It has long been proven that getting sufficient rest is necessary for health. For those in need of better sleep, seek out nature, researchers suggest.

In a study published in the journal Preventive Medicine, researchers showed that persons aged 65 years and older, particularly men, with access to natural surroundings are likelier to sleep better. Diana Grigsby-Toussaint, one of the study's authors, said that it's difficult to overestimate the benefits of high-quality sleep, adding that previous studies have shown that poor sleep is connected to declines in physical and mental health.

Grigsby-Toussaint and colleagues used data from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which included 255,171 adults representative of the U.S. Population, to determine the relationship between access to green spaces and insufficient sleep. Additionally, the researchers also used an index from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that scores geographical areas in the country based on sunlight hours. Exposure to the sun is crucial because it regulates an individual's temperature and circadian rhythm.

When asked about the quality of their sleep from the previous month, the subjects most commonly answered that they slept poorly for less than seven days. Those who reported between 21 and 29 days of insufficient sleep also had lower chances of accessing green spaces compared to those who said they slept poorly for less than seven days.

The researchers also found that the improvements in sleep as provided by exposure to green is more pronounced in men than in women and that those 65 years old and up stand to benefit more.

One of the reasons that the researchers saw as to why women are less likely to benefit from access to natural space is that they may be concerned of their safety, limiting their willingness to venture out into natural settings. However, more research is needed to fully assess this result.

The result of the study is a great help for those having trouble sleeping, most especially as they age. Communities with retired residents and nursing homes should also take heed, seeing the incentive in investing in green spaces as a means of improving the well-being of their inhabitants.

The study received funding support from the National Institutes of Health. Other authors include: Girardin Jean-Louis, Seithikurippu R. Pandi-Perumal, Natasha J. Williams, Mark Krupa and Kedir N. Turi.

Photo: Tim Parkinson | Flickr

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