Gardening Might Actually Help You Sleep Better, So Get Your Green Thumbs Up

We have affiliate relationships where we are paid a commission on sales through some of our links. See our disclosures.
how to wake yourself up

Fresh air and physical activity are famed for priming the mind and body for a restful sleep. (1) Combine those features with a pleasurable hobby that encourages stress relief and mental wellbeing, and you’ll have an even greater chance of easily drifting off into a peaceful slumber. (2) One pursuit that encompasses all of the above is gardening, and a new study suggests it’s an effective way to get better sleep.

Gardening is a popular and rewarding hobby enjoyed by 55 percent of U.S. households (71.5 million). (3) Multiple studies show that gardening improves well-being, lowers stress, and helps people stay active in a pleasurable and satisfying way. 

The Study at a Glance

The study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, looked into the sleep patterns of 62,098 adults, dividing them into groups based on their exercise habits — those who don’t exercise, gardeners, and those who do other types of exercisers. (4) They used a questionnaire to explore various sleep issues like too much or too little sleep, probable insomnia, feeling sleepy during the day, and sleep apnea. 

The researchers focused on people with multiple sleep issues and examined each sleep problem individually. By comparing the sleep quality of gardeners with non-gardeners and other exercisers, they sought insight into how gardening can impact sleep.

Results of the study showed that gardening is connected to fewer sleep issues — like not sleeping enough, likely having insomnia, feeling sleepy during the day, and sleep apnea — especially when compared to those who don’t exercise at all. Interestingly, it also revealed that the more time people spend gardening, the less likely they are to have these sleep complaints. In other words, gardening has a beneficial dose-response relationship with sleep — the more you garden, the better your sleep is likely to be.

How Gardening Improves Sleep

Jamie Shipley, a gardening expert and Managing Director of Hedges Direct, says, “We might not realize, but by weaving gardening into our lives, we are also nurturing our own mental health—spending time in the garden is a great way to keep your mental health in check [and] breathing fresh air does us all the world of good, especially when we are surrounded by plants.”

Improves Mental Health

It’s true that mental health has a huge impact on sleep. Stress and anxiety make falling asleep and achieving restful, quality sleep more challenging by activating the nervous system and preventing the relaxing energy necessary for a calm, restful body and mind. (5) Plenty of research shows that gardeners experience lower levels of stress and are more resilient, meaning they are also better able to cope with stress — particularly if it includes a social aspect. (6)

Shipley says gardening provides opportunities to connect with people and that being social and feeling valued by other people is an essential human need. “Allotments or community garden projects are a great way to meet other people and get involved in the gardening whilst having a chat,” she says.

By looking after your backyard, you can transform it into a hub of social interaction, says Shipley. Gardens and green spaces are a great place to meet with friends and family. “Whether it’s a summer barbeque with family or a drink with a friend, we all feel better when we have had some social interaction,” she adds.

Furthermore, research shows that engaging in enjoyable leisure activities boosts psychological and physical wellbeing, particularly sleep. A study investigating this relationship found that participating in a mix of enjoyable activities leads to better sleep quality and efficiency. Moreover, those with higher scores also experienced more positive emotions, greater life satisfaction, and a more active engagement with life. Plus, gardening has even been shown to lower stress levels better than reading a book. (7)

Provides Physical Activity

There’s strong evidence that being active improves sleep in every way — it combats insomnia, increases sleep hours, boosts sleep quality, regulates breathing during the night, and provides feel-good hormones conducive to better wellbeing and sleep habits.

While you might not think of gardening as fitting into a fitness routine, According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it qualifies as a form of exercise. Yardwork tasks like raking or planting bulbs, or more strenuous activities such as shoveling, moving large bags of soil, or pushing a wheelbarrow, gardening can be physically challenging. Each of these activities engages major muscle groups and increases your heart rate, a fact that may not come as a surprise to anyone who has felt muscle soreness after a day spent toiling in the soil.

The same study examining how leisure activities affect wellbeing also found that more time spent pursuing leisure activities correlated with a healthier body mass index (BMI), smaller waist circumference, lower blood pressure, and reduced cortisol levels — all signs of better metabolic health. Typically, people with higher BMI, larger waist circumference, higher blood pressure, and other symptoms of metabolic syndrome are more likely to have insomnia and sleep less than six hours per night. 

