Climate change can have consequences at levels almost unimaginable. From the proliferation of mosquito-borne diseases to the increase in turbulence, to more obvious effects such as rising sea levels or extreme weather events. It can also affect the health of humans on many levels, increasing allergies, increasing deaths from heat waves and even disturbing their sleep. The latter has just been shown in a study recently published in Cell, by a team of scientists from the University of Copenhagen.
Actually what counts is quite obvious. Every summer we all experience the consequences of sleeping in the heat. However, climate change could exacerbate this problem. And the most serious thing is that, as always, those who come out worse off are the inhabitants of countries with low economic resources.
The causes of the latter are not clear, although there are certain hypotheses. What is clear is that, although there are those who calmly affirm that climate change is not keeping him awake at night, he is. What happens is that either they don't realize it or they don't want to.
The importance of leaving the laboratory
The relationship between rising or falling temperatures and sleep has been measured in many studies prior to the one just published. However, it has been done under laboratory conditions. That removes from the equation the changes that the participants make in their environment to sleep better despite the heat or cold. Heating, air conditioning and many blankets are some of the resources that we usually use at home.
Therefore, to solve this detail, the authors of this new study used anonymous sleep data extracted from the activity bracelets of 47,000 people, from 68 countries on all continents except Antarctica. In total, some 7 million records were analyzed. This helps to analyze the sleep of all these people in real conditions, in their own homes.
The data was obtained from the sleep records of activity bracelets
So they saw a big difference with previous studies. And it is that, although those previous investigations indicated that cold and heat affect sleep in the same way, this new study found more negative effects with the increase in temperatures. This is possibly due to the fact that it is easier to adapt the environment to the cold.
They found that the effects were more drastic in older people, women and inhabitants of countries with few economic resources. The latter could be due to the fact that these people have more difficult access to air conditioning. However, it cannot be known for sure, since the activity bracelets do not indicate whether these people have these devices at home. Now, what does all this have to do with climate change?
This is how climate change keeps you awake at night
Greenhouse gas emissions are gradually leading to a global rise in temperatures, which is also accompanied by more and more heat waves.
In this study, the authors found that on very hot nights, with more than 30ºC, the average sleep time decreased by a little more than 14 minutes. People tended to go to sleep later and wake up earlier. Not to mention the night awakenings. In total, it was very difficult to sleep the recommended seven hours.
And the worst thing is that if global temperatures continue the current evolution due to climate change, by 2099 the heat could erode between 50 and 58 hours of a person's annual sleep. It may not seem like much, but sleep is vital for us to stay physically and mentally healthy. Therefore, although all this may seem like a minor concern, within all the consequences of climate change, it is one more reason to try to stop it. Because yes, climate change keeps even those who deny it sleepless.