She writes for a wide variety of print and online publications, including Edible Seattle, Eater Seattle, and Northwest Travel & Life. You can read more from her at and follow her on Twitter @MeganHillWriter

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