Exposure to Sunlight and Fresh Air

Getting enough daylight is paramount for maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm, your internal clock that manages the cycle of sleep and wakefulness over a 24-hour period. Brains rely on the presence of light and darkness to adjust this cycle, interpreting light as a signal to stay awake and alert and darkness as a cue that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep. 

Spending time outdoors while gardening offers a great opportunity to get in more daylight hours and take a break from harsh artificial lights. What’s more, being outdoors in natural light promotes energy and wakefulness when you need it most during the day while helping regulate sleep-inducing melatonin production so you’ll fall asleep more readily at night.

Taking a break from poor indoor air quality (IAQ) is another way gardening improves sleep. Being exposed more to indoor pollutants is linked to a rise in respiratory sleep issues and other negative effects that impact sleep.

Positivity and Mindfulness

Along the same lines as improving mental health, gardening can increase positivity and be a facilitator of mindfulness practice — both of which can improve sleep. “Slowing down to listen to the birds, feel the wind on our face, and smell the flowers are great ways to focus on the moment and step away from our stressful thoughts and worries for a while,” says Shipley. 

Gardening is also an effective way to increase positivity for ourselves and others. “If we make a positive impact on other people or the world around us, we feel a greater sense of self-worth and motivation,” says Shipley. “By taking care of your garden and planting lots of hedges, trees, and shrubs, you can also help to give nature a home.” Ideas include planting hedges to help local wildlife and contributing to the fight against climate change, feeding the birds in your garden, and planting bee-friendly shrubs like lavender.

Shipley adds that spending some focused time noticing gardens, plants, and nature is a great way to improve your mental health. She recommends trying some gardening mindfulness activities:

  • Take a moment to notice how your garden changes through the seasons.
  • What will change throughout the year, and what are you looking forward to seeing this year?
  • What birds have visited your garden recently, and are there any nests being built?
  • Photograph, sketch, or paint your favorite section of the garden or local park.
  • Cut some flowers or foliage from your yard and take a moment to make an arrangement for your house.”
  • 1. Ewert A, Chang Y. Levels of Nature and Stress Response. Behav Sci (Basel). 2018 May 17;8(5):49. doi: 10.3390/bs8050049. PMID: 29772763; PMCID: PMC5981243.

  • 2. Magdalena Albrecht-Bisset, Dan Wang, Krystle Martin, Pierre Côté, Efrosini A. Papaconstantinou, “A cross-sectional study of the association between sleep quality and anxiety in postsecondary students in Ontario,” Sleep Epidemiology, Volume 3, 2023, 100062, ISSN 2667-3436,

  • 3. Mobilian, Julianne; “Scotts Miracle-Gro shares uptick of gardening statistics related to COVID-19,” Garden Center Magazine;; June 8, 2020.

  • 4. Kaiyue Wang, Yaqi Li, Muzi Na, Chen Wang, Djibril M. Ba, Liang Sun, Xiang Gao,
    “Association between gardening and multiple sleep complaints: A nationwide study of 62,098 adults,” Journal of Affective Disorders, Volume 355, 2024, Pages 131-135, ISSN 0165-0327,

  • 5. Martin EI, Ressler KJ, Binder E, Nemeroff CB. The neurobiology of anxiety disorders: brain imaging, genetics, and psychoneuroendocrinology. Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2009 Sep;32(3):549-75. doi: 10.1016/j.psc.2009.05.004. PMID: 19716990; PMCID: PMC3684250.

  • 6. Koay WI, Dillon D. Community Gardening: Stress, Well-Being, and Resilience Potentials. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2020; 17(18):6740.

  • 7. Van Den Berg AE, Custers MHG. Gardening Promotes Neuroendocrine and Affective Restoration from Stress. Journal of Health Psychology. 2011;16(1):3-11. doi:10.1177/1359105310365577

Rachel MacPherson

Rachel MacPherson

Rachel MacPherson, BA, is a CPT, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Certified Exercise Nutrition Specialist, Certified Pre/Post-Partum Fitness Trainer, and Pain-Free Performance Specialist. She's passionate about providing readers with straightforward, actionable tips to make living an active, vibrant, fulfilling life easier. When she's not writing, you can find her lifting heavy things, reading, exploring outdoors, or watching the newest iteration of the Star Wars Universe. She lives with her family and pets in beautiful Nova Scotia, Canada.

Leave a Comment