Have you considered sleeping outdoors, in a hammock or camping tent? The benefits of sleeping outdoors will astound you.
Did you know that proper sleep cycles can provide your body with an array of health benefits, including the boost of your immune system, weight gain prevention, straightening of the heart, an increase in productivity, and an increase in exercise performance as well as an improvement in terms of memory?
We all know the importance of a good night’s sleep. Some of the conditions which would guarantee comfort as we lay down on our beds at home. Besides a comfortable sleep surface, regular exercise and proper nutrition know to improve your sleep quality. A lot of people struggle with sleep problems even after meeting these conditions.
Studies have shown that an average adult requires a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night to maintain good health. Although most people have found a way to regulate temperature and improve airflow, they can still find their way around anxiety and stress. This results in interrupted sleep.
It comes with immense benefits that go beyond physical well-being but greatly impact emotional and mental health. Here is a look at 7 (seven) therapeutic gains from nature’s simplicity that reveal the power of sleeping outside.
#1 Sufficient Natural Light Exposure for Benefits Of Sleeping Outdoors
Artificial lighting from electricity makes it possible for us to get more work done as most people continue with certain tasks even at night. They may be getting up to 7 hours of sleep but tend to wake up feeling irritable and grumpy in the morning.
Exposure to natural sunlight has a way of fixing your internal sleep clock, as revealed by the study published in Current Biology by a team of scientists from the University of Colorado. They found that circadian timing differences are responsible for changes in our sleep schedule and physiology, and social behavior. Hence, synchronizing the internal circadian clock with solar time through sufficient exposure to natural sunlight will ensure that your normal sleep cycle is back on track. This is by far one of the biggest benefits of sleeping outdoors.
Kenneth P. Wright and his colleagues examined participants exposed to only natural light after one week of camping outdoors. It was observed that there was a shift in their circadian rhythm, and they maintained earlier sleep and wake timings. This shows how electrical lighting in urban environments and increased usage of electronic devices that emit blue light disrupt our sleep cycle, making us reluctant to get up in the morning.
#2 Balanced Melatonin Levels For Better Sleep
Discussing the further benefits of sleeping outdoors, melatonin is a hormone secreted into the bloodstream in response to darkness and is responsible for regulating the sleep-wake cycle. With exposure to electrical light for longer hours, this hormone’s release is delayed, which keeps people up late.
The melatonin levels in your body should begin to increase in the evening and remain that way as the night progresses, promoting deep slumber. Under outdoor conditions with the right amount of natural light, you can maintain regular hours of sleep without disruptions in your circadian rhythm. The secreted melatonin is known to ameliorate circadian-related ailments like myocardial ischemia.
Statistics from the Sleep Cycle research have shown that adults worldwide have been unable to achieve 8 hours of sleep regularly. This is often a result of exposure to blue light from digital devices at night, which has been found to significantly reduce melatonin production, thus disrupting the body’s natural mechanisms.
#3 Enhanced Cognitive Function
Outdoor oxygen is a lot fresher than the air we breathe in enclosed spaces with air conditioning. In poorly ventilated enclosures, the carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in the air could rise to levels that are harmful to humans. Construction practices and severe overcrowding in households have been implicated in poor oxygen levels in indoor air.
Have you always wondered why people lose focus or feel sleepy in classrooms and meeting rooms? According to researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, high concentrations of CO2 in these indoor environments are the culprit. The study aimed at assessing individuals’ decision-making performance in spaces with high occupant density proved that cognitive function scores declined with increased CO2 levels.
Spend some nights sleeping outdoors and experience relief from the symptoms of CO2 retention. You would notice that the outdoor fresh air also allows you to clear your mind, as your brain functions properly with improved oxygen intake.
#4 Immune System Boost
A lot of research on the benefits of sleeping outdoors has been carried out to determine the relationship between nature and good health. Environment and behavior researcher Ming Kuo of the University of Illinois believes that our bodies are in a “rest and digest” state while spending time outdoors. He said, “when we are in nature in that relaxed state, and our body knows that it’s safe, it invests resources toward the immune system.”
