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Why climate change will make sleep more difficult

Warmer nights as a result of climate change will cause millions of people to lose sleep, with the poor and elderly most affected, according to a new study.

If climate change is not addressed, temperatures in 2050 could cost people in the United States millions of additional nights of insufficient sleep per year, the University of California San Diego study said. By 2099, the figure could rise by several hundred million more nights of lost sleep annually.

“Sleep has been well-established by other researchers as a critical component of human health,” said Nick Obradovich, who conducted much of the research as a doctoral student in political science at the University of California San Diego. “Too little sleep can make a person more susceptible to disease and chronic illness, and it can harm psychological well-being and cognitive functioning.”

The study analyzed federal health survey data from 765,000 U.S. residents between 2002 and 2011. It then linked data on self-reported nights of insufficient sleep to daily temperature data from the National Centers for Environmental Information.

The analysis showed that increases in nighttime temperature by 1 degree Celsius translate to three nights of insufficient sleep per 100 individuals per month.

Those earning below $50,000 a year and those over the age of 65 are most severely affected, the study found.

The study also paints a bleak picture for the future based on climate projections for 2050 and 2099 by NASA Earth Exchange.

Warmer temperatures could cause six additional nights of insufficient sleep per 100 individuals by 2050, and approximately 14 extra nights per 100 by 2099.

“The U.S. is relatively temperate and, in global terms, quite prosperous,” Obradovich said. “We don’t have sleep data from around the world, but assuming the pattern is similar, one can imagine that in places that are warmer or poorer or both, what we’d find could be even worse.”

The study, published by Science Advances, is the largest real-world study to date to find a relationship between reports of insufficient sleep and unusually warm nighttime temperatures. It is also the first to apply the discovered relationship to projected climate change.

By: David Beasley, Staff Writer

Source: University of California San Diego

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