A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that my sleep has become really terrible since the onset of the pandemic. Even though I get an adequate amount of sleep every night, more often than not, I wake up feeling exhausted. I am a healthy adult, with a balanced diet, and a very active lifestyle, so I could not figure out why my sleep was so terrible.
Cue: Climate change.
Prompted by my awareness of this issue, I went looking for an answer. And, apparently, according to science: Climate change and global warming temperatures are actually affecting our sleep.
In a recent study, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1 in 3 American adults are not getting enough sleep, and not only that, but we are collectively getting less sleep than we did 10 years ago. Whereas many studies point to technology and noise and light pollution (hello, scrolling for hours before sleep), turns out these are not the only reasons why we’re staying up and night and sleeping so poorly.
Earlier this year, doctoral students at the University of Copenhagen’s Center for Social Data Science published the largest study ever conducted on the link between rising temperatures on the planet, and our ability to properly sleep. And you guessed it, their findings don’t point to great news.
The researchers discovered that warming temperatures have already stripped away 45 hours of sleep per person per year by affecting people’s ability to fall asleep earlier. They got to these conclusion by using a vast data set — 10 billion sleep observations pulled from 7 million sleep records from 47,000 individuals across 68 countries — as well as comparing that data to climate data. That’s around 10 extra nights of bad sleep per year.
Climate change’s effects on sleep begin at unexpectedly low temperatures, about 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and worsen as temperatures climb. Even if greenhouse gas emissions are stabilized by the end of the century, we will apparently still lose 50 hours of sleep per year, or 13 days of short sleep.
As with most climate change-related consequences, this will not be felt by everyone across the globe, but sooner than later it will catch up with us.
But knowing that populations are disproportionally affected means there are solutions we can come up with to change this — so, it’s not so bleak. But the next time you wonder why you’re waking up unreasonably exhausted, this is your answer.