The Benefits of Sleeping Outdoors in the Early Years
There’s something wonderful about falling asleep in the outdoor breeze, while the dappled sunlight filters through the branches of trees around you. At Green Leaves, some of the children have been enjoying naptime outdoors. Not only do they delight in the novelty of it, they also reap the many benefits of this practice.
Outdoor napping is commonly practiced in Scandinavian countries where children are accustomed to sleeping outdoors in wintry conditions. In many of these countries the practice is believed to help establish a connection to nature as well as health benefits. In countries where daylight is shorter, it’s believed that this practice gives children the opportunity for more exposure to daylight and minimise time spent in heated rooms.
In Australia, our milder climate allows us to explore this during the cooler months, while following safe sleep guidelines to ensure best practice. Here are some reasons why sleeping outdoors is beneficial in the early years:
Exposure to natural light – Some studies suggest that exposure to natural light helps reset the body clock and adjust circadian rhythms. More melatonin is produced for a restful sleep, unlike in artificial light which can potentially interfere with sleep quality.
Increased immunity – Plants emit phytoncides, which humans can benefit from by lowering blood pressure and other health boosters. Simply put, plants release oxygen we need to breathe in, while absorbing the carbon dioxide we breathe out.
Better functioning of body and brain – Higher quality oxygen will improve the functioning of the brain and body for better productivity, mobility, recovery, and more. Whereas inside air, with less fresh turnover, can be laden with carbon dioxide and can lead to lethargy and a slower metabolism.
Reduced stress – The visuals of trees have been proven to reduce stress levels, as do the sounds of nature and the outdoors.
Improved learning – Sleep quality is improved, as children may sleep longer, deeper, and more serenely when outside. They wake up feeling more refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to learn! Their cognitive attentiveness, alertness, and awareness is often higher.
Better physical and emotional development – With the exposure to more oxygen, outdoor napping can increase children’s brain, bone, and muscular development, along with their social and emotional well-being. Also, children take in more sensory stimuli like the warmth of sunlight, the sound, and feel of the wind, while sleeping outdoors. Their brain will process all this information, creating new neural pathways to process all the incoming information, and in turn boost their cognitive, motor, and language abilities.
Have you considered sleeping outdoors? Perhaps you’ve slept in a swag under the night skies during a camping trip. If you haven’t tried it, go on – the benefits are endless!