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Research: Fewer Screens, More Green Space Mean Better Sleep

Spending more time outdoors and avoiding electronics in the hours before bedtime has been linked to a better, more restful night's sleep. Credit: Lisa Runnels/Morguefile.
Spending more time outdoors and avoiding electronics in the hours before bedtime has been linked to a better, more restful night's sleep. Credit: Lisa Runnels/Morguefile.
September 1, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS – Sleep deprivation is considered a form of torture, but according to the National Sleep Foundation one in five Americans gets less than six hours of slumber a night.

Researchers report the answer may lie in spending more time in nature – and less time in front of a bright screen.

Diana Grigsby-Toussaint, professor of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois, says a recent study by the school found a link between quality sleep and access to nature, including green space.

"Also access to bodies of water, and how much sunlight people have in a particular part of the country," she says. "All those things were looked upon as positive attributes of the natural environment."

The link was much stronger for men and those age 65 and older. In a separate study, researchers at Rush, Brown and Monash universities found that light emitted from tablets, phones and computers can significantly disrupt sleep, especially for children between the ages of nine and 15.

Stephanie Crowley with Rush University's Medical Center says holding a bright light close to your eyes makes it more difficult to fall asleep and wake early. She suggests parents shut down kids' electronic devices about two hours before bedtime.

"That will help maintain the circadian timing system and the 'brain clock' to synchronize to going to bed at an earlier time," she says, "so the youngster can actually get up in the morning for school."

Grigsby-Toussaint adds that poor sleep has an impact on a person's mood, performance and health.

"Most times, people tend to think of sleep as something that maybe is not as important as eating, for example," she says. "But sleep certainly affects so many other aspects of your life that I really don't think you can underestimate the importance of good, quality sleep."

In addition to shutting down electronic devices and engaging with nature, Grigsby-Toussaint also suggests reducing caffeine intake, following a regular bedtime routine and regular exercise to get better sleep.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN