Feeling overtired or groggy in the morning, having difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much? Sometimes this can be an indication that your body’s circadian rhythms are out of synchrony. All beings are affected by the natural rhythms of nature which essentially act as an internal biological clock. After only a week in the woods, studies show the body’s biological clock resets itself to harmonize with the rhythms of nature, with the rising and falling of the sun and the moon. Your biological clock not only affects sleep cycles, it controls metabolic function and affects photosynthesis. Even night owls can reset their body’s rhythms to rise earlier and retire earlier. The subsequent sleep cycle is generally deeper, more satisfying and leaves a person feeling recharged upon waking.
In nature, short of a few fireflies, the stars are the only source of light triggering a response in the body that prepares it for sleep, namely the production of melatonin. In modern times where artificial light sources are rampant, this innate mechanism is altered by the stimuli of man-made manufactured light. Without a light source, sleep would naturally occur earlier. With people staying up two, three or even four hours later than they would in nature, it is no wonder many people suffer from sleep problems or sleep deprivation. Something as basic as the light bulb has dramatically shifted sleep cycles around the globe. Even the glow emitted by digital devices such as televisions, tablets and cell phones are detected by tiny receptors in the skin and will throw the body’s clock out of sync. In nature as the sun sets, the body releases hormones and produces its own melatonin in anticipation and preparation of sleep. Melatonin helps to regulate the circadian rhythm of the body that influences body temperature, metabolism and sleep cycles. In a modern environment, artificial light will alter melatonin production causing it to be produced later in the night resulting in lingering levels in the morning which contributes to grogginess upon awakening. A study conducted by Kenneth Wright Jr., a sleep researcher at the University of Colorado at Boulder show that a mere week in the wilderness can restore the body’s natural hormonal cycles to peak near sunset and peter near sunrise. Wright’s team published its findings August 1, 2013 in Current Biology.
While not everyone can take a weekend away or a week off to camp in the woods there are some helpful things you might do on a more regular basis to help your body maintain its natural rhythms encouraging improved sleep cycles, energy levels, mood, digestion, and more:
You might begin your day with a morning walk, even its merely around your yard. Connect to the fresh morning air. Greet the morning light. Open your window shades to bring in the morning sunlight. If you spend your day indoors, take brief breaks to go outside. This is especially helpful during the early morning hours when the body’s clock is most susceptible to resetting. Take a brief break outside rather than in the break room. This is helpful even if its overcast or dreary outdoors. Natural light is beneficial no matter its lack of intensity. You might invest some time tending to your garden. Place your digital devices in another room when you sleep and minimize your contact with WIFI throughout the day. If your bedside clock is digital, place a light cloth over the numbers. Sit or lye under the stars in the evening rather than watching television. Time spent in nature is always beneficial for the body, mind and soul.
You will find that when you enjoy the more simple connections with nature, you will naturally gravitate towards more fulfillment. Reconnecting with nature allows your body’s natural rhythms to synchronize with the universal patterns of the world in which you live. You will sleep deeper, wake up earlier, go to bed earlier, and feel more energized, refreshed and productive. Align with the natural world and reap the inevitable gratification of a life more richly lived.
The Pleasure Trap by Douglas J. Lisle and Alan Goldhamer, Healthy Living Publications, Canada, April 1, 2006