How Climate Change Affects Sleep

Do you how climate change affects your sleep? Find out what scientists have discovered in this regard in the following article.
How Climate Change Affects Sleep
Diego Pereira

Reviewed and approved by el médico Diego Pereira.

Last update: 29 May, 2023

Climate change has been the focus of attention in recent decades. There’s talk of how it will destabilize ecosystems, condition food security, cause droughts, and cause massive mobilizations (among other things). However, there are other axes where changes in temperatures and weather patterns will be felt. Today, we’ll talk about how climate change affects sleep.

Certainly, when someone thinks of climate change, it’s never in relation to sleep. Although it’s something that has been noticed for several years, it still doesn’t occupy the degree of importance it deserves among the media, newsletters, and popular articles. Therefore we’ll teach you how climate change affects sleep and who’s most at risk.

The impact of climate change on your sleep hours

At first glance, it seems naive to think that climate change will have an impact on sleeping hours. Despite this, an analysis of all the variables that come into play during rest makes us find means by which climatic and temperature variations will disturb it. We’ll leave you with two ways in which climate change affects your sleep.

Temperature increase

An article published in One Earth in 2022 studied 7 million sleep records in 68 countries and contrasted them with daily local weather data.

The results show substantial evidence that variations in temperature, especially its increase, condition rest and nocturnal sleep patterns. Increased temperature shortens sleep mainly through late onset, increasing the likelihood of insufficient sleep.

The elderly, women, and residents of low-income countries are most affected. The greatest loss of sleep occurs during the warmer months and on nights when minimum temperatures exceed 50 °F.

The general conclusion of the study is that by the year 2099, people will lose 58 hours of sleep per year as a consequence of climate change.

Another study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health suggested that ambient temperature has significant effects on restful sleep, difficulty falling asleep, sleep satisfaction, and sleep adequacy.

The results indicate that the variations also change the patterns of food intake; which in turn can contribute to further altering nighttime rest.

At the same time, some experts point out that excess fatigue as a consequence of the higher temperatures may explain the subjective assessment of a poorer night’s rest.

In any case, the relationship between climate change and sleeping hours in terms of high temperatures isn’t discussed, so it’s one side of the problem that must be considered in the coming years.

Subjective and objective stress

A woman who's stressed about climate change.
Excessive concern about climate change can lead to very accentuated episodes of stress.

Authors state that stress related to environmental disasters, anticipation for the future (see eco-anxiety), food insecurity, economic insecurity, displacement, and other axes associated with climate change have a direct impact on night rest.

Stress levels can prevent you from falling asleep, a problem that, if combined with the previous one, creates the perfect cocktail to subtract hours from your rest.

The impact of climate change on mental health isn’t disputed, and it can also lead to more serious disorders such as anxiety and depression. These are also related to the poor quality of night rest, initially through sleep disorders.

People subjected to particularly severe disasters may also develop post-traumatic stress disorder and adjustment disorder. Both can disturb the quality of sleep.

Climate change and hours of sleep: The importance

A woman suffering from insomnia.
Although each case is different, the effects of climate change may be harmful to night rest.

Sleep is an essential part of a healthy life, so sleep disturbances never go unnoticed.

Rest imbalances increase the chances of developing heart disease, metabolic disorders, mental and emotional disorders, obesity, infectious diseases, developmental problems (in children and youth), interpersonal conflicts, and many more complications.

Being aware that climate change has a new axis that affects human health from another side is useful to put its dimension into perspective.

The plans and programs of governments worldwide are focused on controlling it, so sleep should also be considered as one more variable to take into account. Much is being done in this regard, and studies that report parallel relationships are helpful in considering them in the process.

  • Cianconi, P., Betrò, S., & Janiri, L. The impact of climate change on mental health: a systematic descriptive review. Frontiers in psychiatry. 2020; 74.
  • Minor, K., Bjerre-Nielsen, A., Jonasdottir, S. S., Lehmann, S., & Obradovich, N. Rising temperatures erode human sleep globally. One Earth. 2022; 5(5): 534-549.
  • Obradovich N, Migliorini R, Mednick SC, Fowler JH. Nighttime temperature and human sleep loss in a changing climate. Sci Adv. 2017;3(5):e1601555. Published 2017 May 26.
  • Rifkin DI, Long MW, Perry MJ. Climate change and sleep: A systematic review of the literature and conceptual framework. Sleep Med Rev. 2018 Dec;42:3-9.
  • Zheng G, Li K, Wang Y. The Effects of High-Temperature Weather on Human Sleep Quality and Appetite. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019;16(2):270. Published 2019 Jan 18.

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