Increasing exposure to green spaces could improve sleep quality in certain groups

Written by Alice Weatherston

Poor quality or inadequate amounts of sleep have previously been associated with declines in mental and physical health, cognitive functioning as well as an increased likelihood of obesity. A new study carried out at the University of Illinois (IL, USA) and published recently in Preventive Medicine has revealed that one possible way to improve sleep quality and avoid these potential consequences could be through exposure to the natural environment.
The research team, comprised of researchers from both the University of Illinois and New York University School of Medicine (NY, USA), used data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to establish whether there was a link between self-reported days of insufficient sleep and access to green space. The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System surveyed 255,171 representative U.S. adults. In addition, the study used the United States Department of Agriculture index for scores of natural amenities, using hours of sunlight and temperature in different geographical areas.

In general, researchers found that most respondents reported having slept poorly for less than one week in the preceding month. “Interestingly, though, across the entire sample, individuals reporting 21 to 29 days of insufficient sleep consistently had lower odds of access to green space and natural amenities compared to those reporting less than one week,” lead author Diana Grigsby-Toussaint (University of Illinois) explained.

Further analysis revealed that the association between sleep and green space was more pronounced for men than for women, but that both males and females over the age of 65 had a strong link between sleep quality and exposure to green space.

The team believe that these associations could be due to the increased likelihood of physical activity when living near to open green spaces which in turn aids healthy sleep patterns. The differences observed between men and women may be due to safety concerns, meaning women are less likely to take advantage of green spaces nearby, however more research is needed to confirm this.

Source: University of Illinois press release: