Kulala

How camping could change your family's sleep for the better

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Got a household of snooze button hitters?

Studies suggest the answer is to pack your grill, sleeping bags, and tent, and head out for a couple of nights in the great outdoors.

As little as a weekend’s worth of camping can reset the body’s natural circadian rhythm, according to this study from the University of Colorado, Boulder. 

Many of us are struggling to fall asleep at night because we’re using our backlit devices to artificially block the melatonin that should start kicking in as the sun goes down. This interference causes our internal rhythm to get out of sync, meaning we take longer to fall asleep and find it harder to wake up in the morning. Even if your kids don’t have their own devices, other artificial lights used after the sun goes down can have an effect on their sleep quality and quantity.

When camping, on the other hand, we'll be naturally exposed to less artificial light at night. Additionally, camping exposes us to more light during the day than we get living our regular lives, where homes and other buildings stop us from absorbing enough natural light.

"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," said lead researcher Kenneth Wright.

The study compared people staying at home living their regular lives with others who spent a weekend camping without artificial light. The campers went to bed earlier, woke up earlier, and follow-up results showed a shift in their melatonin expression. Camping during winter appeared to enhance the effects. While a January camp might not be for your family, you’ll still get great results from camping in the summer.

By taking your family camping and relying on the natural rising and setting of the sun to dictate wake and bedtimes, you can reset your internal clock’s inbuilt system and shake off the effects of too much nighttime TV and scrolling. I’m not suggesting you leave your phone at home, but at least choose a ‘phones down’ time that is well before the sun begins setting.

For Father’s Day, my daughter Leah and husband Conrad went on a camping trip together. As well as being very cute and a way for children to get quality time with their parents, they both came back feeling well-rested and refreshed. It’s also a great opportunity for them to try out skills like cooking and setting up a tent. 

So for any moms or dads out there trying to figure out how to get on top of their own and their child’s sleep quality, book a family camping trip, watch the sun go down, and then head off for a natural night’s sleep. 

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