While camping in the woods, we are exposed to phytoncides emitted by plants, which trigger an increase in white blood cells’ number and activity that impact humans’ immune function. According to scientific research, autoimmune diseases are also reduced due to adequate exposure to sunlight, which has a favorable effect on immune cells.
Although we do not see it, vitamin D and melanin synthesis are photochemical reactions on the human skin during outdoor activities under natural light. Even a single night outdoors can provide a significant immune system boosting effect, which means that you get to recover from ailments a lot faster than you normally would.
#5 Stress Relief
After the day’s activities, many people feel stressed and are unable to find effective ways to deal with the symptoms. Cortisol levels in your body tend to rise under these conditions, resulting in a spike in sugar levels and muscle weakness, among other health effects. Maintaining a balance ensures that your blood pressure remains normal, improving your quality of life.
Chronic stress and anxiety have been linked with depression as it affects the nervous system and leads to increased appetite and weight gain. With increased cases of stress-induced depression (STRID), finding better ways to decrease stress should be your top priority. When your body is relaxed, your heart rate and blood pressure will return to normal.
The impact of a serene natural environment free from certain artificial elements of urbanization on your cortisol levels cannot be overemphasized. A study on stress response published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information suggests that visitors to natural environments experienced a significant reduction in psychological and physical stress levels. Waking up to a beautiful landscape and relaxing nature sounds will ensure that you feel rejuvenated to face the new day’s challenges.
#6 Improved Mood
Shorter sleep duration leads to accumulated stress levels which in turn affects your mood. Various factors that include multiple frustrations and a heavy workload can lead to anger, loss of self-confidence, and aggression. Even people with high tolerance levels can become overwhelmed in certain situations and respond negatively, regardless of their temperaments.
Dr. Jason Strauss of the Cambridge Health Alliance has said in an article published by Harvard Health that “having something pleasant to focus on like trees and greenery helps distract your mind from negative thinking, so your thoughts become less filled with worry.” Spending the night outdoors affords you the time necessary for restoring a happier perception of yourself.
Doctors now recommend spending time in nature and park visits, given its ability to improve their self-perception. With an increase in mood disorders among adults living in urban areas, routine exposure to natural environments is recommended due to its favorable mood effect. Viewing nature correlates with positive moods and keeps you distracted from the worries of your everyday life. If you want to really experience the benefits of sleeping outdoors, this is a must.
#7 Better Mental Health
Resting outdoors can significantly impact your mental health as you feel invigorated after exposure to some fresh air. Embarking on camping trips with friends can improve your social health as you bond on certain interests and develop new ideas.
It’s clear as day that low oxygen intake can reduce serotonin’s secretion and increases dopamine levels. These neurotransmitters can change brain chemistry, leading to anxiety which is also linked with bipolar disorders. With the prevalence of sleep paralysis among psychiatric patients, natural light natural sleep-wake cycles achieved during your period of outdoor camping will prove helpful.
A Stanford-led study suggests that making nature easily accessible to people in this era of rapid urbanization will help people take charge of their mental wellbeing. However, there is no proof that this new wave of urbanization is responsible for the increased number of psychiatric cases. The evidence that exposure to nature leads to improved mental health is enough reason for you to plan that camping trip today.
We cannot overlook the immense health benefits of good quality sleep outdoors, free from unpleasant noises and artificial light. Watching the sunrise and sunset or stargazing provides enough distractions to help us deal with stress as we cope with our day-to-day challenges.
Maintaining chemical balance in the brain with the release of the different hormones in the right amount ensures that we live healthier, happier lives.
As you lay on that comfortable sleeping pad while exposed to outdoor fresh air and the warm glow of natural light, you become a better version of yourself. Never compromise on sleep as it can affect your overall health and make you prone to serious medical conditions, such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and even high blood pressure.