Forest bathing: What it is & how it can help you sleep better

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Research has repeatedly proven that being out in nature can help you sleep better. This is something certified forest bathers have known for quite some time.

 

With its origins in Japan, forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, emerged in the 1980s as a mindfulness practice in which devotees spent uninterrupted, quiet moments among trees, resulting in improved mental and physical health. The custom has made its way to the United States, where it continues to surge in popularity.

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“There is real growing interest in the connection between nature and health,” says Jane Dobson, mindful nature guide and founder of Mind The Forest, LLC. Dobson is certified by the Kripalu School of Mindful Outdoor Leadership and the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy.

 

More than anyone, Dobson understands the therapeutic benefits of spending time in nature. “No doubt, just getting outside for fresh air is beneficial, and most people identify feeling better after time spent outdoors, whether physically or emotionally,” she says.

 

Dobson explains that when we go out into a natural environment where we slow down and deliberately engage all our senses, our bodies respond in several ways that promote overall health.

 

One of these benefits is improved sleep. “I think we all experience better sleep when we feel better,” Dobson says. “When we are more relaxed, we are happier and healthier.”

 

With spring on the horizon, promising warmer weather and increased opportunities to go outdoors, it’s the perfect time to bring a little more nature into your day. Read on to discover how forest bathing boosts health (and sleep in the process) and how to harness the benefits.

The sleep and health benefits of forest bathing

Experts are increasingly confirming a direct connection between spending time outdoors and improved health and sleep.

For example, one University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign study found that people over 65 sleep better when they have access to nature. Another study from the University of Colorado Boulder showed that weekend camping trips can help reset one’s circadian rhythm because of the exposure to natural sunlight.

 

“There is now a growing body of scientific evidence that demonstrates the health benefits of spending time in nature,” Dobson says. “The empirical data shows that even after small periods of time in nature, there are real and measurable health benefits: our stress hormone cortisol decreases, our blood pressure lowers, our heart rate decreases, and there can be a reduction in inflammation that causes many health issues.”

 

In addition to the physical benefits, the mental benefits include elevated mood, improved focus, reduced anxiety, a decrease in negative ruminative thoughts, and better sleep, according to Dobson.

 

“This is because nature immersion activates our parasympathetic nervous system,” Dobson says. “This is commonly referred to as ‘rest and digest,’ or the relaxation response.”

 

This is the opposite of the “fight or flight” response, where your body begins pumping out adrenaline so you can jump out of the way of a bus or, in the case of our ancestors, run away from a lion.

 

“Today, many of us operate in a chronic low intensity ‘fight or flight’ environment on a daily basis,” says Dobson. “This level of daily stress results in all sorts of health ailments, such as physical disease, anxiety, depression, inability to focus, and insomnia.”

 

But deep down, our bodies are “hard-wired to the natural environment,” as Dobson puts it. It’s in our ancestry to want (and need) to be outdoors.

Hands holding sun

Forest bathing, or simply spending time in nature, helps us calm down, which allows our bodies to heal and restore themselves. Dobson says experiencing the world through our senses, such as listening to the sound of leaves or feeling the touch of wind on our skin, makes us feel alive and present.

 

In other words? All this tranquility, and the health gains that come with it, translates to better sleep.

How to try forest bathing for better sleep

You don’t have to pack your bags and head out to the wilderness for weeks of nature immersion unless that’s something you have the time for. You can work nature into your daily schedule with the help of these tips.

Aim for two hours a week in nature

According to a 2019 study, spending a minimum of 120 minutes per week in nature boosts general health and wellbeing. That works out to just under 20 minutes a day.

 

“Forest bathing or mindful time in nature is a practice, just like yoga or meditation,” Dobson says. “How much time do you need to feel the health benefits? Two hours a week. Anything less shows no meaningful health benefits.”

 

She points to a 2021 article from The Wall Street Journal that says spending time in nature is the new “10,000 steps” for improving your health.

 

“Just like fitness tracker apps, there are even apps being developed to track time spent in nature,” adds Dobson. (Learn about the benefits of sleeping outside.)

Experience the present moment

While you may have to double down on your time commitment to go outdoors, you don’t have to commit to learning everything about the outdoors. In fact, it’s just as simple as putting your phone away and living in the present moment.

 

“Forest bathing doesn’t require you to be a naturalist able to identify plants and trees,” Dobson says. “This is about getting out of your thinking mind and experiencing the present moment through your senses.”

 

Breathe in the smell of freshly fallen rain. Deeply observe the vibrant colors of flowers. Listen to the birds singing in the trees.

Keep it to your neighborhood

You’ll be pleased to know you don’t have to travel to a national park every day to reap the benefits of nature. Instead, you can experience it right out your front door.

 

“You don’t have to go far,” says Dobson. “Any green space near your home works.”

 

For instance, even if you take the same route every day while walking your dog, you can observe how the seasons change the scenery, any new vegetables growing in a garden, or just the green grass that lines your route.

Try a guided walk

To really take a dive into forest therapy and nature immersion, Dobson recommends signing up for a walk with a professional forest bathing guide. She suggests visiting the Association of Nature & Forest Therapy Guides & Programs website to find a guide in your area.

Read up

If there aren’t any guided walks available in your region, Dobson says it can be just as good to develop a practice on your own. She advises doing some homework, which includes reading the book Your Guide to Forest Bathing by M. Amos Clifford.

 

The bottom line: If you’re struggling with insomnia or other sleep-related problems, spending time in nature might be one way you can improve your shuteye. “Getting outside is so simple, it costs nothing, and it may just help,” says Dobson.

 

Ever wondered why being out in the sun makes you feel so sleepy? Check out our article on why the sun makes you tired to learn more.

 

This article originally appeared on Saatva.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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This singer sleeps in an oxygen chamber (and other celeb sleep issues)

 

It doesn’t matter how luxurious and comfy your bedroom is: No one is protected from the challenges of getting a good night’s sleep. That holds true for even the rich and famous, as the Cleveland Clinic reports that about 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders.

 

So, while celebrity lives might look glamorous on the red carpet, when the lights are off, many of them suffer from the same sleep issues we do. Whether it’s anxiety, a partner who snores or an unpredictable work schedule, these 10 A-listers have talked about their sleep problems publicly.

 

 

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“The Morning Show” actress recently snagged Best Actress in a Drama Series at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, but Aniston says her real-life A.M. rituals are still “a work in progress,” according to a February 2019 interview on Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global Podcast. Like many of us, Aniston noted how she still sleeps with her phone by her bedside, which makes her feel anxious and stressed.

 

This isn’t the first time Aniston has alluded to her sleep issues. In 2016, she revealed her struggles with insomnia and that keeping electronics off at night has made a big difference in her sleep.

 

To help her unwind before bed, Aniston practices some meditation and yoga. “I also do a quick meditation before I get into bed, even if it’s just for five minutes,” Aniston told Huffington. “There are also some yoga poses that I’ve found to be quite helpful in relaxing my mind, even if it’s just a simple downward dog and some stretching.”

 

If you suffer from anxiety, it might be a good idea to take a page off of Aniston’s sleep script. Studies show that yoga can help relieve anxiety and boost mood. For instance, a small November 2010 study in TheJournal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine finds that practicing yoga helps improve mood and decrease anxiety. Moreover, an October 2016 study in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research suggests that mindfulness meditation can help improve sleep in patients with insomnia.

 

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Chrissy Teigen loves to cook—it’s why she decided to write a cookbook and launch her food blog Cravings. Naturally, the model-turned-cookbook author gets nightly cravings. So how does she satisfy them? Night eggs. “Each night before bed, as I eat my night eggs, if I’m not on the Twitter, I catch up on my favorite subreddits,” she wrote in a Twitter post.

 

When one of Teigen’s followers asked her to explain her night eggs habit, she said, “I can’t sleep without being overly full. I take two hard boiled eggs to bed every night and eat them when I randomly wake up.” Teigen added, “It used to be beef jerky, but I’d wake up too puffy.”

 

Michael J. Breus, PhD, clinical psychologist and fellow at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, explained to Saatva in a previous post that one of the most common reasons people wake up in the middle of the night is because they’re hungry.

 

“Each stage of sleep uses a certain amount of glucose,” Breus told us. “During REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, your brain actually uses more glucose than when you’re awake. During Stage 4 of sleep—when your body repairs muscles and tissues and helps boosts immunity—you burn just as much glucose.” To avoid hangry sleep, Breus suggests eating a bedtime snack that’s rich in carbs and protein.

 

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If you have a partner who has completely different bedtime habits than you, then you’ll be sympathetic to Lowe’s sleep situation. During a May 2018 interview on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” the “9-1-1 Lone Star” actor shared he’s been lacking in the snooze department because his wife plays Family Feud on her iPad until five or six in the morning. “I sleep better on the road because I’m not with my wife,” he told DeGeneres. “It’s the truth. I love her enough to speak the truth,” he said.

 

While Lowe still shares the same bed with his wife when he’s at home, many couples have benefited from having “sleep divorces,” in which they sleep in separate beds or bedrooms.

 

“Separate sleep environments allow people to sleep with the room the way they like it, and this can lead to better sleep,” Lynelle Schneeberg, PsyD, pediatric sleep psychologist and author of Become Your Child’s Sleep Coach: The Bedtime Doctor’s 5-Step Guide, Ages 3-10, previously told Saatva. According to a 2005 National Sleep Foundation survey, about 31% of respondents say they or their partner sleep in a separate bed, bedroom or on the couch to make sure they get a good night’s sleep.

