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More Heat, Less Sleep

More Heat, Less Sleep

People have a myriad of challenges facing them in our modern world when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. Now, we can add another factor to a decline in quality sleep: climate change.

A recent scientific study has concluded that as global temperatures continue to rise, many people will have more restless sleep due to the increase in heat. Hotter temperatures disrupt sleep patterns, causing people to lose valuable rest.

The research also points out how devastating this effect will be to the elderly, whose bodies struggle more to regulate temperature, and the poor, who are unlikely to own air-conditioners or be able to afford to operate them.

The study concluded that by the year 2050, six additional nights of sleeplessness would happen per every 100 Americans. The number of sleepless nights would double by 2099.

Currently, the most amount of sleep is lost in the summer because temperatures are warmer during that period in most places in the United States. People need to cool down before they go to sleep, which is why our core temperature drops a bit right before bedtime. This method is one way in which our body says it’s time for sleep.

How exactly does the human body prepare for sleep, and why is temperature a critical factor to this process? Our bodies naturally handle warm temperatures before sleep through these means:

● the blood vessels in the skin dilate, which allows heat to escape through the skin
● the hands and feet get warmer which moves heat away from the body’s core

If the body has trouble shedding heat from its core when room temperature is uncomfortably warm, that elevated core temperature will make it difficult for a person to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Because nighttime temperatures impact the quality of human sleep, it’s important that we take steps to condition our sleeping environment to give us the best night’s sleep possible. That may mean relying more on technology and air-conditioning in the future as climate change increases.

Additionally, increased nighttime temperatures can do more damage than just affecting sleep quality. Emergency room visits increase as well as heat-related deaths.

Insufficient sleep levels are also a cause of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes, as well as cognitive decline, and a reduction in processing and attention abilities. It is also linked to the onset of depression.

It appears that we can add global warming to the list of factors we must contend with daily to achieve quality sleep.