Speed Reads

Hot Hot Hot

Climate change is making it too hot to sleep

We've all been there — tossing and turning in sweat-soaked sheets, fan on full blast, wishing we could just fall asleep. A nearly decade-long study of 765,000 Americans, published Friday, found that as the world warms as a result of climate change, we are likely to get worse and worse night sleeps due to the difficulty of slumbering when it's hot out. "Elderly people, and people making less than $50,000 per year, seem especially affected by the trend," The Atlantic writes.

Basically, for thousands and thousands of years hot days would cool into comfortable nights as the sun's heat radiated back out into space in the evening. But now greenhouse gases reflect that heat back at the Earth, even at night, keeping us toasty if we don't have the a/c on full blast. "We know from a broad literature in the laboratory context that our sleep is regulated pretty heavily by our body temperature — and especially by our core body temperature," said Nick Obradovich, one of the study's authors.

Obradovich added that while the study focused on the U.S., it could be even harder for people in other parts of the world to power through the hot nights. "In Ghana, it's really hot and really humid, and there are no other options. You just suffer through the heat," he said.

Getting adequate sleep, of course, is important for good health. Deprivation has been linked to conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity, as well as shorter-term consequences like problems with mood and memory. Obradovich noted that older people tend to have higher mortality rates during heat waves, too, and part of the reason could be all the tossing and turning cutting into their sleep.

Read more about Obradovich's research at The Atlantic.