 

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Do you ever toss and turn in bed the night before a big presentation or event? You’re not alone, but imagine feeling that way every day. Known for her spectacular performances and chart-topping songs, Lady Gaga’s larger-than-life lifestyle has her constantly living and breathing music, which has affected her sleep.

 

Lady Gaga revealed in an interview with OK! magazine that she often has sleepless nights because of her work and passion as a musician. “My passion is so strong I can’t sleep—I haven’t slept for three days,” she said in the interview“I lie in bed and try to pray and breathe. I have a very overactive mind. I’m the sort of person who would never take medication to calm myself. It’s maddening. But I love what comes out.”

 

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The Rock is serious about his workout schedule. In fact, his training is so important that he’ll sacrifice sleep just to get some “me time.” In a December 2017 interview with Variety, Johnson said he sleeps only three to five hours a night just so he can squeeze in a workout before his whole family wakes up.

 

“The only thing that’s regimented is I have to wake up before the sun gets up,” he said in the interview. “And I have my two hours alone when no one else is up and the house is quiet.” During his alone time, Johnson says he meditates, works out and gets some work done.

 

While The Rock might feel productive getting only a couple hours of sleep at night, the reality is that the average person needs more slumber. That’s why the National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get seven to nine hours of sleep each night.

 

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Lowe and his wife aren’t the only couple that might snooze better in separate beds. Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos recently opened up about their slumber woes on an episode of “Live with Kelly and Ryan.” Specifically, they spoke about how Consuelos’s snoring has kept Ripa up at night. “I have taken up snoring, which is weird,” Consuelos said on the show. “It’s not something you can control, and I wish I could because I know you need your sleep.”

 

He added, “We read yesterday that snoring actually has a major impact on the person you’re sleeping with and kills them.”

 

There’s some truth to that: About 26% of respondents from the 2005 National Sleep Foundation survey say they lose about 49 minutes of sleep each night because of their partner’s sleep problems, which includes snoring.

 

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Justin Bieber recently revealed on Instagram that he was diagnosed with Lyme disease, an infection caused by tick bites. He said the combination of Lyme disease and a serious case of mono “affected my skin, brain function, energy, and overall health.” Research has shown that the pain associated with Lyme disease can affect sleep and make it more difficult to get a good night’s rest.

 

Last year, Bieber also shared that he had been coping with depression, which can affect his energy levels and sleep patterns. He even posted Instagram photos of himself sleeping inside a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to help treat his mental health issues. The chamber allows him to breathe in air with higher levels of oxygen, but there aren’t any known studies that show it can specifically help with depression.

 

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Juggling a busy career as a TV producer and writer with being a mom to a toddler, Mindy Kaling has her hands full and probably wishes she could get more sleep at night. In a Twitter post from April 2019, Kaling shared a letter board from mom blogger Danielle Rae that read: “Mom Sleep: It’s like regular sleep but without the sleep.”

 

Kaling captioned her Twitter post, “I feel heard.” All moms of babies and young children know the daily battle of getting enough sleep. A 2004 National Sleep Foundation poll finds that three in 10 parents report experiencing insomnia at least a few nights a week.

 

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Songstress Demi Lovato has opened up about their issues with depression, eating disorders, and drug and alcohol addictions (and how those have affected her sleep) with her fans. In MTV’s “Demi Lovato: Stay Strong” documentary, she discussed her struggles to stay healthy and sober while she builds her career and tours.

 

“I didn’t really realize I was sick,” Lovato said in the documentary. “I thought that writing seven songs in one night was normal. I thought that staying up until 5:30 in the morning is normal. I just couldn’t sleep. My mind was racing and it’s an ongoing thing and I still learn how to cope with it.”

 

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When the country star was pregnant with her second child in 2018, Underwood voiced a common issue many pregnant women know all too well: pregnancy insomnia. In a tweet posted at 4:29 a.m., the Grammy award-winning singer wrote, “Dear pregnancy insomnia, Please go bother someone else…like dads. Go bother dads. My husband sleeps so soundly and peacefully and I’ve been awake for 2 hours (so far). How is this fair? Imma lose my mind!”

 

A few hours after tweeting, Underwood revealed she had done some online shopping in the middle of the night. “Worst part about insomnia = waking up this morning to see what I bought online while I was up,” she wrote. “I just realized I spent over $600 on makeup.”

 

Approximately 78% of women experience pregnancy insomnia, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Some of the most common causes of insomnia during pregnancy include heartburn, back pain, frequent urination, and anxiety. An October 2017 study from the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine suggests that depressive symptoms, nighttime eating, snoring, and tingling in the legs are all associated with insomnia during pregnancy.

 

Want to improve your sleep habits? Here are healthy bedtime habits to steal from people around the world.

 

Related:

This article
originally appeared on 
Saatva.comand was
syndicated by
MediaFeed.org.

 

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