6 benefits of sleeping outdoors: why nights outside can be good for your health

Kelty Women’s Cosmic Down 20
(Image credit: Kelty)

When the weather is fine, the benefits of sleeping outdoors are plain to see. Many people enjoy getting away from busy lives for a camping adventure, including sleeping in a tent as part of a backpacking trip, wild camping in a bivy sack or staying at a campsite for an extended holiday. Even a short nap in your best hammock in your back garden could be enough to reap the benefits of sleeping outdoors. 

Here’s six reasons you should catch 40 winks outside from time to time.

1. Sleeping outdoors is good for mental wellbeing

Spending time outside has been scientifically shown to aid mental health, especially by reducing stress. For example, a study in the Journal of Environment and Behaviour suggests that “viewing tree canopy in communities can significantly aid stress recovery”. Another study by the University of Glasgow reveals that regular exercise in a natural environment could cut the risk of suffering from poor mental health by half. 

So, it stands to reason that spending a night outdoors camping and surrounded by nature will be a mental health booster. Make sure you choose a camping spot that takes advantage of the best that nature can offer, including a great view, lots of greenery and trees, and ideally also includes a walk, run or bike ride. 

Man napping in a hammock

Reset and recharge by sleeping outdoors (Image credit: Getty)

2. Sleeping outside can reset circadian rhythms

A circadian rhythm, or circadian cycle, is a natural, internal process that regulates a person’s sleep-wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours. However, many of us suffer with circadian rhythm upsets, such as difficulties going to sleep, waking too early or waking in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep. 

Researchers from the University of Colorado in Boulder found that spending just 48 hours outdoors can help to reset circadian rhythms. One of the benefits of sleeping outdoors is that it can help shift a sleep schedule to line up with natural light cycles. This means that after a camping trip, you should naturally be able to go to bed and wake up earlier.

The study also concluded that if you spend a weekend sleeping outdoors, you will wake up feeling brighter and more refreshed – and that this well-being will last longer throughout the day. 

Woman with a hot drink in sleeping bag

Sleeping outdoors is believed to be good for your health (Image credit: Getty)

3. Sleeping outdoors can be an immune system booster 

Some studies appear to show that the immune system is boosted when spending time outdoors.  A round-up of reviewed studies points to the positive effects of nature exposure on “immunological health parameters”, including anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, anti-asthmatic effects or increased NK (natural killer) cell activity.

In addition, research has shown that the chemicals that plants release to protect themselves, called phytoncides, may also offer protection to humans. The Japanese discovered this long ago and call it shinrin-yoku or forest-bathing.

Sleeping bag suspended between trees at night

Sleeping in nature is one of life's simple pleasures (Image credit: Getty)

4. Fresh air is good for us

According to research, including this study,  spending time indoors means that you can suffer the ill-effects of stale air, or rooms and homes that high in CO2, including a greater potential for illness and disease, as well as slower metabolism and fatigue. 

So, it’s likely that the opposite occurs when we have more fresh air, including when hiking, running, cycling and sleeping outdoors. It’s thought to be likely that fresher air helps to improve brain and body function.

Camp set up in forest clearing

Camping is part of many great adventures  (Image credit: Getty)

5. Sleeping outdoors can inspire adventure

The chances are that if you are planning to sleep outdoors, you will also be enjoying an adventure. It could be a multi-day hike with nights of wild camping, or a few nights away with your partner or friends at a favourite campsite. Whatever the plan, spending time outdoors means you will be away from normal lives and routines, where you can reset your mid, reconnect with nature and have fun with friends.

Many people say that once they have experience the fun of an outdoors activity or camping trip, they are inspired to repeat it again and again.

6. You'll love your own bed even more

While there are many benefits of sleeping outdoors, it's also true that there is little to beat the feeling of returning to your home and bed. There are many modern luxuries and comforts for campers, yet your own bed is likely to be the most comfortable of all. 

This means that some time away fo a camping trip often brings new, or renewed, perspective to how good your own home life is, too.

If you have never slept outdoors, now is the time to try – and if you are a keen camper, when are you planning your next adventure to reap the benefits of sleeping outdoors?

This article is part of Advnture's Sleep Week 2022 (running from Monday 22 August to Sunday 28 August), our in-depth look at how to choose the best gear for sleeping outdoors and get a better night's rest in the backcountry.

Fiona Russell
Outdoor writer

Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favorite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing (both downhill and backcountry). Aside from her own adventures, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy getting outside and exploring, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.