Environment & Space

New study: Hotter nights, climate change, cause sleep loss with some affected more than others

According to a new study, sleep is impaired with temperatures over 50 degrees, and temps higher than 77 degrees reduce the chances of getting seven hours.

Photo by Altınay Dinç on Unsplash

Data from the National Sleep Foundation finds that the optimal bedroom temperature for sleep is around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. But we may be getting fewer hours of "good sleepin’ weather" as the climate warms, according to a recent paper from researchers at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Published in One Earth, the study finds that heat related to climate change could provide a “pathway” to sleep deprivation. The authors say the effect is “substantially larger” for those in lower-income countries. Hours of sleep decline when nighttime temperature exceeds 50 degrees, and temps higher than 77 reduce the chances of sleeping for seven hours by 3.5 percent. Even small losses associated with rising temperatures contribute significantly to people not getting enough sleep.

We’re affected by high temperatures at night because body temperature becomes more sensitive to the environment when slumbering. “Mechanisms that control for thermal regulation become more disordered during sleep,” explains Clete Kushida, a neurologist, professor of psychiatry at Stanford University and sleep medicine clinician.

The study finds that women and older adults are especially vulnerable. Worldwide, the elderly lost over twice as much sleep per degree of warming compared to younger people. This phenomenon was apparent between the ages of 60 and 70, and it increased beyond age 70. “The mechanism for balancing temperatures appears to be more affected with age,” Kushida adds.

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Sherree Geyer
Sherree Geyer is a freelance health journalist. She regularly writes for “Pain Medicine News,” “Pharmacy Practice News” and other trade publications. A member of the Association of Healthcare Journalists, National Association of Science Writers and National Writers Union, she holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northern Illinois University.
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