The Kala Sleep Diaries:
Camping & Sleep: The Facts, Tested
Published April 26, 2017 by Kala Sleep
Written by Kala Sleep
Apr 26, 2017
  • Better Sleep
  • Camping and Sleep
  • Kala Sleep Diaries
  • Sleeping Outdoors

There are a lot of recommendations out there - how to sleep better, exercise better, feel better. But do they work? The Kala team is putting "facts" to the test.

Today's Fact:

Camping leads to better sleep.

The Theory:

As we explored in our post last week on camping and sleep, scientists have found that because of the artificial light from bright white electric bulbs and electronic screens (smartphones, other wireless devices, TVs, etc), most people's sleep cycles are delayed up to 2.5 hours. That is, we're falling asleep and waking up between 2-2.5 hours later than we would without white lights & screens in our lives. So what does camping do? Apparently, as little as a weekend spent camping in nature - no lights, no screens, only natural sunlight - can help reset our sleep schedules, making us fall asleep and wake up earlier, and probably sleep more soundly in between.

The Test:

I (a member of the Kala team) spent the weekend camping outside, Fri-Sun, with minimal exposure to bright white electric lights & electronic screens, and observed any differences in my sleep cycles as a result.

Scientists have found that because of the artificial light from bright white electric bulbs and electronic screens (smartphones, other wireless devices, TVs, etc), most people's sleep cycles are delayed up to 2.5 hours.

Starting Point:

My usual sleep pattern is to go to bed between 11:30pm and 12:30am, fall asleep within 20-30 min, and sleep until 8:45-9:30am.


In my personal experience, a weekend spent camping outside WAS effective in shifting my sleep patterns. By the end I was getting tired, falling asleep, and waking up naturally around 2 hours earlier than usual.


I camped in Badlands National Park, at a campsite. My first night I arrived late, then had to set up and make dinner, so I ended up in bed at  a typical hour - around 11:45pm. Took forever to fall asleep because it was freezing! Woke up at a normal time, around 9:30am.

Saturday I spent outside visiting the sites in the park, driving and walking, and by the end of the day I was really tired. Went to bed around 10:30pm, fell asleep around 11:00, woke up at 7:15am.

Sunday I went for a longish hike, around 3.5 hours, then didn't do a whole lot for the rest of the day. Had dinner early and got in bed at 9:30pm. Fell asleep around 10:00pm, woke up to a crazy windstorm at 12:00am and couldn't fall asleep until it was over around 1:00am. Woke up around 7:00am.

Summary & Possible Confounding Factors:

I am NOT a morning person, and yet after a weekend spent camping, walking around, and generally being outside most of the time, I found myself waking up naturally and feeling alert MUCH earlier - close to 2 hours - than I do on a normal basis. Although I woke up about the same number of times as I usually do at night - 1-3 times or so - I felt more rested when I woke up.  However, in addition to being exposed to more natural light, I was also more active than I would be on a normal day, walking or hiking for a good portion of the day, so that could've helped by making me more tired. I'm guessing it's the combination of increased activity + fewer electronic light sources that account for the changes in my sleep.

Does the Effect Last?

Once I finished my camping trip on Sunday I tried to limit the amount of screen time - smartphone, computer, TV, etc - I was getting after sunset.   Perhaps because of this, I still found myself falling asleep about an hour earlier than usual for me - around 11:00 pm - and waking up more than an hour earlier - around 7:15 am, as far into the week as Thursday or Friday. However, once the weekend hit and I fell back into bad habits - staying up later, using devices later - my sleep schedule went back to normal.  Bottom line: the effects lasted, but only as long as I kept up with the good habits I had established while camping.


Questions? Comments? Recommendations you've tested, or would like to see us test? Tweet us @kalasleep and let us know!

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