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Can’t Sleep? Recent Study Reveals Climate Change Can Lead to Restless Nights

Researchers have discovered climate change and warmer temperatures are impacting human sleep patterns. That means more restless nights could be ahead.

Written by
Angelica Pizza

Climate change is closely associated with impacting our planet's climate system, as the name suggests. It can lead to erratic storms (think hurricanes and typhoons), warm ocean temperatures, snowless winters, and more. And now, climate change is even impacting human sleep patterns.

According to a 2022 study published in the journal One Earth, increasing nighttime temperatures are associated with a decrease in the amount of sleep humans get at night. And this is happening globally. Here's what researchers found.

The Study: Climate Change and Sleep

In a two-year period, 7 million adult sleep records across 68 countries were observed. And the researchers from the University of Copenhagen reveal this is the largest known sample of mobile sleep-tracking-device users yet to examine the correlation between "meteorological factors" and human sleep patterns.

The study found that increased temperatures have pushed back bedtimes to later times and have led to earlier wake times.

Specifically, the data shows that on warmer nights (when temperatures reached above 30 degrees Celsius or 86 degrees Fahrenheit), sleep declines by more than 14 minutes. This is compared to nights with the lowest temperature-attributed sleep loss in the sample. 

The change in temperature also impacts different demographics in different ways. According to the data, adults over 65 years of age are more sensitive to increases in nighttime temperatures. Specifically in comparison to middle-aged adults and young adults.

Plus, women's sleep patterns were also negatively impacted by increased temperatures. And the effect of increased nighttime temperature on sleep loss is greater for people living in lower to middle-income countries (in comparison to higher-income countries). Perhaps this is because lower-income homes don't have access to air conditioning.

Why Does the Change in Sleep Patterns Matter?

Well, sleep is vital to our health. Humans need sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep at night to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Without sufficient sleep, people may experience reduced cognitive performance, a decrease in productivity, compromised immune systems, depression, and more, according to the study.

And the evidence does not show that humans are adapting to increased temperatures and less sleep at night. Instead, we're negatively impacted by the loss—even though that loss is just under 15 minutes.

The researchers also predict that temperature-related sleep loss will continue to increase. By 2099, each sleeper in the U.S. is expected to lose 11.3 hours of sleep annually.

This evidence proves global warming and climate change aren't just about the weather anymore. They're impacting human life and becoming a public health threat.

If the change in weather patterns and impact on wildlife wasn't enough for us to see climate change is acting fast, this is our sign to incite change. And in order to push back on climate change's impact, it's up to the people to lead more eco-friendly lifestyles.

That means reducing our carbon footprints and prioritizing the planet in any way we can. Check out our guide to kickstart your sustainable living journey.