The 21st century is a very dynamic period in human history. It does have its downsides, though. The huge changes that have occurred in recent years are difficult for our organisms to adapt to. The same can be said of our planet Earth.
During the last 10,000 years, there has hardly been any change in Earth’s atmosphere. It used to be business as usual… the Sun heats the Earth during the day, then the heat radiates back in the atmosphere at night. However, the huge amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere traps the heat, thus making nighttime temperatures soar.
Healthy sleep… a 21st century issue
Alas, sleep is an underrated necessity of life just as global warming is an underrated danger for our Earth and ourselves, as well. In October 2015, California reported the worst heatwave in 25 years. For around a week, the nighttime temperatures of San Diego barely fell below 75 degrees. People living there reported basically not being able to bear staying in an apartment without the AC turned on.
In fact, one of the scientists that would go on to study the phenomenon further named Nick Obradovich has first-hand experience with this. During his years at the University of California in San Diego, there were moments when he could barely maintain decent temperatures even with the AC turned on all night.
The first-hand experience of some scientists lead them to conduct the first ever research paper examining the link between sleep and global warming. The study is based on a huge survey conducted between 2002 and 2011 by the CDC. During those years, 765,000 people were called and surveyed in the largest poll of this kind. This study found a direct relation between difficulty falling asleep in hot temperatures and age, and an inverse relation to yearly income.
It just goes to show how useful can secondary data repurposed to serve a bigger picture. One scientist from the team has asserted that there’s no way that this could have been proven via traditional clinical studies.
Of course, while the most conclusive evidence comes from the US, that doesn’t mean it’s a US-only problem. In fact, there are countries that are much more affected than the US in terms of “sleep pollution”. In Ghana, for example, there’s no way around it. People there have to simply plow through the heat on a daily basis.
And let’s not forget about the their societal factors
Global warming is a direct consequence of the new era we live in. Of consumption, globalization, technology and a huge shift in how we interact with each other. That shift is, of course, the COVID-19 crisis that has wrecked havoc in millions of people’s lives. Everyone is affected by the pandemic and some have been lucky to remain afloat or prosper while the vast majority is facing economic hardship and the possibility to get infected with the virus.
Millions are losing their jobs, businesses and even their homes. These kinds of stresses are additional factors that contribute to rising numbers of depressed individuals. People who find it difficult to adapt to the new normal often become reclusive, which leads to a decreased quality of sleep.
Working from home may lead to an inability to isolate “work time” from “home time”. Bright screens decrease the quality of sleep, and some may finish work later than usual, as their schedule is now more flexible.
Warmer temperatures and lockdown are not exactly the best combination either. Of course, there are many who get creative, as working remotely allows you to work from wherever you… can.
Travel has become very difficult. People who experience sleep difficulties due to hot temperatures may choose to switch places when things get too hot or cold. Some may actually benefit from medical tourism.
Unfortunately, a city break a thousand miles up north on a short notice is only a memory now. International travel has become difficult and people are now forced to consider local options.
What is there to do?
There is no going back in terms of global temperature. Climate change is here to stay and it’s only going to get warmer as time passes by. While we cannot individually change the environment, we must do our best to keep our sleep as healthy as possible.
There is no going back in terms of pre-COVID comfort. We must acknowledge and accept the state of affairs and do our best to adapt to the new reality. The virus is here to stay for a while and it’s going to last another year or two.
Thus, it’s important that we take care of our sleep, as we do when it comes to our teeth. Keeping away from electronics before going to bed, maintaining cleanliness in the bedroom and reading before going to bed are but a few good ideas.
Some find that certain supplements that favor sleep such as melatonin, L-theanine or ashwagandha work wonders when it comes to restless nights. Others who live a sedentary lifestyle have found the energizing action of ADHD supplements like Modafinil to be the best solution for insomnia due to the extra mental and physical energy consumption during the day.
If you’re tossing and turning at night instead of getting a good night’s sleep, then you should consider some sleep resources. They can help you get into a sleep schedule, create a sleep-friendly environment, and even follow a day-time schedule for better night-time slumber.
If you believe you have difficulty sleeping due to physical aches and pains, have PTSD or other similar mental health conditions, it is best to personally consult a medical or psychological health professional. This article will only provide general information and should not be used for self-diagnosis and self-treatment.