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Open Access Research

A before and after comparison of the effects of forest walking on the sleep of a community-based sample of people with sleep complaints

Emi Morita1*, Makoto Imai2, Masako Okawa3, Tomiyasu Miyaura4 and Soichiro Miyazaki3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Preventive Medicine, Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine, 65 Tsurumai-Cho, Showa-Ku, Nagoya, 466-8550, Japan

2 Department of Psychiatry, Shiga University of Medical Science, Seta Tsukinowa-cho, Otsu, Shiga 520-2192, Japan

3 Department of Sleep Medicine, Shiga University of Medical Science, Seta Tsukinowa-cho, Otsu, Shiga, 520-2192, Japan

4 Faculty of Science and Technology, Ryukoku University, 1-5 Yokotani, Seta Oe-cho, Otsu, Shiga, 520-2194, Japan

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BioPsychoSocial Medicine 2011, 5:13  doi:10.1186/1751-0759-5-13

Published: 14 October 2011

Abstract

Background

Sleep disturbance is a major health issue in Japan. This before-after study aimed to evaluate the immediate effects of forest walking in a community-based population with sleep complaints.

Methods

Participants were 71 healthy volunteers (43 men and 28 women). Two-hour forest-walking sessions were conducted on 8 different weekend days from September through December 2005. Sleep conditions were compared between the nights before and after walking in a forest by self-administered questionnaire and actigraphy data.

Results

Two hours of forest walking improved sleep characteristics; impacting actual sleep time, immobile minutes, self-rated depth of sleep, and sleep quality. Mean actual sleep time estimated by actigraphy on the night after forest walking was 419.8 ± 128.7 (S.D.) minutes whereas that the night before was 365.9 ± 89.4 minutes (n = 42). Forest walking in the afternoon improved actual sleep time and immobile minutes compared with forest walking in the forenoon. Mean actual sleep times did not increase after forenoon walks (n = 26) (the night before and after forenoon walks, 380.0 ± 99.6 and 385.6 ± 101.7 minutes, respectively), whereas afternoon walks (n = 16) increased mean actual sleep times from 342.9 ± 66.2 to 475.4 ± 150.5 minutes. The trend of mean immobile minutes was similar to the abovementioned trend of mean actual sleep times.

Conclusions

Forest walking improved nocturnal sleep conditions for individuals with sleep complaints, possibly as a result of exercise and emotional improvement. Furthermore, extension of sleep duration was greater after an afternoon walk compared to a forenoon walk. Further study of a forest-walking program in a randomized controlled trial is warranted to clarify its effect on people with insomnia.

Keywords:
forest walking (Shinrin-yoku); actual sleep time; actigraphy; St. Mary's Hospital Sleep Questionnaire; circadian phase