URBANA, Ill., Aug. 24 (UPI) — Men and people over the age of 65 report better, more effective sleeping patterns if they live or spend time near natural spaces, according to a new study.
Researchers said they were not sure why women overall did not show as big a benefit from being near nature, although they theorize that some of the benefits may come because of a higher propensity of men to take advantage of their natural surroundings.
“It’s hard to overestimate the importance of high-quality sleep,” said Diana Grigsby-Toussaint, a professor of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois, in a press release. “Studies show that inadequate sleep is associated with declines in mental and physical health, reduced cognitive function, and increased obesity. This new study shows that exposure to a natural environment may help people get the sleep they need.”
Researchers reviewed data from the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System collected on phone surveys. They used self-reported data on sleep patterns to determine if there was link between access to nature and better rest.
People who reported 21 to 29 days of insufficient sleep were found to have far less access to natural spaces than people who reported 7 days or less. The most common answer in the survey also was that participants had had trouble sleeping for 7 days or less.
The association between better sleep and nature was strongest with men, whom Grigsby-Toussaint said may be more apt to take advantage of nature out of concern for their safety, but said there was no research to back up the assertion. The same strong relationship was found for people over the age of 65.
“Specifically, our results provide an incentive for nursing homes and communities with many retired residents to design buildings with more lighting, create nature trails and dedicated garden spaces, and provide safe outdoor areas that encourage outdoor activity for men and women,” Grigsby-Toussaint said.
The study is published in Preventive Medicine.