You might not have seen this bit of science news recently: Camping can improve your sleep.
So can tranquilizers with a chaser of Nyquil, but I’m not going to do that either.
Researchers, doing what they do best, which is to study ridiculous things, found that sleeping in the wilderness for one week reset circadian clocks. And once your circadian clock is reset, going back to sleeping in your own home, with plumbing and a decent mattress, is the slumber of the blessed.
Six men and two women volunteered for this study. Those sleeping arrangements alone would keep me awake all night. The snoring, I mean.
During the week, these eight guinea pigs were without artificial light, even flashlights—even that nifty flashlight app that you can download for your smartphone. They stumbled around in the darkness of the Colorado’s Eagles Nest Wilderness, most likely forced to pee right outside the tent for fear of falling into some brambles.
They didn’t have flashlights, however, the eagles could see them clearly. So could the cougars, who don’t need flashlights or a smartphone flashlight app to find a tasty meal.
You see, I already noticed the flaw in this study. The researchers chose seasoned campers, who don’t mind going without a decent shower for a week, who don’t mind doing their ablutions among the poison ivy and cactus and who love the dark and noisy wilderness. Not a single weekend/ occasional camper, not a single car camper, not a single RV camper, would survive a week in the wilderness without artificial light. Because artificial light implies technology, which then implies a TV hookup or an internet connection so that the amateur camper can watch his or her football games. Personally, I find the soft glow of an iPad at night to be quite relaxing.
So these poor, tired, unwashed slobs were forced to retire for bed as soon as it got dark. No working a crossword puzzle or reading a good book to help them fall asleep. They lay awake for hours, under the stars, wishing they could have captured a firefly during the day so that they could read a couple of passages from the book they’ve been planning on reading as soon as they had the time. A couple of them lay awake trying to figure out how they could sneak away to the diner they saw on the way to the campsite so that they could Facebook their friends about this recent adventure in the wilderness and also to catch up on the latest gossip.
The author of the article, Dr. Michael J. Breus, offered suggestions for how we city bound folks could improve our sleep rhythms. Among the ideas were these two: keep your bedroom dark and get all electronic devices out of the bedroom. Well, first of all, those of us with impaired vision can’t find our eyeglasses without a bit of light. So, finding our way to the bathroom without stubbing our toes on furniture just isn’t possible. Personally, I find the soft glow of my nightlights soothing and relaxing. It reminds me that I live in a world with modern conveniences that make my life more enjoyable and stress-free. The soft glow of starlight is fine as long as it’s outside my window.
As far as removing electronic devices from the bedroom, well, that’s just nutty. I refuse to miss BBC World Service when it comes on in the wee hours of the night. Those accents are soothing. I usually fall asleep before they get to the scores of Manchester United. And, given that a large percentage of people fall asleep with their smartphones on their pillows, that one suggestion has a gnat’s chance in a fiery hell of succeeding.
Dr. Brues’s intentions are good, I’ll give him that. But a “sleep-friendly” vacation for me doesn’t include flying insects, smelly critters, dangerous animals, no plumbing and darkness. I’ll take my two Boston Terrier bed hogs any night over a week in the wilderness. Better yet, I’ll take the comfort of a lovely Bed and Breakfast with clean sheets and little aromatic soaps in the bathroom any day.
I leave you with this comment left on the web page after the Huffpost article:
“I love waiting for the bears to come kill me… or that time the skunk crawled thru a tiny hole in the tent…or the weird loner who showed up and drank all night and talked to invisible people and sharpened his axe. Smith and Wesson calms a man into gentle slumber.”