When we had an abnormal heat wave last year I lost sleep, as many others I talked to did as well. It made perfect sense then when I saw the article by Minor et al. (2022) that predicts that climate change will impact people’s sleep globally.
Lack of sleep has been linked with many health issues including both mental health concerns like depression and anxiety and physical health concerns like worse immune function and poor cardiovascular system outcomes. There are also losses in productivity and reduced cognitive capacity to worry about. Therefore, this is not an impact of climate change that should be ignored.
During our heat wave last year I was working from home. It was surprisingly easy to tell which of my coworkers had air conditioning and which did not. Air conditioning definitely helped to mitigate the impacts of the heat wave. Thus, in the global picture, the impacts will emphasize inequality. People and countries who have lower incomes will likely experience more significant negative impacts as they have fewer options to combat the sleep delaying heat. Meanwhile, those who can afford it will likely run their air conditioner more often, contributing more to climate change.
It’s okay right, we can just compensate with daytime naps and still get the same amount of sleep overall right? This research says that doesn’t add up. I know I’d need a full societal shift for me to be able to take a daytime nap most days. To get enough daytime naps would be tough, especially since the temperatures will be even warmer during the day.
I’m obviously of the opinion that we need to respond to climate change. We need to mitigate climate change through significant societal and technological changes. The idea that globally, we’re going to get less sleep is just one more reason for us to act on climate change.