Rising temperatures from climate change could reduce sleep: study

Rising global temperatures from climate change could reduce the amount of sleep people get every year, according to a new study.

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

Published Friday in the journal One Earth, the study from the University of Copenhagen used data from sleep-tracking wristbands worn by more than 47,000 adults in 68 countries, representing every continent except Antarctica.

By analyzing over seven million sleep records, researchers found that on very warm nights of over 30 degrees Celsius, sleep declined an average of 14 minutes. The likelihood of getting less than seven hours of sleep also increased when temperatures exceeded 25 degrees Celsius, according to the study.

“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,” Minor explained.

The study found that women, the elderly, and people living in hotter or lower-income countries were also disproportionality impacted.

By 2099, rising global temperatures could lead to people losing an average of 50 to 58 hours of sleep per year depending on whether atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations continue to increase or stabilize by the end of the century, the researchers said. They also suggest widespread sleep loss may lead to other health complications, and is just one of many potential impacts climate change could have on our lives if efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions are not widely adopted.

“Our results indicate that sleep—an essential restorative process integral for human health and productivity—may be degraded by warmer temperatures,” Minor said. “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.”

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