Do you like the great outdoors? If you’re a man or you’re over the age of 65, a new survey says all of that fresh air and nature may actually mean better sleep.
According to a new University of Illinois study, men and seniors who have access to natural surroundings, whether it’s the green space of a nearby park or a sandy beach and an ocean view, report sleeping better.
The team, which also included scientists from New York University’s School of Medicine, used data from the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which surveyed more than 250,000 representative U.S. adults to learn whether there was an association between self-reported days of insufficient sleep and access to green space. The team also used a USDA index that scores the country’s geographical areas for their natural amenities, using hours of sunlight, which is important in regulating a person’s circadian rhythm, and temperature.
In response to the survey question about sleep quality in the last month, the researchers found that the most common answer was that respondents had slept poorly for less than one week.
“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,” said study leader Diana Grigsby-Toussaint.
For men, the relationship between sleep and exposure to green space was much stronger than for women. And males and females 65 and over found nature to be a potent sleep aid, she added.
Grigsby-Toussaint noted that living near green landscapes is associated with higher levels of physical activity and that exercise in turn predicts beneficial sleep patterns. But, men appeared to benefit much more from their natural surroundings. The researcher speculated that women may take less advantage of nearby natural settings out of concern for their safety, but she added that more research is needed.