Study Finds Correlation Between Sleep Quality and Nature

Elderly couple takes a walk in nature with their dogA nationally representative study published in Preventive Medicine has found access to nature may improve sleep quality for seniors age 65 and older and for men of all ages.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 10% of adults have chronic insomnia, and 15% to 20% of adults experience a short-term bout of insomnia that lasts no more than three months. Between 30% and 35% of adults occasionally have brief symptoms of insomnia.

Can Access to Nature Help You Sleep?

Researchers from the University of Illinois and New York University School of Medicine pulled data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a national survey of 255,171 adults. The team also used a U.S. Department of Agriculture index to analyze natural conditions, including hours of sunlight—which can help with a person’s natural circadian rhythm—and other natural amenities.

Respondents most frequently reported that they slept badly for a week or less out of one month. For those who reported more chronic sleep difficulties—21 to 29 days per month of insomnia—access to green space and natural amenities was lower than for those who reported insufficient sleep of less than a week. The correlation between sleep quality and access to green space was stronger for men and for men and women age 65 and older.

Nature May Help General Well-Being

Researchers did not directly test how or why access to green space correlated with less insomnia. They speculate that more access to nature might increase exercise. Exercise can be a strong predictor of healthy sleep. Because the correlation between sleep quality and access to nature was stronger for men than for women, the team hypothesized that women might not use natural amenities as frequently—perhaps due to safety concerns.

The researchers say their work highlights the general importance of nature to well-being. It may also provide important information for nursing homes and other senior care facilities. Access to nature with gardens, safe outdoor living areas, and other natural embellishments could be worthwhile goals for improving senior sleep quality and, as a result, health and wellness.


  1. Grigsby-Toussaint, D. S., Turi, K. N., Krupa, M., Williams, N. J., Pandi-Perumal, S. R., & Jean-Louis, G. (2015). Sleep insufficiency and the natural environment: Results from the US Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey. Preventive Medicine, 78, 78-84. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2015.07.011
  2. Heffron, T. M. (2014, March 10). Insomnia Awareness Day facts and stats. Retrieved from
  3. U of I study: Men, people over 65 sleep better when they have access to nature. (2015, August 24). Retrieved from

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  • Hannah


    August 25th, 2015 at 4:33 PM

    This could be why I always sleep so well at the beach.
    There is something about the tides and the moon and the rhythmic nature of the whole setting that is just so mellow and relaxing for me.

  • houston


    August 26th, 2015 at 10:40 AM

    Simply having the ability to go outside, breathe fresh air and be a part of nature for even just a short amount of time each day can be such a wonderful and refreshing thing but yet those who have lost their own mobility may not have that opportunity on a daily basis.

  • Zac


    August 26th, 2015 at 5:28 PM

    I always sleep like a baby when my granddad and I go camping. Good for the body and good for the soul

  • ollie


    August 30th, 2015 at 9:10 AM

    If this is true, then those of us who live in more urban areas with very few areas of green space to take advantage of, it seems that now we are screwed because our sleep will not be nearly as good as those who have more of an opportunity to be in nature. I get quite a lot of time outside, but mostly getting back and forth to work and I am sure that the concrete jungle element to my story does not end up with the happy ending that others with a lot more natural settings would get to have around them.

  • Nina


    August 31st, 2015 at 3:52 AM

    Both of my parents have a hard time sleeping through the night anymore.

    I think that I will share this with them

  • laird


    August 31st, 2015 at 10:38 AM

    so this now makes me curious about the efficacy of sound machines, especially those that imitate sounds found in nature like waves crashing or a thundershower. Can part of why so many adults utilize and respond to these noises all be a part of this?

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