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The Gearboat Chronicles

Sleeping Like a Log, Explained

Pretty common to sip your morning coffee in camp and hear somebody declare they just slept better out here in the boonies than they have for a long time back home. Is it all the fresh air? Being tuckered out from rowing/kayaking/fishing/hiking/all this having of fun? What’s the deal? Why is the great outdoors so great for snoozing?

Lo and behold, science has looked into this and a recent study sheds light on why we sleep better camping. It’s light. More natural light during the day and not standing around under fake light after sundown resets our internal clocks back where they should be.

Turns out camping is good medicine for the sleep cycle because our circadian rhythms prefer the tempo of the real sun going up and down, rather than light fixtures going off and on. Makes sense. Circadian, by the way, means a 24-hour period. I, uh, had to look that up.

So our internal clock tries to calibrate itself to what’s day and what’s night so it can coordinate how we do things. Like, sleep. If we sit around until midnight under 100 watt bulbs, stare at our phone for a while, then finally decide it’s time to sleep and can’t – well, I’d say we owe our circadian rhythm an apology, wouldn’t you?

This sleep study, done by the University of Colorado Boulder and published in Current Biology, suggests a weekend outing is enough to shift the clock back to normal. Might as well go for, like, five days though to really get that rhythm in rhythm.

We’ve had numerous doctors over the years along on Winding Waters river trips mention that rafting trips should be prescribe-able, as treatment for stress, getting a better night’s sleep and just overall well-being. Made sense, and now here’s a study backing it up.

Trouble sleeping? We know a lot of dandy campsites.

Jon Rombach is a writer and rows boats for Winding Waters once in a while.