A week’s worth of camping synchs internal clock to sunrise and sunset

A week’s worth of camping synchs internal clock to sunrise and sunset

Spending just one week exposed only to natural light while camping in the Rocky Mountains was enough to synch the circadian clocks of eight people participating in a University of Colorado Boulder study with the timing of sunrise and sunset.

via ScienceDaily: Top Health News:

Aug. 1, 2013 — Spending just one week exposed only to natural light while camping in the Rocky Mountains was enough to synch the circadian clocks of eight people participating in a University of Colorado Boulder study with the timing of sunrise and sunset.The study, published online today in the journal Current Biology, found that the synchronization happened in that short period of time for all participants, regardless of whether they were early birds or night owls during their normal lives.”What’s remarkable is how, when we’re exposed to natural sunlight, our clocks perfectly become in synch in less than a week to the solar day,” said CU-Boulder integrative physiology Professor Kenneth Wright, who led the study.Electrical lighting, which became widely available in the 1930s, has affected our internal circadian clocks, which tell our bodies when to prepare for sleep and when to prepare for wakefulness. The ability to flip a switch and flood a room with light allows humans to be exposed to light much later into the night than would be possible naturally.Even when people are exposed to electrical lights during daylight hours, the intensity of indoor lighting is much less than sunlight and the color of electrical light also differs from natural light, which changes shade throughout the day.To quantify the effects of electrical lighting, a research team led by Wright, who also is the director of CU-Boulder’s Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory, monitored eight participants for one week as they went about their normal daily lives. The participants wore wrist monitors that recorded the intensity of light they were exposed to, the timing of that light, and their activity, which allowed the researchers to infer when they were sleeping.At the end of the week, the researchers also recorded the timing of participants’ circadian clocks in the laboratory by measuring the presence of the hormone melatonin. The release of melatonin is one of the ways our bodies signal the onset of our biological nighttime. Melatonin levels decrease again at the start of our biological daytime.The same metrics were recorded during and after a second week when the eight participants — six men and two women with a mean age of 30 — went camping in Colorado’s Eagles Nest Wilderness. During the week, the campers were exposed only to sunlight and the glow of a campfire. Flashlights and personal electronic devices were not allowed.On average, participants’ biological nighttimes started about two hours later when they were exposed to electrical lights than after a week of camping. During the week when participants went about their normal lives, they also woke up before their biological night had ended.After the camping trip — when study subjects were exposed to four times the intensity of light compared with their normal lives — participants’ biological nighttimes began near sunset and ended at sunrise. They also woke up just after their biological night had ended. …

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ScienceDaily: Top Health News

A week’s worth of camping synchs internal clock to sunrise and sunset

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