Trouble Sleeping? Get Yourself Some Nature

Anyone having trouble sleeping might want to take a walk to their nearest park — or at least look out the window.

People who live close to green spaces and bodies of water are less likely to report having bad sleep, according to a multi-ethnic, nationally representative sample of about 245,000 Americans. The research, led by community health professor Diana Grigsby-Toussaint of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, found this effect was strongest in men and people over 65 years old, although the researchers couldn’t tell why this was the case.

“Studies show that inadequate sleep is associated with declines in mental and physical health, reduced cognitive function, and increased obesity,” said Grigsby-Toussaint in a statement. “This new study shows that exposure to a natural environment may help people get the sleep they need.”

There are several reasons why nature could be helping people get their snooze on. For one, it’s been shown that people who live near parks and natural green spaces are more likely to engage in moderate and vigorous physical activity, and even light exercise helps people sleep better. Secondly, research suggests that people who take walks in nature are also reaping mental health benefits like less depression and lower stress levels — things that also contribute to a good night’s sleep. Finally, spending prolonged time outdoors helps align your body to natural day- and night-time, which is useful for strengthening the hormone signal melatonin that’s responsible for those feelings of sleepiness you get in the evening.

It should be noted that Grigsby-Toussaint’s survey didn’t ask participants whether or not they actually took advantage of their green spaces by, say, walking along the shore or hiking in nearby state parks. Her team instead used county-level data on —> Read More