Climate change caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases is wreaking havoc on our planet — from heat waves to heavy rainstorms to higher sea levels, the consequences of global warming are far-reaching. The mere thought of the irreversible damage being done to our planet is enough to leave us tossing and turning at night. But as it turns out, there's a scientific reason that climate change is literally making us lose sleep.
Many of us have had the experience of struggling to fall and stay asleep during a heat wave — especially if we don't have air conditioning. A newly published paper in the journal Science Advances predicts that as global temperatures continue to rise an increasing number of people will lose sleep.
This side effect of climate change will disproportionately affect certain demographics — specifically, people who can't afford to run their air conditioning all night, and the elderly, who have a harder time regulating their body temperature.
According to the researchers' calculations, an extra six nights of sleeplessness can be expected every month for every 100 Americans by 2050. That number will surge to 14 nights per month by 2099 if global emissions continue at their current level.
Sleep deprivation is miserable, but it's more than a mere inconvenience. Chronic sleep loss is associated with a number of serious health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. It has also been shown to have negative effects on memory, attention, and processing abilities. And, for self-explanatory reasons, sleep deprivation is linked to bad moods and, in more serious cases, depression.
The study's lead author, Nick Obradovich, says the effects will likely be far worse in areas of the world with higher poverty rates.
“When I started the study, it wasn’t clear to me that we would even observe an effect in the U.S. because we do have air conditioning here,” he said. “The fact that we do observe an effect makes me think that it we had data from India or Brazil, we would observe a much larger effect.”