A coastal walk will make you sleep longer and feel happier

  • UK coast walkers sleep an average of 47 minutes longer after a walk by the sea
  • Coastal walking boosts feelings of calm and happiness and provides walkers with a sense of escape
  • Coastal walks offer a distraction from the stresses of everyday life (63 per cent) and make people feel positive about their lives in general (55 per cent)
Family walking along the clifftop at Birling Gap, part of the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs range, East Sussex. The Belle Tout Lighthouse (not NT owned) is seen in the distance.

Family walking along the clifftop at Birling Gap, part of the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs range, East Sussex. Credit National Trust.

A walk by the coast will have you sleeping an extra 47 minutes on average as well as providing you with feelings of calm (83 per cent), happiness (82 per cent) and a sense of escapism (62 per cent), according to a national report out today.

Over two thirds (69 per cent) of Brits state they fall into a deeper sleep after being by the coast with one in three (36 per cent) also saying that the thought alone of the sea helps them sleep at night.

The research has been carried out as part of the National Trust’s Great British Walk campaign, run in partnership with Cotswold Outdoor, to look at how walking on the coast really impacts on our wellbeing and to encourage people to explore our UK coastline, of which 775 miles is cared for by the conservation charity.

To help understand how a walk by the sea affects both our mood and the quality of our sleep, the National Trust has undertaken qualitative and quantitative studies to look at how the sea really impacts upon us. The research identified that when it came to feelings of wellbeing, Brits feel happier (46 per cent) and healthier (37 per cent) straight after a ramble along the shoreline. A further 63 per cent state that a coastal walk allows them a distraction from the stresses of everyday life and makes them feel positive about their lives in general (55 per cent).

When asked to identify their emotions after a coastal walk, walkers stated they felt refreshed (65 per cent) and relaxed (55 per cent) pointing to the calming and positive feelings we, as an island nation, have towards the coastline.

Blakeney Point at Low Tide, storm clouds loom in the distance.

Blakeney Point at Low Tide, storm clouds loom in the distance. Credit National Trust.

Undertaking a separate qualitative and quantitative research component, Environmental Psychologist Eleanor Ratcliffe explored the effects of walking by the coast on change in mood and sleep. The report, (Sleep, Mood and Coastal Walking) saw participants undertake either a coastal walk or an inland walk. Both types of walkers experienced positive changes in happiness, calmness, sleep quality, alertness and sleep length following their walk. However, coastal walkers showed a significantly greater increase in sleep length than inland walkers, and were more likely to show increases in sleep quality and alertness. Coastal walkers also reported memory associations relating to family, childhood and holidays, as well as opportunities for introspection and reflective thought, which were less apparent amongst inland walkers.

Ratcliffe stated: ‘‘Coastal walkers are getting more sleep, and are more likely to show increased sleep quality and morning alertness. In addition, coastal walkers associated their walks with family, childhood memories and the anticipation of holidays. It’s clear that there is something special about the coast, particularly as a place to escape to that can allow people to boost their mood, relax and sleep in.’’

Looking south west in the early morning over St Bride's Bay, Pembrokeshire, Wales. The extremities of Ramsey Island and Skomer Island can be seen to the right and left respectively.

Looking south west in the early morning over St Bride’s Bay, Pembrokeshire, Wales. The extremities of Ramsey Island and Skomer Island can be seen to the right and left respectively.

The Sleep, Mood and Coastal Walking report also delved into how and what coastal walkers think about when strolling the shores with four key areas dominating the minds of those studied:

  1. Memories – Walking by the sea triggers memories associated with people close to the walker, such as parents, children or other family members, as well as their own childhood. These memories were often reflective and described different times and stages of life
  2. Mood – Walking by the coast is related to qualitative perceptions of happiness and calmness or relaxation. Emotional reactions to inland walks were almost universally positive, while emotional responses to the coast were sometimes bittersweet or nostalgic
  3. Reflection – Coastal and inland walkers both used their walk as an opportunity to think and reflect, with coastal walkers more uniformly receptive to reflective thought processes
  4. Sense of escape – Despite using the walk as an opportunity to reflect on important matters, walking was also associated with feelings of freedom and escape for many participants. Comments from coastal walkers suggest that the coast still retains the associations and romance of a holiday destination

Presenter Julia Bradbury from The Wonder of Britain who is supporting the Trust’s Great British Walk campaign this year said: ‘‘Everyone knows I love a good ramble and what better news than it helps us sleep longer! I’ve walked the coast a lot as part of my TV work and also spent a huge amount of time outdoors on the coast with friends and family and I can tell you first hand, I always sleep like a baby afterwards!’’

The National Trust’s Great British Walk campaign has more than 1,000 downloadable walks available, with a third along the coastline it looks after across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. So whether it’s a bracing walk along the headland, a ramble through the sand dunes or a gentle wander on one of the UK’s beautiful beaches there are plenty of walking routes to choose from.

Away from the coast, there are plenty of inland walks on offer where you can take in the sights and sounds of the countryside. Cotswold Outdoor can provide the quality equipment and expert advice you need to make the most of the National Trust’s diverse locations.

For some inspiration and to help aid a better night’s sleep, the National Trust has recommended a list of ten top coastal walks across the country:

Top 10 Coastal Walks:

  1. Breath-taking views of the Jurassic coast on the Purbeck Countryside, Old Harry Rocks walk
  2. Stunning views across the bay towards Baggy Point and Morte Point on the Potters Hill and Woolacombe Down walk
  3. Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters offers one of the longest stretches of undeveloped coastline on the south coast
  4. Take in the sights at Newtown Nature Reserve estuary walk
  5. Look out for rare sea birds and seals at Blakeney National Nature Reserve
  6. Explore the heathland peninsula with amazing views over the Pembrokeshire coast at Marloes Peninsula
  7. For a bracing and beautiful coastal walk, Northumberland is without comparison
  8. Discover Formby’s hidden secrets, past and present
  9. The Old Saltburn to Warsett Hill walk kicks off in the Victorian seaside town of Saltburn-by-the-Sea and has many interesting features
  10. Runkerry trail near Giant’s Causeway is a stunning clifftop walk which has significant numbers of breeding skylark, stonechat, linnet and occasional chough

2015 is the 50th anniversary of the National Trust’s Neptune Coastline Campaign – one of the longest running environmental campaigns in Western Europe which has resulted in the charity managing 775 miles of coast in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, equating to almost 10% of  England, Wales and Northern Ireland’s coastline.

For more information on Great British Walk, head to the website: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/walking

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