Sleep is a restorative process where our body heals us in complex ways. We all know the benefits of nature on overall health, but what about sleep? In what way does nature have a physiological effect on our sleep quality?
In today’s modern society, technology, work, school, and other factors can negatively affect our quality of sleep due to the stress that accompanies them. Poor quality of sleep is linked to health risks such as diabetes, obesity, depression, anxiety, and even poor immune system functioning. It is important to acknowledge that as our lives become more entangled with responsibilities, it is crucial to maintain good sleep habits and rituals. One practice that could help is to spend time in nature.
College students are especially at risk for having poor sleep quality practices. One study noted that around 60% of college students worldwide are struggling with proper sleeping times and up to 20% have experienced or currently have a sleeping disorder (Ma et al. 2022). The study looked at how sleep was improved based on walking in urban settings versus nature dense areas. The study found that although both improved sleep quality, people who spent time walking in nature settings had a greater improvement in quality of sleep than those walking in an urban one. Another study found that spending time outside <12 hours a week, no matter the activity, was linked to normal sleep patterns. Researchers hope to seek explanations for relationships between sleep and specific outdoor activities and other components that can improve quality of sleep (Wood et al. 2021).
Thinking about ways to spend time in nature can be hard for busy people. However, even the shortest interactions with nature can go a long way. Activities like walking, visiting a local park, walking to work or school instead of taking the bus and even reading/doing work outside can lead to improved quality of sleep. So, whether you live in a rural, urban, or suburban area, obtaining access to the outdoors is relatively easy.
Mindful practices can improve a person’s overall quality of sleep in the long run and can aid in fighting health risks associated with sleep deprivation. Some examples of these practices can include…
- Walk in nature before bed
- Walk to your destinations during the day
- Incorporating nature in your everyday life (doing work outside, gardening, taking children or pets to parks, reading outside, meditation)
- Don’t use blue light (phones, computer, tv) 2 hours before bed
- Breathing exercises in nature
Flowers & Plants. (2021). photograph.
Ma, J., Williams, J., Morris, P. G., & Chan, P. S. W. Y. (2022). Effectiveness of mindful walking intervention in nature on sleep quality and mood among university student during covid- 19: A randomized control study. Explore, doi:10.1016/j.explore.2022.08.004
Wood, L. A., Tomlinson, M. M., Pfeiffer, J. A., Walker, K. L., Keith, R. J., Smith, T., & Hart, J. L. (2021). Time spent outdoors and sleep normality: A preliminary investigation. Population Medicine, 3 doi:10.18332/popmed/132119