By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute
A good, sound sleep is important to human health, both physical and mental. According to Dr. Diana Grigsby-Toussaint, “Studies show that inadequate sleep is associated with declines in mental and physical health, reduced cognitive function, and increased obesity.” She and her colleagues at the University of Illinois recently published a new study demonstrating that a natural environment may help people get the sleep they need. The study showed that exposure to nature, which they dubbed “greenspace,” was associated with a more restful sleep. Other surroundings such as a sandy beach with an ocean view were also conducive to better sleep. One of the measurements used to qualify an area as greenspace was the availability of sunlight.
I can attest to the fact that when I regularly walk through the pines and aspens located in the high mountains near my Nevada ranch, I sleep better at night. When I don’t get enough outdoor time in the trees and sunlight, I begin to suffer from what my friend, Dr. William Grant, calls nature-deficit disorder, or NDD. My whole mood is altered, and not for the better. Dr. Grant is not only a great sunlight scientist, but an avid birdwatcher, which takes him out daily do get his dose of nature.
We have a primal need for sunlight and natural surroundings, and too many city dwellers do not connect with sunlight and nature. Don’t fall into that trap. There is an adage that says, “What gets scheduled gets done.” Plan to be outside as often as possible and soak up some sun when it is available. Natural surroundings with sunlight are better than any psychiatrist or physician for maintaining mental and physical health.
 Grigsby-Toussaint DS, Turi KN, Krupa M, Williams NJ, Pandi-Perumal SR, Jean-Louis G. Sleep insufficiency and the natural environment: Results from the US Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey. Prev Med. 2015 Sep;78:78-84.