A small study attempting to quantify the effect of exposure to light on our internal body clocks, suggests that a week camping in the great outdoors relying only on the sun and campfires for light, may align our body clock to nature’s rhythms. They found that as well as artificial light keeping us awake at night; a lack of daylight isn’t helping either!
Past studies show that in an “artificially lit lifestyle”, melatonin levels don’t drop off until about two hours after we wake up; meaning that our biological night is still in effect even though we are awake. This study found that when camping, participants turned in and rose earlier than they did when at home- so their biological night kicked in earlier and their melatonin levels began to drop off almost an hour before they woke up, rather than two hours after.
It is still unclear if this makes a difference to how we feel, but it appears that exposure to artificial light at night and a lack of sun during the day could well be contributing to restless nights and morning grogginess. The experiment does need to be repeated with larger groups of people, and in different settings. But for now, it can’t hurt to reduce your exposure to artificial light at night and get outside more during the day!