Breathing fresh air is more important than you might think. If you've ever fallen asleep stretched out on your towel at the beach or draped across the hammock in your backyard, you've experienced the powerful impact fresh air can have on sleep. There's more oxygen outside than there is inside your bedroom because you're not in an enclosed space, recycling the oxygen into carbon dioxide. More oxygen results in an increase in serotonin, which makes you feel calm, happy and relaxed.
Cue the sandman.
But oxygen isn't all that plays a role in the link between fresh, outdoor air and better quality of sleep; other factors are at play as well.
Fresh Air Makes You Feel Good
Time spent in the great outdoors has been linked to lower stress levels and a reduction in the symptoms of ADHD, say the experts at Prevention Magazine. It also triggers your body to make more vitamin D -- a vitamin that's essential for the absorption of calcium. This helps your bones grow strong and helps to prevent the onset of certain cancers, as well as a host of other chronic diseases such as heart disease, depression, and diabetes. A healthy body is a body that functions more efficiently, which translates into better sleep.
Fresh Air Tempts You to Exercise
Autumn is just around the corner, which means a change in the air is also on the horizon. What's the first thing you want to do when you head outside on a gorgeous fall day? Romp in the leaves? Do a little yard work? These activities all burn calories -- forcing your body to expend extra energy that makes you feel tired afterward. There's nothing so sleep-inducing as a day spent outside in a cool, brisk breeze and a warm cup of cocoa after.
Fresh Air Raises or Lowers Your Body Temperature
It's a scientific fact that we sleep best in cool, comfortable environments, and fresh air plays a big role. Heading outside on a cool day helps cool your body temperature, which makes your body work harder to regulate it. This burns calories and uses energy, much in the same way that exercise does. Your body also expends energy when it's forced to cool itself down on a hot day. So whether you're heading out for a day at the beach during the long, hot months of summer, or you're joining your kids for the building of an epic snowman -- expect to feel tired once you return indoors.
Not getting your daily quota of outside time (experts recommend between 3 and 20 minutes a day, based upon skin pigment) could pave the way to sleep disorders. Those who are dark-skinned or already tanned require more time outdoors to reap the full benefits of the sun's impact on vitamin D production. Those who are fair-skinned require only minutes. So if you're one of the millions of Americans who doesn't sleep well at night, try penciling in a few outdoor activities each day to give your body that needed exposure to sunshine and light. Take a walk after dinner, or sit by the pool with the kids on the weekends. Take up a new hobby such as hiking or kayaking. Even sitting out on the deck, waiting for the burgers to cook, counts as time spent outside the house. All will help you sleep better at night, and a better night's sleep means a more enjoyable, more productive morning after.