A weeklong camping trip can help reset a person's internal biological clock, so that it will be easier to wake up in the morning and feel more alert, a new study suggests.
After study participants spent more time exposed to natural light and less time in artificial lighting, researchers found their bedtimes and wake-up times shifted, both moving up to two hours earlier.
"After camping, the night owls in the group showed the greatest shifts in the timing of their internal clocks," said study researcher Kenneth P. Wright, Jr., an associate professor of physiology at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
"Night owls looked more similar to earlier morning types," Wright said. In other words, night owls started keeping an early-to-bed, early-to-rise schedule, and they said they felt more alert in the morning.
This study was the first to quantify the impact of our modern lifestyle — of spending more time indoors in artificial light and less time outdoors in natural light — on human's internal biological clocks, or circadian rhythms, the researchers said.
During the week of camping, the participants were exposed to four times more natural light, on average, compared with when they lived their normal lives, Wright said.
More natural light caused the participants' internal clocks to become perfectly in sync with nature's light and dark cycle, or the timing of sunrise and sunset, he pointed out.
"If people want to be more alert in the morning, they need to increase their exposure to natural lighting during the day, and decrease their exposure to electrical lighting in the evening," Wright said.
The findings are published online today (Aug. 1) in the journal Current Biology.