Something terrible happened to me in February 2021
I was experiencing debilitating insomnia. Every night I would go to bed at a reasonable time and lay awake for hours. In the morning i would awaken with a foggy, heavy head. I didn't understand what was happening at all. The only time i could sleep well was when i was staying away from home.
One morning i took my mattress out to air in the sun. I noticed a patch of mould on the underside of my mattress. Somehow i hadn't realized. A quick google search later and i discovered that the symptoms i was experiencing (insomnia and excessive daytime sleepyness) were often associated with sleeping in a mouldy bedroom.
I was shocked and horrified, and also relieved. That very night i decided to do something different. Carrying a sleeping mat, pillow, sleeping bag, and an extra blanket, i walked 10 minutes from my house to a nature area - near the water tower at the top of a small forested hill. I slept so well that night in late February under the cool starry skies.
I have spent much of my life on the interesting end of the sedentary-nomadic spectrum. While traveling, alone or with friends, i have slept many nights in tents or even without a tent. Yet, as budget travelers, it was always that we slept like this as a means to an end, and not an end in itself.
On that night in late February, my perception changed dramatically. Since that day, I have spent more than 100 nights sleeping outside in nature without a tent. It has given me a sense of freedom and a new Lease on Life.
Benefits of sleeping outside in nature without a tent:
- Fresh Air
- Enhanced Aural Perception
- Circadian Rhythm Stabilization
- Increased Mental Space
- Energetic Grounding
- Separation From Technology
- Closeness To Nature
- Crazy Epic Dreams
I am a pretty big proponent of Rewilding. Yeah, i've done my share: Barefoot Trail Running, spending time in Intentional Permaculture Communities, Animal Flow Workouts, Gardening. From all this I know what it feels like to be on to something - to be doing something and know that it's working.
When i awoke that day, surrounded by the pine trees, I could immediately sense that there was a lot for me to explore within this new modality i had discovered.
Okay let's break down those benefits already
Without further ado:
As i discovered during my move from a moldy room to a verdant hilltop, the quality of the air that we breathe has a substantial impact on our felt physical experience. Fresh air increases your oxygen intake. This is beneficial for blood pressure, heart rate, the digestive system, the immune system, and even serotonin levels. Oxygen literally makes you happier and healthier. An 8 hour sleep in nature dramatically increases your daily oxygen intake.
Did you know that your perception of sound is the only sense that is always functional? From the moment our fetus develops eardrums, until the moment we die, we are listeners. Have you ever noticed how different everything sounds while comparing a closed environment and an open environment? The sonic environment we are in shapes our consciousness, and our unconscious. Some people play binaural beats at nighttime while they sleep. To those people, i suggest they see what it's like to listen to the music of the stars and wake up with the birdsong and the ever-shifting breeze.
Disruption of the circadian rhythm has been linked to a number of health issues, including obesity, mood disorders, and cancer. As Xavier Rudd sings, we must "Follow the Sun". The song is a telling reminder for us to to anchor our bodily rhythm to the shifting seasons and celestial cycles. Sleeping outside firmly grounds us in the reality that all the natural world experiences by default.
One of the benefits i listed is Increased Mental Space. This is a big one for me, even if it is kinda hard to explain. Basically, I find it way easier to relax when i have my own personal space around me. In the forest, at night, I don't ever encounter other humans. In fact, I am probably the only human within a 50-100m radius minimum. I love humans. I love humanity. However, I love myself the most and this time and space spent away from everyone and everything really helps me to be true to myself.
A by-product of the increase of technology in our lives includes Electromagnetic Pollution. This has been linked to inflammation and fatigue. The "Earthing" community suggests that we take the time to connect with the earth. This is supposed to promote healing. They claim that we are able to "soak up" negative ions from the earth. Furthermore, they say that when we are in nature we are also more connected to the Earth’s own electromagnetic frequency, known as the Schumann Resonance, at exactly 7.83 hertz. Don't buy fancy Earthing bedsheets, just go sleep in the woods!
Okay but how do I sleep in the woods?
Most humans alive today sleep inside. It's a basic human right: food, water, and shelter. Hey, it's fair to say that we also identify with our houses. It even becomes a status game, of who has the nicest one. So it goes against a lot of social conditioning and generations of habits to go out and sleep in nature. That's the biggest block - the mental one that exists. So you have to educate yourself and then be brave enough to go out and do it.
I expected to face way more problems when i started doing this. I was worried about the rain, the cold, bugs, mosquitoes, wild pigs, park rangers, and scary humans.
I was pleasantly surprised. With my quality down sleeping bag and an extra blanket (it stops the damp from arriving to the down) i was snug as a bug in a rug - despite sometimes staying outside in winter and in the mountains. Basically, get your equipment sorted and it won't be cold. Rain is tricky. On several occasions i have been caught out with morning showers. I just burrowed my head into the sleeping bag and let the rain fall... The only real inconvenience was having to dry my sleeping gear after.
Mosquitoes can pose a problem in the height of the season however i often found that there were less mozzies in the woods than in urban areas! Often i would be at home, surrounded by them, and then go to the woods and find that there weren't any there.
In Catalunya there are a lot of wild pigs (havali). They can be curious, especially if you have food with you.
I have never had trouble with authority figures or rangers. Live and let live, leave no trace... most of all, once you leave the main trails, the forest is just so big and the likelihood of being found is minimal.
I can imagine some people being understandably worried about how vulnerable a human makes themselves, all alone in the forest at night. Obviously if some crazy psychopath intent on doing harm found out where you like to stay, you could be in trouble. I tend to take this risk on, knowing how astronomically small the chances are of anything bad happening. However, I keep pretty quiet about my favorite sleeping spots, partly because of this, and partly because i just like to be mysterious.
Crazy Epic Dreams
So, obviously dreams are subjective. However, i think that sleeping in the forest has significantly impacted my dreams and my subconscious mind. I would be curious to discuss this subject further with anyone who has had similar experiences to me.
Sometimes i had a lot of stress and trouble in the community i was staying. Being able to leave all that behind and go to be alone in the forest with my tree friends, sleep a long peaceful sleep, and then wake up watching the sunrise before going to start my day, it made it possible for me to continue the path i was on.
A Sense Of Freedom And Being A Nomad
Finally, my adventures sleeping outside in nature without a tent have given me a fresh perspective about what my needs are as a human and how i can find alternative ways to fulfill them. I feel that this practice has allowed me to connect with and understand more deeply my nomadic ancestors, who surely lived most of their lives this way. I feel more and more at home, at peace, in nature. I am excited and happy to report and share my findings with you here on hive and i hope that you have enjoyed reading about this crazy journey i have been on these past 10 months.