Sleeping in Nature – the best sleep you’re missing?

Travel and Sleep don’t usually go hand in hand.  A couple of weeks ago, we had the opportunity to go on an extended (16 days) vacation.  It’s the most days we’ve done for a family vacation.   Consider it one of the ‘perks’ of being deployed for several months.  I quoted perks because having your husband gone for four months is not exactly ideal, but it’s part of the military life.  But after the homecoming, the command is usually lenient in allowing a good chunk of time off.  My husband left in February and returned last month in June.  This vacation was our time to reconnect as a family.

We decided to take a road trip with Yellowstone National Park as our ultimate destination.  As I determined our northern route, I planned stops along the way so the drive was a maximum of 6 to 7 hours.  Our trip crossed six different states, with stays at three campgrounds and six hotels.  I also took advantage of staying in places I’ve never visited such as Idaho and Montana, so I can mark off these states on the “50 states I’ve visited” poll 🙂

Several posts ago, I wrote about Shawn Stevenson’s book “Sleep Smarter” and the importance of having good quality sleep.  Shawn doesn’t use any devices to track his sleep but rather he relies on his energy levels throughout the day.  I, on the other hand, have been relying on my Vivofit tracker since I first received it in the mail (see my post Obsessed with Vivofit).  What I noticed with my data since I’m also obsessed with writing down – pen to paper – in my journal regarding deep sleep was interesting.  The days I slept in a tent sandwiched in between my two daughters were the days I had the most hours of deep sleep!  So I paged through the book again in search of a few reasons why sleeping in nature equates to good quality of sleep.

More Sunlight During the Day

Inevitably we got more sunlight during the day as this is the norm living out of a tent.  The sound of nature start to sing more loudly when dawn hits and you’re awakened by it during the light phase of your sleep.  And as we prepare for our day, we are outside soaking up the rays of the sun.  Apparently, our sleep cycle is affected by how much sunlight our bodies receive during the day.

How does morning  light improve sleep?  Light actually signals your hypothalamus and all corresponding organs and glands to be alert and “wake up”.  That light exposure, specifically sunlight exposure, triggers your body to produce optimal levels of daytime hormones and neurotransmitters that regulate your biological clock. Too little light exposure during the day and too much artificial light exposure in the evening will negatively impact your ability to sleep well at night.                   -From Sleep Smarter, Shawn Stevenson

Less Artificial Light at Night

As Shawn Stevenson pointed out, when we’re exposed to too much artificial light it also impacts our quality of sleep.  I discussed on my previous post how having a device curfew, at least 60 to 90 minutes before bedtime is key to having a good deep sleep.  We stayed in a fairly remote location without any type of connection for a few days.  However, our campsite in Yellowstone was at a KOA where wifi was available. It had spotty reception so didn’t access my phone as much as I usually do.  The sunsets were much later up north and it didn’t get dark until close to 10pm.  Our schedule was dictated by the sunlight almost like how it was during the primitive days.

Regular Exercise = Great Sleep

Being outdoors gave us plenty of opportunity to move and it was mostly in the form of walking.  I had a few slow runs in but I didn’t want to push my body.  Coming off from a stress fracture injury, I had to play it safe (still need to get xrays to make sure it’s healed, but my doctor said I should be fine after four weeks).

In the book, it mentioned a study that was published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep where patients with insomnia had “a radical improvement in sleep quality when they added in a consistent exercise regimen.”

By night time, I was wiped out!

Are you an outdoorsy type of person who loves to camp?  What’s your take on sleeping in nature?  Do you feel you get the best sleep in a tent?