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Climate Change Could Result in Less Sleep

climate change sleep
Athens. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ Public domain

While many people are aware of the negative impacts climate change will have on many aspects of life, the phenomenon’s effects on sleep are likely not as well-known.

Yet, research shows that climate change will very likely impact our sleeping patterns and will result in less hours of daily sleep.

A study published in the academic journal One Earth on May 20th indicates that an increase in temperature due to climate change will have a negative impact on one basic aspect of human health—sleep.

According to the scientists who researched the subject, warmer temperatures may reduce the number of hours each person sleeps per year by nearly sixty hours.

This is perhaps not completely unsurprising, as studies have already shown that sleep quality is significantly reduced during hot weather. If temperatures increase and periods of hot weather grow longer due to climate change, it is logical that our sleep quality would suffer, as well.

Warmer temperatures caused by climate change negatively impact sleep

“Our results indicate that sleep—an essential restorative process integral for human health and productivity—may be degraded by warmer temperatures,” Kelton Minor, an author of the study from the University of Copenhagen, stated in speaking to Science Daily.

“In order to make informed climate policy decisions moving forward, we need to better account for the full spectrum of plausible future climate impacts extending from today’s societal greenhouse gas emissions choices,” he continued.

The detrimental impacts climate change will have on sleep will hit certain groups even harder—particularly poor people, the elderly, and women.

“In this study, we provide the first planetary-scale evidence that warmer-than-average temperatures erode human sleep…We show that this erosion occurs primarily by delaying when people fall asleep and by advancing when they wake up during hot weather,” Minor stated.

The comprehensive study used data taken from smart wristbands that track users’ sleep to measure the impact temperature had on sleep duration and quality. The data was taken from nearly 50,000 people from 68 countries around the world.

According to the study, data showed that on nights warmer than thirty degrees Celsius or 86 degrees Fahrenheit, sleep time was reduced by an average of fourteen minutes. Additionally, as temperatures increase, so does the likelihood that one will get less than seven hours of sleep.

“Our bodies are highly adapted to maintain a stable core body temperature, something that our lives depend on…Yet every night they do something remarkable without most of us consciously knowing—they shed heat from our core into the surrounding environment by dilating our blood vessels and increasing blood flow to our hands and feet,” Minor stressed.

The rise in temperatures due to climate change may also impact sleep patterns of animals, as much like humans, their sleep quality is reduced when they are subjected to both hot and cold temperatures.

While cold weather also negatively impacts sleep, the study shows that warmer weather is much more detrimental to sleep quality and duration.

“Across seasons, demographics, and different climate contexts, warmer outside temperatures consistently erode sleep, with the amount of sleep loss progressively increasing as temperatures become hotter,” the scholar said.

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