I always feel refreshed after a quick camping trip. Sure, my back might ache from the deflated air mattress and my muscles may be tense from shivering in frigid overnight temperatures—but something still feels right about sleeping outside.
The benefits of spending time outdoors have been well-documented. “Forest bathing” has gained popularity across North America. Nature is said to be meditative. Even pitching a tent offers physical, mental and emotional gains.
If you need a push to plan your next camping trip, here are five health benefits of sleeping in a tent:
1. Reset Your Sleep Schedule
Spend a week camping in a tent—without glowing cell phones or noisy alarm clocks—and you might reset your circadian rhythm to rise and snooze with the sun. A 2017 study published in Current Biology tested campers by removing sources of electrical lighting and monitoring the timing of subjects’ biological clocks. Not only did the lucky campers clock four extra hours of sleep in winter, they also adapted to the amount of daylight, suggesting that humans are photoperiodic. This phenomenon may have drastic implications on individuals who suffer from sleep disorders and could consequently affect the development of cardio-metabolic disease, cancer and psychiatric illness.
Bonus: Less time with artificial light means more time in natural sunlight, resulting in a surge of Vitamin D.
2. Turn Off Your Devices
My favourite campgrounds have no cellphone service. I think we’ve all “accidentally” checked a work email on vacation, only to find our once-relaxed stress levels increasing. Excessive screen time, including more enjoyable activities like playing video games and watching Netflix, has been associated with chronically elevated cortisol levels, serious health problems and even reduced life expectancy. If your campground has cell reception or Wi-Fi, resist the urge to connect online (except in emergencies)—and take the opportunity to reconnect with nature. When possible, leave electronics at home to keep temptation out of reach.
Bonus: Being away from messaging devices will encourage you to interact with friends and family in-person, building deeper social connections with those around you.
3. Get More Exercise
Chop wood and build your fire. Walk to the beach and go for a swim. Trek a nearby hiking trail and get your hands dirty. Even if you’re not embarking on active adventures, there’s more to do setting up camp than there is in your living room at home. You’ll naturally move around and get more exercise when sleeping in a tent than you would on a lazy Saturday night at home ordering takeout. Exercising regularly fights depression and can help alleviate other mental conditions, such as low self-esteem and ADHD. Just walking outdoors can have a significant impact on attention span and focus—one study tested participants’ cognitive functionality in nature settings versus urban and found an improvement in directed-attention abilities when walking in or viewing nature.
Bonus: Your physique will thank you!
4. Breathe Better
Goodbye city pollution, hello fresh oxygen! The forest and ocean are working hard for your lungs. Did you know algae and other oceanic organisms are responsible for 50-80 per cent of the oxygen we breathe? Thank you, plankton! Let's save the ocean and get outside. Not only is air pollution linked to over 14,600 premature deaths in Canada every year, indoor air isn’t always safe, either. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, air in homes can be more seriously polluted than air outdoors.
Bonus: Sleeping in a tent is an Earth-friendly way to travel.
5. Improve Your Mood
Most adventurers claim being outside gives incredible mental benefits, including reduced stress, increased relaxation, a sense of purpose and reconnection with the world. The sounds of nature are so soothing, we often try to replicate them in our home environments with fountains, meditation soundtracks and songbirds. In a 2017 study published in Scientific Reports, researchers found that listening to artificial sounds prompted participants to focus internally and sparked the “fight-or-flight” instinct, whereas natural sounds helped them to focus outwards—allowing their brains and bodies to relax.
Bonus: Extra sunlight increases melatonin while exercise boosts endorphins, meaning there’s a scientific reason why you feel happier outdoors.
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