Posted by Ben Gooden on Thu, Jul 02, 2020 @ 12:12 AM
About 12-19% of adults in Australia don’t get enough sleep, defined as less than 5.5-6 hours each night. But who’d have thought that the amount of tree cover in their neighbourhood could be a factor? The latest research has found exactly that, with people who live surrounded by ample green space much more likely to get enough sleep than people in areas with less greenery.
Why is this the case? Hypotheses suggest that green space might counter the impacts of noise and air pollution and cool local heat islands, all of which make sleep difficult. These benefits are especially important in disadvantaged communities where many households might not have air conditioning and underlying health conditions can increase vulnerability.
We know too that contact with nature provides opportunities for psychological restoration and stress reduction. The benefits are greatest if there’s more tree canopy and more biodiversity – such as a richer variety of birdlife. Since early results provided evidence of a link between green space and sleep duration in Australia, many more studies from various countries have reported similar results.
As well as providing adequate urban green space, we need to encourage people to use it in order to experience the many health benefits. Nature-based interventions that enable people to regularly spend more time in urban parks and woodlands are increasingly important as we become more and more dependent on technology. For now though, get out in the garden, take a restorative stroll through your local park or enjoy a picnic in a botanic garden… and improve your chances of a good night’s sleep!