Many of us go to bed late, wake up feeling tired, and end up feeling sluggish for the rest of the day. The inconsistency in the sleep schedules of today’s generation is causing an increase in overall sleep deprivation among the general population. Instead of attempting to sleep earlier every night and failing each time, try going on a week excursion outdoors. A recent study conducted by researcher Kenneth Wright and his team found that spending a week camping outdoors could reset our body clocks, fix our sleep schedules, and get us more sleep.
Our body clocks, also known as our circadian clocks, tells our bodies when it is time to wake up and go to sleep. This internal clock is tracked by measuring how much melatonin is present in our blood at specific times. A person with a healthy circadian clock would have melatonin levels that correspond to the natural biological night. They would have higher levels of melatonin before bedtime and throughout the night and lower levels of melatonin before they wake up. Due to modern day advancements, the night we are used to is not same as the biological night of the natural world. The biological night of the natural world begins at sunset and ends at sunrise. Because most of us have a biological night begins much later than the natural biological night, our melatonin levels will still be relatively high during sunrise, when our melatonin levels are supposed to be low.
Light affects human physiology and behavior as it plays a key role in human cognition, sleep, vitamin D synthesis and physical activity. Modern day advancements, particularly in technology and electricity, have increased the amount of time we spend indoors. This leads to an increased usage and dependence on electrical light rather than on natural light, ultimately interfering with our sleep schedules and circadian clocks.
Conducted in July of 2013, Dr. Kenneth Wright and his team conducted a study that tested for how our circadian rhythms are affected by electricity and natural light. They sent out eight participants, in their 20s and 30s, on a two-week camping trip in the Rocky Mountains, in which they were allowed to use electrical lighting for the first week and only natural lighting for the second week. The participants were allowed to manage their own daily routines in the first week, including school, work, social activities, sleep schedules and exposure to indoor and outdoor light. During the second week, however, the participants had to camp outdoors in tents and were only allowed to use natural sources of light.
The researchers measured for two factors: the amount of light exposure received by the participants and melatonin levels in the participants. Although participants were exposed to more natural light than usual for both weeks, the amount of natural light exposure was higher in the second week. As expected, melatonin levels increased closer to sunset during the second week and decreased right after sunrise. On average, melatonin levels rose more than an hour earlier than usual. Exposure to natural light also stabilized the timing of melatonin rhythm and onset among the participants.
To conclude from the research findings, increasing exposure to natural light during the day and decreasing exposure to electrical light during the night is the best way to reset our circadian clocks.
I had some difficulty writing the summary in the beginning, since I wasn’t sure whether I should follow the content of the pop culture article or the scholarly research article. I ended up basing my content on the scholarly research article but wrote the summary in the style of the pop culture article. Because I was writing in the style of a pop culture article, I had to break down a lot of the details and jargon present in the scholarly research article. Another main obstacle I experienced while writing the summary was that I did not have interviews that I could incorporate into it, in order for it to be like a pop culture article. The lack of interviews in my summary is also a significant difference between my summary and the original article. Not having interviews made it difficult to make the summary more original and appealing to readers. My summary, however, presented the study in a more condensed and concise fashion that was more comprehensible to readers, similar to the original article.
As I had mentioned earlier, it was particularly difficult for me to write the summary in the style of a pop culture article and through the perspective of a journalist. Based on my previous experience in newspaper and journalism during my junior year of high school, it is very important to include primary and direct sources in our articles, unless the article is an opinion piece. These sources are often obtained through interviews and quoting direct quotes. Journalists often write to the general population, whether it is to appeal, to inform, or to persuade. In original pop culture article, the journalist had persuasive tone that encouraged the public to go out and try camping. The journalist also incorporated a title that is aimed towards people seeking for a solution to their sleep schedules, hence the “how to” title. As a result, my summary was not able to compare to the pop culture article, as the content did not match to how a journalist would write it.
Netburn, Deborah. “How to Reset Your Body Clock – and Get Better Sleep – with Hiking Boots and a Tent.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 2 Feb. 2017, http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-camping-better-sleep-20170202-story.html. Accessed 23 Feb. 2017.
Wright, K., McHill A., Birks B., Griffin, B., Rusterholz, T., Chinoy, E., (2013, August 19). Entrainment of the Human Circadian Clock to the Natural Light-Dark Cycle. Retrieved March 23, 2017.