And it’s official as there has been a scientific study which proves it!
If your memories of camping invoke childhood memories of trying to sleep on rubbly ground while keeping one eye open for spiders or dashing across sodden grass to reach a rudimentary shower and toilet block read on for a whole different view on what camping can do for you and your health.
Camping today is vastly different from how it was decades ago.
With more modern equipment, better, leak-proof tents and certainly camp beds which are massively superior to the ones that have gone before the whole experience is much more enjoyable.
Crucially, it’s actually possible to get a really good night’s sleep, something which is akin to the Holy Grail for many.
Why is Sleep So Elusive?
This can be summed up in one phrase – modern life.
We are surrounded by electronic demands on our time and attention, from pressure to keep checking emails or twitter feeds to a compulsion to play games or watch the latest must-see box sets.
Add to that the stresses involved in trying to hold down a job, paying the bills, getting the kids to school, walking the dog, the list is endless.
Throw into the mix a constant light pollution plus noise pollution from traffic, the neighbours, the workplace or shopping mall; it seems that noise and light are everywhere all the time and it has become impossible to just switch off.
It’s no wonder we can’t sleep properly.
How Does Poor Sleep Affect Us?
A chronic lack of good quality sleep has many effects some of them far-reaching.
On a day to day basis it can make you feel sluggish, tired and light-headed.
It can affect your concentration and your ability to perform or complete tasks or solve problems and make decisions.
This can lead to you making more mistakes whether at work, school or at home.
When you are excessively tired your reaction times can be severely impacted – a big disadvantage if you’re driving or operating machinery.
Long term effects can come from the fact when you’re tired you tend to eat more of the wrong foods; sugary foods and drinks are wrongly assumed to be good for energy boosting.
There may be a short term energy boost but this soon wears off to leave you even more tired.
The consequential weight gain can lead to depression and illnesses like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and arthritis.
Chronic tiredness can also lead to you picking up colds or infections.
So how can you reset your sleep habits and how can camping help?
Reconnect with Nature
US scientists conducted a study into whether camping can benefit sleep and came up with some surprising results.
It found that campers fell asleep on average 2 hours earlier than they would normally and this was attributed in part to the fact that, out in the wild remoteness of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado far away from any light pollution or electronic gadgets, it was easy to reset the body clock to more normal levels.
In the study, 5 lucky young healthy people were sent off with their tents for 6 days during December.
With no electronic gadgets or torches of any kind allowed they were instructed to make do with light from the sun, the moon and the campfire to live for a few days a more natural life as we used to before modern life got in the way.
The 5 test subjects all retired to their sleeping bags on average a full 2½ hours earlier than if they were at home and they achieved around 10 hours of healthy sleep, much more than they would at home.
Monitors showed increased daytime activity and a greater exposure to natural light levels.
Why Is This?
Once back home the 5 happy campers were monitored in the laboratory to measure their levels of the sleep hormone melatonin.
Melatonin rises before bedtime to prepare the body for sleep and their levels compared to before the camping trip found a rise in melatonin more than 2½ hours earlier than normal.
This amounted to a complete resetting of the circadian clock which is the body’s natural mechanism for telling us when to eat and when to sleep as it works with the natural hours of light and darkness.
In a separate experiment 9 people were sent to the same area of the Rockies to spend a weekend camping while a control group of 5 people stayed home.
The campers this time were allowed to take torches and headlamps.
The result was very similar in that the campers went to bed almost 2 hours earlier than the homebodies and it was concluded that again this was down to the amount of natural light the campers were exposed to outdoors, estimated at some 4 times more natural light than those at home.
It could also be assumed that healthy fresh air could play a part in helping to reset the body clocks of those who spend more time outdoors.
A Host Of Benefits to be had
Camping offers many health benefits not least the chance to increase your vitamin D levels and your mental and physical health by spending time outdoors in the company of those you love.
Counter the effects of seasonal affective disorder and electronic brain fog by just being out in the sun and breathing in all that fresh air whilst enjoying all that the natural world has to offer, whatever the weather.
The health benefits, backed up by professional research bodies, include increased fitness, reduced propensity to inflammation and even improved eyesight due to not looking at a screen all day.
Some people insist that there must be some other reasons for why they can’t sleep and look to find these in non-existent biological or other factors.
They may blame it on their genetic makeup or their diet, anything in fact except that which is staring us in the face and that is the over-abundance of artificial light and intrusive technology.
So, while it’s not strictly necessary to take up camping, although you really should, perhaps we need to start thinking carefully about how we live our lives and try to reset to a more natural way of living and sleeping.
Switch off the gadgets and the lights, pack up the tent and leave the internet at home – your health and mentally well-being will thank you for it.