Access to nature leads to reports of improved sleep in men and the over 65s

Written by Rebecca Sheehan

According to a University of Illinois (IL, USA) paper published recently in Preventative Medicine, access to natural surroundings appears to improve sleep quality in men and individuals over the age of 65 years.
This trend was exhibited across the whole sample of 255,171 adults, with individuals who reported 21–29 days of insufficient sleep being consistently less likely to have access to green space compared with those reporting less than 1 week of poor sleep. The relationship between exposure to green space and sleep was much stronger in men than women and there was a strong relationship indicated for both males and females over the age of 65 years.

To reach this conclusion, the joint research team from the University of Illinois and the New York University School of Medicine (NY, USA) surveyed data regarding self-reported days of insufficient sleep and access to green space. The data was collated from the representative sample of 255,171 US adults by the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. A USDA index score, which scores a geographical area’s natural amenities based on hours of sunlight (an important factor in regulating an individual’s circadian rhythm), was also considered.

Diana Grigsby-Toussaint (University of Illinois) worked with scientists and researchers from both institutions and commented: “If there is a way for persons over 65 to spend time in nature, it would improve the quality of their sleep – and their quality of life – if they did.” She also emphasized the importance of the results in providing an incentive for nursing homes and communities with many retired residents to design their buildings in such a way to maximize lighting and provide outdoor spaces that encourage activity.

The importance of high-quality sleep is undisputed. This research highlights a possible means for individuals, especially men and those over 65 years, to improve their sleep quality.

Source: University of Illinois press release