I like camping. I think I’d probably love glamping. Sleeping out in a beautiful, remote natural setting, under a starlit sky, but trading the rocks under my sleeping bag for a big, comfy, king-size bed and some high thread-count sheets? Sign me up.
Glamping is luxury camping, and it’s been a big trend in travel for several years. (In 2018, Merriam-Webster actually added the word “glamping” to its dictionary.) The perks of glamping can include everything from gourmet meals to wood stoves and running water in your tent, along with gorgeous furniture and décor, in some of the most stunning natural environments in the world. You can check out some of the beautiful, rustic-but-posh glamping sites in the U.S. and around the world.
Whether you’re opting for an air-conditioned luxury hut with a soaking tub and fine china, or pitching your own tent near a rock-lined campfire and fishing marshmallows out of your backpack, sleeping outdoors in the summer is a ritual that happens to also be great for sleep.
Sleeping under the stars—and away from the stress, stimulation, and artificial light associated with modern life—can improve your sleep, according to scientific research. Scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder for several years have been investigating the impact of camping on sleep. In a series of studies, they’ve found that spending time away from artificial light exposure, while being exposed to plenty of natural daytime sunlight and long, dark nights, has a powerful effect on sleep cycles.
In a 2013 study, the scientists sent a group of people on a one-week camping trip. Before the participants trekked into the Rocky Mountain woods, scientists measured the timing of their subjects’ internal clocks, which help set our daily sleep-wake cycles.
Our internal clocks are biologically designed to be in sync with the 24-hour day and night, and with nature’s cycles of light and darkness. This sensitive biological timing can get thrown off by too much exposure to artificial light in the evening, and not enough exposure to natural light during the day.
Scientists found that their subjects’ sleep clocks were delayed by an average of two hours. When our internal sleep clocks are out of sync, it creates a host of problems for sleep and health, including sleep disorders, trouble with memory and learning, a propensity to gain weight, and a greater risk for chronic diseases including diabetes and heart disease.
After their week of camping, with only the sun and campfires as light sources, the campers’ sleep clocks shifted two hours earlier, back into alignment with the sun’s rise and fall. With no smartphones or TV screens to light up their evenings, campers were exposed to much less light at night. But the campers were also exposed to four times as much sunlight during the day as they typically experienced in their regular lives.
In a follow-up study published last year, the scientific team found that even a weekend of camping could recalibrate internal sleep clocks.
Keeping your internal sleep clock in sync can help to ensure you get enough sleep at night, and that your sleep is high-quality, not the restless kind that leaves you feeling tired, distracted and irritable. Irregular sleep patterns that arise from an out-of-sync internal sleep clock can lead to sleep disorders like insomnia, and may also increase the likelihood and severity of snoring.
So, if it’s glamping that gets you a few nights in the dark and quiet outdoors, it might be a worthwhile splurge. Just leave your cell phone at home.
Written by Caitlin Reynolds