Global warming could keep Americans from getting enough sleep, according to a study published Friday by scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of California.
The study found that an increase of 1 degree Celsius in nighttime temperature added three nights of restless sleep per 100 people per month. The study’s co-author told The Washington Post this one degree anomaly was equivalent to about “110 million extra nights of insufficient sleep” each year.
Researchers estimated a group of 100 Americans will face six additional restless nights per month by 2050, and 14 nights by 2099. These estimates, however, were preliminary.
‘I don’t pretend to have any high degree of confidence what sleep will look like in 2099 or 2050,” Nick Obradovich, an MIT scientist who co-authored the research, told The Washington Post.”The more things we find that we need to adapt to, the more we’re going to have to pay.’
Hot weather makes it hard to sleep. The human body cools downs as it nods off, but high temperatures can interfere with this.
‘Decreasing body temperature is one of the strongest signals to our brain to bring on sleep onset,’ Dr. Sara C. Mednick, a University of California sleep psychologist who co-authored of the study, told WaPo. “This decrease in temperature is regulated in part by the ambient temperature. Thus, when the ambient temperature is too high, the body cannot cool itself and therefore can’t fall asleep.”
Researchers used data from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey representing 765,000 Americans, which asked how many nights of insufficient sleep a person had in the past month.
The study compared these responses to the records of nearby weather station to determine if respondents had been exposed to high temperatures at night.
The study found lower-income and elderly individuals would be most impacted by sleepless nights, as those groups are less likely to use air conditioning. Scientists suspect countries where air conditioning is rarer have likely been impacted more than the U.S., but data from those areas doesn’t exist.
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