8/03/2013

tents may promote better sleep (or, how to sleep at the burn)

small burning man tent
it is a place to sleep
Researchers have found something that might be good news for those sleeping in tents at this years annual burning man art event. The journal of Current Biology recently released a study that finds that one week camping with exposure to the natural light-dark cycle of the sun, without exposure to artificial light, had a dramatic impact on those who would normally consider themselves people who thrive at night. This apparently means that going camping ends up, basically, resetting ones circadian rhythm and allowing  one to sleep a more normal sleep schedule.
This is what the researchers had to say in the summary of their findings in a paper which has the very uninteresting title of Entrainment of the Human Circadian Clock to the Natural Light-Dark Cycle:
"we show that electrical lighting and the constructed environment is associated with reduced exposure to sunlight during the day, increased light exposure after sunset, and a delayed timing of the circadian clock as compared to a summer natural 14 hr 40 min:9 hr 20 min light-dark cycle camping. Furthermore, we find that after exposure to only natural light, the internal circadian clock synchronizes to solar time such that the beginning of the internal biological night occurs at sunset and the end of the internal biological night occurs before wake time just after sunrise"
That is great news for some, but when one considers that the burning man event is a bit more than a week-long camping trip (plenty of artificial light, loud music, never sleeps and generally crazy conditions) and the applicability to this particular camping trip might not be much.

burning man at night
post-event and still plenty of artificial light on this camping trip

So, what does promote better sleep at burning man?

Be Tired: Many people find that they exert themselves much more during the event than they normally do. This alone promotes better sleep, as being exhausted is a good way to get rest.

Noise: One of the constants of the burning man festival is the noise. Twenty-four hours a day someone at the event is awake and having a good time, and with a thin wall of nylon, or the thin walls of an RV, many people find they have trouble sleeping without ear-plugs. Attendees should bring ear-plugs and they should also try them out before going so they know they can comfortably sleep with them. With many options available, some super soft, some less so, people might find they need something other than the first thing picked up off the shelf.

Shade: Tents and most enclosed spaces in the black rock desert will get sorely hot as the morning sun rises. This can make sleeping past nine or ten in the morning really difficult. Tents can climb above 115F during the day-time. Shade will help sleep one to sleep during the early morning hours dramatically. How to put shade over your tent is out of the scope of this particular post but there are plenty of resources out there for this.

Warmth: It can get extremely cold in the black rock desert in the evenings. The coolness of the evenings is amplified by the large temperature swings throughout the day, at times it will be 40 degrees cooler in the evening than around noon. Bring proper warm clothing and bedding to survive the evenings comfortable. Be sure to have warm clothes while out and enjoying the evening as one might not have much opportunity to warm up when heading for bed.

Woo Hoo!: Another less than desirable method that some people choose (knowingly or not) to get to bed at the event is to take up the offers given by the hundreds of open bars: they have a drink, or two. Just remember, if opting for this method it is suggested to drink plenty of water before heading off to sleep. Fewer things will make waking up in a 100F tent less enjoyable than a headache.

Whatever one does at the event they will need to sleep. It might be desirable to stay up for days in a row and 'sleep it off' (whatever it is...) but like any camping trip, attendees should be prepared.  Perhaps they need to bring ear plugs, or that warm blanket that they love, whatever it may be, do it. To get the most out of the event everyone attending needs a good night sleep. Maybe that means bringing that stuffed animal that nobody knows about? That is ok too! However one does it: just make sure sleep makes it on to the daily to-do list.