Need better sleep? Want to feel better? Visit a park!
Surprise! Nature could be the key to better sleep.
Getting close to nature might help you sleep better, new research suggests.
Whether it’s a tree-lined park or a sandy beach, the great outdoors can help some people sleep better. In a large-scale survey of more than 255,000 people, researchers found those who reported the most nights of poor sleep were less likely to spend time outside in nature settings like a park.
“Studies show that inadequate sleep is associated with declines in mental and physical health, reduced cognitive function and increased obesity,” she said in a university news release.
People who live near green spaces tend to be more active, and it is known that exercising regularly can help you sleep better.
Participants who had access to nature slept badly fewer than seven nights per month. Those who had less access to nature slept poorly up to 29 nights per month. “This new study shows that exposure to a natural environment may help people get the sleep they need,” said lead author Diana Grigsby-Toussaint.
The relationship between nature and health has been widely researched around the world. Spending time in nature has been found to improve immunity, depression, anxiety, focus, and physical activity.
Professor Frances Kuo, PhD, conducted a recent study at the University of Illinois’ Landscape and Human Health Laboratory.
The research, published in Frontiers in Psychology (2015) states, “The range of specific health outcomes tied to nature is startling, including depression and anxiety disorder, diabetes mellitus, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), various infectious diseases, cancer, healing from surgery, obesity, birth outcomes, cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal complaints, migraines, respiratory disease, and others.”
Immerse Yourself in a Forest for Better Health
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservatism put together some research findings, and publications to explain how and why spending time in forests makes us healthier. Find the full article here
Most of us know that a walk in a forest is good for us. Its a break from the rush of our daily lives. We enjoy the beauty and peace of being in a natural setting. Now, research is showing that visiting a forest has real, quantifiable health benefits, both mental and physical. Even five minutes around trees or in green spaces may improve health. Think of it as a prescription with no negative side effects that's also free.
UPDATE: Hillary Clinton is the perfect example of taking a hike in the wooded park to feel better. Take her lead and get out there. You never who your going to run into.
Health Benefits From Forests
- Boosts immune system
- Lowers blood pressure
- Reduces stress
- Improves mood
- Increases ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
- Accelerates recovery from surgery or illness
- Increases energy level
- Improves sleep
Recognizing those benefits, in 1982, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries even coined a term for it: shinrin-yoku. It means taking in the forest atmosphere or "forest bathing," and the ministry encourages people to visit forests to relieve stress and improve health.
How spending time outdoors and in forests makes us healthier:
1. Exposure to forests boosts our immune system.
While we breathe in the fresh air, we breathe in Phytoncides, airborne chemicals that plants give off to protect themselves from insects. Phytoncides have antibacterial and anti-fungal qualities which help plants fight disease. When people breathe in these chemicals, our bodies respond by increasing the number and activity of a type of white blood cell called natural killer cells or NK. These cells kill tumor- and virus-infected cells in our bodies. In one study, increased NK activity from a 3-day, 2-night forest bathing trip lasted for more than 30 days. Japanese researchers are currently exploring whether exposure to forests can help prevent certain kinds of cancer.
2. Spending time around trees and looking at trees reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and improves mood.
Numerous studies show that both exercising in forests and simply sitting looking at the trees reduce blood pressure as well as the stress-related hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Looking at pictures of trees has a similar, but less dramatic, effect. Studies examining the same activities in urban, unplanted areas showed no reduction of stress-related effects. Using the Profile of Mood States test, researchers found that forest bathing trips significantly decreased the scores for anxiety, depression, anger, confusion and fatigue. And because stress inhibits the immune system, the stress-reduction benefits of forests are further magnified.
3. Spending time in nature helps you focus.
Our lives are busier than ever with jobs, school, and family life. Trying to focus on many activities or even a single thing for long periods of time can mentally drain us, a phenomenon called Directed Attention Fatigue. Spending time in nature, looking at plants, water, birds and other aspects of nature gives the cognitive portion of our brain a break, allowing us to focus better and renew our ability to be patient.
4. In children, visits to parks reduces attention fatigue.
The part of the brain affected by attention fatigue (right prefrontal cortex) is also involved in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Studies show that children who spend time in natural outdoor environments have a reduction in attention fatigue and children diagnosed with ADHD show a reduction in related symptoms. Researchers are investigating the use of natural outdoor environments to supplement current approaches to managing ADHD. Such an approach has the advantages of being widely accessible, inexpensive and free of side effects.
5. Patients recover from surgery faster and better when they have a "green" view.
Hospital patients may be stressed from a variety of factors, including pain, fear, and disruption of normal routine. Research found that patients with "green" views had shorter postoperative stays, took fewer painkillers, and had slightly fewer post surgical complications compared to those who had no view or a view of a cement wall.
So just do it! Grab a friend and the kids, find a park with trees and take a walk - you will sleep better.