A natural sleep remedy: get outside!

in #naturalmedicine2 years ago (edited)

Could getting outside more often improve your sleep? It seems likely, and it's not just due to the effects of exercise.

How often have you found that after a trip to the seaside or countryside – even just for a day – that your sleep improves? Usually the reasoning behind this is, "It's that fresh country/sea air." In fact, it could just be the exposure to natural daylight, whether you're exercising or relaxing in the sun.

We are often warned about the importance of a dark environment to induce a good night's sleep. But we don't hear so much about the importance of getting enough light during the day to a good night's sleep. According to a recent post on the BBC website, exposure to daylight has a significant effect on our circadian rythms, and it can promote good sleep at night.

Most of us spend almost all our working lives indoors these days.

Most modern humans, unlike our distant ancestors, spend much of the day indoors. The effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, where people suffer depression and fatigue in the winter months due to light deprivation, are well known.

But few of us are aware of the wider implications of general light deprivation. According to some of the researchers, this is partly because there is little financial support available to fund research into the health effects of light, which is freely available and cannot be patented.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina found that getting enough exposure to daylight had some effect in alleviating non-seasonal depressive symptoms. The amount of light recommended for therapeutic benefits is 2,500 lux of white, broadband light at the cornea for two hours, or 10,000 lux for 30 minutes.

This is roughly equivalent to being outside for two hours on a cloudy day or for 30 minutes on a sunny (but not excessively bright) day.

SourceEven on a cloudy day, you can improve your sleep by getting outside – but you'll need to stay out a bit longer.

How light affects the hormones

Levels of melatonin, a hormone that is secreted by the pineal gland, increase at night and fall during the day. Scientific research has shown that exposure to light during the night can suppress melatonin production, and that the amount of melatonin suppressed increases according to the intensity of the light.

Research into the effect of bright light on cortisol levels found that levels of the adrenal hormone cortisol fell after exposure to bright light in the morning. This suggests that exposure to morning sunshine could have significant effects on the adrenal response, and as cortisol plays a role in metabolism, it has implications for weight management.

If you live in a country that doesn't get much sunlight, don't despair. Research from sleep medicine experts suggests that people who get little exposure to bright light may become more sensitive to moderate levels of light.

Another finding is that bright light can improve alertness. I have certainly found that if I'm driving when feeling tired, the effects of driver's fatigue worsen when I leave the city lights and drive into the dark countryside. This happened on a late night journey recently, and although I had two friends in the car who were eager to get home, I had to pull in to a layby and have a 10-minute nap.

It may also explain why I never feel tired during my many hillwalks, even if I've had to drag myself out of bed at some ridiculously early hour. And when I lived in London and worked in an office, I used to cycle to work most days. I always felt more alert when I arrived at the office after a cycle ride than when I'd taken the underground.

Light therapy

A light therapy lamp.

If you're a nightshift worker, or if you really can't get outside during the day, light therapy can help. Light therapy lamps are widely available online, usually delivering around 10,000 lux, and recommended for use in the first hour after getting out of bed.



I was inspired to research this topic after reading the article that appeared on the BBC website (mentioned above). I went out for a walk in the sunshine first thing this morning, and I'm going to try and do this every morning from now on. I usually sleep quite well, but occasionally I get insomnia. It will be interesting to see if my quality of sleep improves.

Main photo by Larisa Koshkina


Posted from my blog with SteemPress : http://ramblingandscrambling.co.uk/health/a-natural-sleep-remedy-get-outside/

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This was a wonderful write and I am with you 100% on the walking in the sunlight. I walk every day and I can honestly say that I have never had trouble sleeping and I owe most of it to nature and to hear that natural light plays a part in it is so huge surprise!

Well, it was nice to read and I sort of suspected it, but, did not know it for a fact!

Thank you and have a great day!


Thanks @dswigle, and thanks for the tip too!

You are so lucky to have never had trouble sleeping. I usually get a good night's sleep, but every now and then I get insomnia - usually I call it "excitement-induced insomnia", as it tends to happen when I've got a big event ahead the next day!

But I totally agree - there is nothing like getting out in nature to feed the soul :)

Such an interesting read the days I get out walking on a nice day I sleep so much more soundly so I do agree with the theory, but didnt know so much about it till reading this post

Glad you enjoyed reading my post @tattoodjay. I think it's amazing that something as natural as daylight can be so good for our mental and physical health :)

Yes often there is such a natural and simple way to improve things without meds and such

Nothing like fresh air and a day in the sun to give one a good night's sleep! Insomnia is a real problem for many, thank you so much for the interesting and informative post @natubat!

Thanks @lizelle - so glad you enjoyed my post.

Sunlight does wonders, I totally agree with you. A half an hour walk on adaily basis can make one sleep like a baby. I learnt this years back when I was fighting insomnia due to my Lyme. I was dragging myself outside and coming back with a totally different mood and energy. Great post!

Thanks @lymepoet! Glad you enjoyed it.

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Totally agreed, after a trip our sleep improves. Even i personally believe when we get out, our sleep and digestion both get directly impacted. Great information with the cortisol.

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Thanks @vibesforlife! I agree about the digestion too - I find that exercise really helps with that.

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Yes I do miss walking around places with fresh air. The capital city of Kuala Lumpur is so hazy now from all the "highway" construction it makes it almost impossible to keep the windows open even though it's from a high rise.
And yes fresh air and sunlight is very important for us for its oxygen and vitamin D, especially with all the blue lights exposure that is doing more harm than good.

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Ah - I feel for you. I spent years living in London, which was really polluted. I really appreciated fresh air after that! And vitamin D is so important too.
Thanks for your comments.

This is an important message!
Yap! I find out that days when I was outside for more hours in the sunlight, I tend to have more energy and sleep much deeper too.

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