After a long day of hiking — the most popular of all camping activities — have you ever noticed that you slept better? Although it may be that you’ve tuckered yourself out, a new study published in the journal Preventive Medicine suggests that people age 65 or older get better sleep when they’re in a more natural environment.
“Studies show that inadequate sleep is associated with declines in mental and physical health, reduced cognitive function, and increased obesity,” explained Diana Grigsby-Toussaint, a member of the division of nutritional science at the University of Illinois in Chicago. “This new study shows that exposure to a natural environment may help people get the sleep they need.”
Grigsby-Toussaint worked with two other University of Illinois researchers and several scientists from the New York University School of Medicine. They used data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tool, to find out if there as a link between declared days of insufficient sleep and access to green spaces. They also used a USDA index to measure the hours of sunlight in different geographical regions, an integral part in the regulation of the circadian rhythm, and temperature.
In response to being questioned on the quality of their sleep in the last month, the most common answer given from a total of 255,171 representative American adults was that participants had slept poorly for less than a week.
However, across the entire sample, individuals who reported 21 to 29 days of insufficient sleep consistently had lower odds of having access to green, natural spaces in comparison to individuals who reported having less than one week of insufficient sleep.
In other words, the people who didn’t sleep well were also less likely to live in an environment where nature was more present.
The study’s results are a huge help for those who may have trouble sleeping, particularly seniors. Communities with retired residents, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes should also take note of the study, and try to incorporate more green spaces as a way to improve their inhabitants’ well-being.