Trouble sleeping? Turn to the great outdoors

Have you heard medical professionals, friends, or family members advising you not to watch too much TV or not to stay on the computer for too long, especially before bedtime? Many of us may have heard how these kinds of practices may disturb our sleeping patterns, but an article from BBC News discusses a study about how camping can help reset our body clocks and sleeping patterns (McGrath, 2013).


Those who spend a lot of time using electronics, particularly those that emit artificial light, are more likely to have a disrupted sleep pattern (Wright, McHill, Birks, Griffin,  Rusterholz & Chinoy, 2013). The study was conducted in Colorado and had the participants camp outdoors for one week. The participants were not allowed to use any electronics, and their only source of light was from the campfire. What the study showed was all the participants adjusted their sleeping patterns to the sunrise and sunset, which is what dictates our internal circadian rhythm for sleeping.

Professor Wright of the University of Colorado states the results of this study shows the beneficial effects of sunlight, particularly with heavy electronic users or those with sleeping problems. He suggests taking a walk first thing in the morning and dimming electronics at night to help you sleep earlier.

But for those who find it hard to give up using their electronics at night, you can download the f.lux app, which adjusts your screens brightness as well as color according to the time of day. Available for your computer, iPhone, or iPad, f.lux simulates intensity and hue of outdoor lighting to avoid the harsh glare that electronics tend to have at night. The app is available at their website:




McGrath, M. (2013, August 1). Carry on camping – can a week under canvas reset our body clocks?. BBC News. Retrieved August 2, 2013, from

Wright, K., McHill, A., Birks, B., Griffin, B., Rusterholz, T., & Chinoy, E. (2013, August 1). Entrainment of the Human Circadian Clock to the Natural Light-Dark Cycle. Current Biology. Retrieved August 2, 2013, from


4 thoughts on “Trouble sleeping? Turn to the great outdoors

  1. This post is very interesting, especially the part about how camping can reset our biological clock. After reading your article, I wanted to understand the science behind why these electronics disturb our sleep patterns. I found a great article from WebMD that explains why. According to WebMD’s Heather Hatfield (2008), the glow from these electronics affects the hypothalamus and delays the release of melatonin (sleep-inducing hormone). The article also states that these electronics cause our bodies to go into “fight or flight” response, which also delays sleep (Hatfield, 2008).

    Some suggestions they offer include turning off the electronics during sleep, have a technology-free time for 15 to 30 minutes before bedtime, and to discourage children from getting into this habit (Hatfield, 2008).

    Hatfield, H. (2008). WebMD: Power Down for Better Sleep. Retrieved from

  2. I love this study! I have always really enjoyed camping, mainly because it helps me to get away from it all for a little while. I fully agree that the electronics help to keep us stimulated which would make it difficult to fall asleep. However, I wonder a little about this particular study and what it is actually showing. Was it the time away from the electronics/light? Or, was it more related to something in Colorado specifically. the relaxation factor of being on vacation, or simply the outdoor air that helped people to sleep better? Also, not having any electronics probably made the people a little less aware of the actual time throughout the day. This would also force people’s bodies to adapt to the sunrise/sunset for timing. Great post, thanks for sharing this article!

  3. I have been having problems sleeping recently. I am always on my phone/computer/television right before heading to bed, and I usually sleep with the television on. I would love to re-set my body’s natural clock, but I don’t think camping is a practical answer. I do think camping would help me sleep better at night. I need to stop using so much technology at night.

    I found an article from the National Sleep Foundation that did a study determining the quality of sleep exercisers and non-exercisers got. It found that people who exercise get better sleep. I also need to get more exercise in the P.M. hours to see how my sleep is affected.

  4. Interesting article and ironic because I feel that during the week I have my phone tied to me at all times for work purposes and I never seem to get a good night rest. On the weekend, I usually never have work calls or emails and my phone is not sitting on my nightstand all night, and coincidentally I sleep better on the weekends. I have always tried to stay away from electronics at night but as a society that is almost impossible to do these days. I think there is an internal sense of falling asleep when it’s dark and waking up when the sun rises. Anytime I sleep in later than usual or stay up too late I feel off during the day and this article helps prove that. Good job!

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