Is Climate Change Wrecking Your Sleep? (Hint: Yes!)

If you think it's too hot to sleep, you may be right, and what's worse, it could be packing on the pounds.

insomniaStock Asso/ShutterstockWe’ve got yet another thing to add to the list of bad things climate change is doing to your body right now. We already know that it’s associated with an increase in seasonal allergies, diabetes, gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) and Lyme disease. There’s even a rise of eco-anxiety (anxiety specific to environmental problems). Much as we’d like to advise you not to lose sleep over it, the fact is, global warming may also be harming your ability to get a good night of shut-eye. That’s the take-away from a scientific study published in the journal, Science Advances, the first study ever to examine the implications of climate change for human sleep.

Using data from 765,000 survey respondents in the United States from 2002 to 2011, coupled with nighttime temperature data, the researchers found that higher nighttime temperatures are associated with self-reported sleep problems, with the largest effects seen during summer and among lower-income and elderly subjects (who may not have easy access to air conditioning). As little as a one-degree Celsius increase in nighttime temperature translates to three nights of trouble sleeping per 100 individuals per month, per the study. That quickly adds up to nearly 9 million nights per month, or approximately 110 million nights per year, according to the study, which also predicts that “every location in the United States may experience an increased incidence of trouble sleeping due to nighttime warming induced by future climate change.”

The study authors report that their findings correspond with growing literature on the links between temperature, climate, and human health and well-being, and suggest that the sleep loss resulting from global warming may explain the connection. They go on to name a variety of bodily functions that suffer directly from lack of sleep, including repair of skeletal muscles, efficient removal of waste from the brain, immune function, cardiovascular health, and mood regulation, all of which can have a subsequent negative effect on weight. In fact, obesity has already been identified as a risk associated with sleep loss.

These small bedroom changes can help you sleep better tonight.

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Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared regularly on Reader's Digest, The Huffington Post, and a variety of other publications since 2008. She covers health, fitness, yoga, and lifestyle, among other topics. An author of crime fiction, Lauren's book The Trust Game, was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.