Researchers at University of Colorado said that the widespread availability of electric lights since the 1930s has affected our internal clocks with exposure to electric light and reduced access to sunlight disrupting our sleep patterns.
To test whether going back to nature can help correct the biological clocks, the researchers recruited eight participants, two of whom were women, with an average age of 30. The researchers first recorded the amount of exposure that the participants had to natural and artificial light as they went about their normal lives.
They also analyzed the levels of hormone melatonin and found that the lighting of our modern environment causes around a two hour delay in our internal clocks. The participants were then taken on a week-long camping trip to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and the researchers found that being away from artificial lights reset the biological clocks of the participants to an earlier time.
"We think that modern electric lighting patterns and a reduction in exposure to sunlight are contributing to later sleep schedules and difficulties with alertness in the morning. After exposure to the natural light dark cycle, melatonin levels were low just before the volunteers woke up, suggesting our brain is starting to promote wakefulness after we have been exposed to these natural cues", lead researcher Professor Kenneth Wright said.