Spending time in green spaces has many health benefits, and one of them is getting better sleep. There are plenty of reasons why being around nature improves sleep quality. This article breaks down those reasons and talks about how green spaces can positively influence sleep. It also discusses ways to make sure that everyone can access green spaces.
Green space is any land partially or completely covered with grass, trees, shrubs, or other vegetation. Examples include parks, community gardens, and cemeteries.
Being exposed to green spaces can offer several health benefits, including improved sleep.
Green spaces improve sleep by encouraging physical activity, reducing carbon dioxide in the air, and improving mental health.
Access to green spaces has been associated with better sleep quality and longer sleep duration.
Green spaces are also essential for kids’ health and help promote better sleep.
Urbanization and access to green spaces
Our planet has experienced rapid urbanization over the past few centuries. Now, more than half of the world (about four billion people) live in urban areas. According to estimates, two-thirds of the population will live in urban settings by 2050.
Urbanization brings numerous benefits, such as better job opportunities, better education, access to health care, and higher efficiency in transportation. But the price we pay for this convenience is high: polluted air and water, waste-disposal problems, high energy consumption, and lack of green spaces.
Green space is any land partially or completely covered with grass, trees, shrubs, or other vegetation. This can include parks, community gardens, and cemeteries.
Limited access to green spaces in urban areas is a public health challenge.
Benefits of green spaces
Walking in a park or simply relaxing surrounded by nature can do wonders for one’s health. Exposure to green spaces may bring several health benefits, including:
- Encouraging physical activity
- Reducing air pollution and temperature
- Reducing traffic noise
- Improving well-being
- Promoting social interaction
- Enhancing self-esteem
In one study, exposure to green space was beneficial for individuals with heart conditions, mental health issues, and sleep problems.
How does exposure to green spaces improve sleep?
Our surroundings have a significant impact on our quality of life. As discussed earlier, exposure to green spaces is critical for a healthy and happy life.
When it comes to sleep, green spaces also make a big difference. By providing a soothing environment, green spaces can help people relax and get rid of stress. This can make it easier to get a restful night's sleep.
As green spaces encourage physical activity, this can further contribute to better sleep, as regular exercise has been linked to improved sleep duration and quality. Green spaces also reduce carbon dioxide concentrations in the air, leading to improved sleep quality.
What does science say?
Exposure to green spaces may influence sleep quality for various reasons, but only a few studies have examined this association.
A study carried out in Sweden found that adults who had greater access to green spaces near their homes experienced fewer sleep difficulties.
In a survey conducted with U.S. adults, natural amenities were associated with lower reports of insufficient sleep. Green space access was especially protective for men and individuals aged 65 years or older.
Proximity to green space may also influence the amount of time a person spends in bed. In a study conducted with Australian adults, those residing in neighborhoods with more greenery reported a reduced risk of experiencing short sleep duration, defined as less than 6 hours of sleep per night.
Another study investigated whether people who lived within 1 mile (1.6 km) of green space were less likely to develop insufficient sleep over six years. They found 13% lower chances of developing insufficient sleep among people in areas where 30% or more of land cover within 1 mile (1.6 km) had tree canopy, compared to those with less than 10%.
Additionally, studies indicate that green spaces may have a positive impact on the lifestyle habits of residents. They encourage people to engage in more physical exercise, reduce harmful behaviors like drinking and smoking, and promote longer and better quality sleep. Thus, increasing green spaces within urban areas can be an effective strategy to enhance the health and well-being of those living in big cities.
Importance of green spaces for children
Spending time in parks offers advantages to individuals across all age ranges. Just like adults, children can reap similar benefits from engaging with natural environments, including enhanced air quality and respiratory function, improved mental health, and better sleep.
Green spaces also play a vital role in promoting physical activity and facilitating social interaction, which are crucial for a child's development.
One study looked at children aged 0 to 17 living in the United States. The study found that children living in neighborhoods lacking parks were more likely to be sedentary, spend more than four hours per weekday in front of a screen, or obtain inadequate sleep. These children were also more likely to be diagnosed with obesity or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
In another study conducted with Australian children, exposure to high-quality green spaces was associated with lower total triglycerides. Additionally, visiting green spaces with better quality over time was associated with a lower likelihood of being hospitalized.
Ensuring equitable access
Parks and green spaces provide numerous health benefits. These advantages are mostly enjoyed by those with easier access to these areas, typically situated in the central parts of cities, and tend to attract higher-income residents.
Thus, it is crucial to ensure that green and public spaces are universally available, focusing on meeting the needs of women, children, older adults, low-income groups, and people with disabilities.
Policymakers play a significant role in shaping the allocation of resources, establishing guidelines, and making decisions regarding the development and management of public spaces. It is essential to draw their attention to the importance of inclusivity in green space planning to ensure that the needs of all community members are considered.
Those who don't have easy access to green spaces can try other ways to get quality sleep. Sleep hygiene measures can be very effective and include:
- Having regular sleeping and waking up schedules.
- Avoiding stress, alcohol, caffeine, and heavy food near bedtime.
- Doing regular physical exercise.
- Avoiding smartphones and TVs one hour before going to bed.
Hanging out in a park or square isn't just fun; it can actually help you unwind and get better sleep at night. If you're lucky enough to live near a green space, make the most of it! Unfortunately, not everyone has equal opportunities to enjoy these areas. It's important that everyone can access and enjoy green spaces, and it's up to all of us to make this happen.
- The Innovation. Greenspace and human health: An umbrella review.
- Environmental Research. Greenspace exposure and sleep: A systematic review.
- Environmental Science and Pollution Research. Effects of carbon dioxide and green space on sleep quality of the elderly in rural areas of Anhui Province, China.
- Environmental Research. Green sleep: Immediate residential greenspace & access to larger green areas are associated with better sleep quality, in a longitudinal population-based cohort.
- Prev Med. Sleep insufficiency and the natural environment: results from the US Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey.