Is it good to sleep outside? 5 benefits of sleeping outside on your well being & mental health

Updated: Mar 21



Yes, it has amazing mind and body benefits with positive effects on our mental health.

We all know how important a good night’s sleep is and the difference a poor night’s sleep will have. Well, the great news is loads of science points at the benefits of a good sleep and more importantly how sleeping outside can be a huge health benefit. We all know deep down that we shouldn’t expose ourselves to the blue light that’s emitted from phones and computers before bed. (But when else are you going to catch up on the day?).

A study in Environment and behaviour recently showed that spending time outside reduces stress and can lead to a more positive outlook on life. A few nights outside, with the stars and the dawn and the soothing rush of the wind, is certainly enough to lower your stress and bring you back to a happier place and who doesn’t want to improve their own wellbeing.



1. Reset Your Circadian Rhythm

It resets your circadian put simply, your body should want to be asleep when it’s dark and awake when it’s light. Apparently, this well-tuned internal clock is as easy to achieve as it is lacking in most adults with a job and a smartphone. Just a few days spent entirely outdoors can move a person’s internal clock 2.5 hours closer to being in sync with our natural sleep-wake cycle, the researchers found, following an earlier study showing that a week spent outdoors adjusted some subjects’ clocks by a whopping four hours. This is because constant exposure to natural light (and, crucially, darkness) seems to encourage the release of melatonin, the hormone that regulates circadian rhythm. “When your melatonin begins to rise, that tells us the start of the internal biological night is beginning,” says Kenneth Wright, professor at the University of Colorado’s Department of Integrative Physiology and a lead researcher.



This scientific research put simply means that when you are outdoors your mind and body are more in sync with daylight hours, our glampers are often surprised at how early they go to sleep whilst here, very often it’s a good couple of hours earlier than usual, this is because they are more in alignment with the natural light cycle and do not have the typical disruptions like electrical lighting and technology.

Do you often stay up too late, have problems sleeping or waking up, or experience brain fog in the morning? Try resetting your circadian rhythm by spending a few nights out in nature, it will only take a few nights to influence your circadian rhythm and can shift your sleep cycle to line up with nature. Natural light cycles means switching off the alarm clock and letting the morning sun be natures alarm clock, this means that you are more likely to wake up feeling less tired in the morning making for a more pleasant early morning experience.



2. Relieve Stress


Let’s be real: we all experience stress in our lives. Our fast-paced society is a hot pot for stressors that raise our cortisol levels. Stress is beneficial in small doses — it can protect you from perceived threats, generate motivation, and help you perform under pressure. But too much stress can negatively impact your nervous system and leave you feeling drained.

A growing body of research in the scientific field called ecotherapy suggests a strong relationship between time spent in nature and stress reduction. Being out in nature can decrease stress in a variety of ways. The great outdoors encourages slow, deep breathing — which stimulates the body’s parasympathetic response. This response helps us relax by slowing our heart rate and lowering our blood pressure both of which are elevated during times of stress.

The sounds of nature and outdoor silence have been proven to decrease cortisol levels in humans. Even the visual aspects of nature can be soothing. A study published in the journal Environment and Behaviour showed that simply looking at trees reduces stress. With trees and water in abundance and visible from your tent you really can immerse yourself in nature whilst glamping.




3. It helps your brain to function better


There’s a lot to be said about getting a breath of fresh air. Indoor air quality differs drastically from outdoor air quality. Closed, artificially heated and cooled spaces recirculate the air we breathe — resulting in a build-up of CO2. In efforts to conserve energy, we invest in air-tight windows, thick insulation, and construction practices that inadvertently result in poor ventilation. In rooms filled with people, poor ventilation can be harmful — leading to a decline in oxygen levels.

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory published a study that found CO2 levels are worst in meeting rooms and classrooms. While CO2 levels outdoors are normally around 350 ppm, in-office meeting rooms and classrooms they can skyrocket into the thousands of parts per millions. Because our brain utilises the majority of the oxygen we breathe, stale, CO2-saturated air contributes to decreased cognitive functioning. If you’ve ever felt sleepy, lethargic, or unable to concentrate indoors, poor air quality could be the culprit.

Luckily, the solution is simple: spend a few nights sleeping outdoors. Being outside in the fresh air can improve your ability to think and allow your body to release any built-up CO2. It’s really not all that surprising the better the air you breath, the better your brain functions.



4. Enhance Your Mood

Research suggests that spending time outside can enhance your mood. Dr. Jason Strauss from the Harvard-affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance advocates for interacting with nature as a powerful tool against mood imbalances — in some cases, equal in efficacy to therapy and medication. In fact, doctors around the world are literally prescribing nature to their patients.

In an article published by Harvard Health, Dr. Strauss explains that having pleasant natural things to focus on — like trees and greenspaces — can distract your mind from negative thought patterns. Studies suggest that city environments negatively affect the mental health of urban dwellers, resulting in a higher prevalence of mood disorders.

A study in Environment and Behaviour recently showed that spending time outside reduces stress and can lead to a more positive outlook on life. A night outside, with the stars and the dawn and the soothing rush of the wind, is certainly enough to lower your stress and bring you back to a happier perception of the world. People struggling with hardship or trauma can especially benefit from a few nights outside; a study from the University of Michigan found that one week of living and sleeping outside improved “psychological well-being, social functioning, and life outlook





5. Boost your Immune System & Metabolism

Spending just a few hours outside can strengthen your immune system. Studies show that just one day in a park or green space can increase immune system activity for a week add in a sleeping outside close to nature which can increase the efficiency of your cells, which speeds up all of your systems—including your digestive system.

Final Thoughts

Oxygen levels in your brain are connected to levels of serotonin — a chemical that promotes feelings of happiness and well being. Spending a few nights outdoors is an easy way to replenish these oxygen levels and boost serotonin. In conclusion, sleeping outside can promote your sleep quality, relieve stress, improve your ability to think, enhance your mood boost your Immune system & metabolism

So, what are you waiting for? Whether you’re feeling down or you need a break from the daily grind of urban life, grab your bag and head out glamping . You’ll begin feeling better as the city lights fade in the distance behind you and the canvas of the star-speckled night sky unfurls before you, welcoming you with open arms.





Sources:

Journal of Environment and Behaviour, “A Dose-Response Curve Describing the Relationship Between Urban Tree Cover Density and Self-Reported Stress Recovery”

Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine, “The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing): evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan”

npr.org, “Not Getting Enough Sleep? Camping in February Might Help”


Current Biology, “Entrainment of the Human Circadian Clock to the Natural Light-Dark Cycle”

https://sleepjunkies.com, “7 Amazing Things That Happen to You When You Sleep Outdoors”

healthline.com, “The Health Benefits of Sleeping Under the Stars”

treehugger.com, “Sleepy Office Syndrome”


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