Over the last several months we’ve talked a lot about sleep medicine.  This month I’d like to share with you some interesting information about the healing power of nature.  The Healing Power of Nature is one of the principles of naturopathic medicine, which sets it apart from other medical philosophies.  As the year comes to a close, you may be thinking about how you want 2010 to be different.  Using this information will get the new year off to a great start.

Medical research has shown many ways that being in a natural environment with views of trees, birds, and plants of all kinds improves health as opposed to being in a ‘built’ environment.  ‘Built environment’ means the man-made cars, concrete, high-rises and pollution most of us are surrounded by in our urban neighborhoods.  Here’s a sample of the research findings:

–         Hospital patients recover more quickly, require fewer painkillers, and have fewer post-op complications when they have a view of trees and animals out their window.

–         Office workers report less job stress, fewer illnesses and overall higher job satisfaction when they have a view of nature outside their desk.

–         When roads are surrounded by a greenbelt drivers’ blood pressure and heart rate decrease, as does their sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system.

–         When urban people go into a natural setting for a few days (like on a camping trip) their concentration and problem-solving improve while mental fatigue decreases.

In our modern lifestyle we spend less time outdoors than people did historically.  Recently the book Last Child in the Woods brought attention to this disconnection from nature that children experience.  In my practice many sleep patients report problems with stress and anxiety.  One of my recommendations is to cultivate a habit of being outside regularly, as lower stress, lower sympathetic nervous charge, and greater feelings of pleasure will improve sleep.