Climate Change Can Negatively Affect Sleep — But Here's What We Can Do
The climate crisis is a health crisis, meaning it threatens the well-being of people as much as it does the planet. Some ways that it affects public health are obvious, like extreme storms driving people from their homes and inescapable heat washing over communities. Others are harder to see. In fact, one of them happens when our eyes are closed
How climate change might affect sleep
There is limited research on the connection between climate change and sleep, but it's well summarized in a 2018 systematic review published by a George Washington University team in Sleep Medicine Reviews.
The review included 16 studies that focused on how climate change events like rising temperatures, extreme weather, floods, and wildfires affected people's rest. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the team concluded that climate change caused "diminished total sleep times and sleep disruption" across the board
First, consider temperature: Since we sleep best in a cool, dark, quiet environment, warmer environments are bound to disrupt rest. "Being in hot, uncomfortable environments influences your ability to sleep deeply, to sleep soundly, to get to sleep, and to have a full night's sleep," Melissa J. Perry, ScD, MHS, a professor and chair at GW's Department of Environmental and Occupational Health and co-author on the study, tells mindbodygreen
Extreme storms and natural disasters also, understandably, seem to have a negative impact on sleep and overall well-being in both the short and long term. Not only do they cause immediate harm and threaten safety, but they can also lead to lingering stress, which has been shown to disturb sleep in the long run
In this research, vulnerable populations—namely the elderly and low-income communities—were at the highest risk of losing sleep. They tend to be on the front lines of the worst impacts of climate change and don't have access to quality health resources once disaster strikes
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