A walk by the coast will have you sleeping on average an extra 47 minutes as well as providing you with feelings of calm (83%), happiness (82%) and a sense of escapism (62%), according to a report out today.
Over 70% of people from Northern Ireland state they fall into a deeper sleep after being by the coast with 68% also saying that memories of the coast help relax their mind.
The research was carried out as part of the National Trust’s Great NI Walk campaign, run in partnership with Cotswold Outdoor, to look at how walking on the coast impacts on our wellbeing and to encourage people to explore our coastline, of which 775 miles, (including over 100 miles (22%) of the Northern Ireland coastline) 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, 81% of people from Northern Ireland feel happier and healthier after a ramble along the shoreline. A further 84% stated that a coastal walk makes them feel positive about their lives in general.
Undertaking the qualitative 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.
Eleanor 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.’’
The Sleep, Mood and Coastal Walking report also delved into how and what coastal walkers think about when strolling along the shore with four key areas dominating the minds of those studied:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 walking campaign 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 has walks to suit every taste and ability. So whether it’s a bracing walk along the headland, a ramble through the sand dunes or a gentle wander on one of Northern Ireland’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:
- With 21 miles of trails at Castle Ward there is plenty of space to explore
- Enjoy magnificent views across Strangford Lough from Temple of the winds at Mount Stewart
- Take in the sights at Murlough National Nature Reserve – an extraordinarily beautiful dune landscape
- Look out for rare sea birds and seals at Strangford Lough, the largest marine nature reserve in the UK.
- Explore the rocky coast at Ballymacormick and Orlock on the North Down Coast
- For a bracing and beautiful coastal walk, Downhill Demesne is without comparison
- Carrick-a-Rede offers a unique cliff top experience with breath-taking views of the Antrim coast
- The two mile strand of golden sand at Portstewart is perfect for taking long walks into the sand dunes
- Giant’s Causeway has four stunning trails from the all accessible walk at Runkerry Head to the more challenging Causeway Coast Way
- Discover Cushendun’s hidden secrets, a coastal village steeped in character and folklore.
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.
The National Trust is here to protect the coast: for ever, for everyone.