Loughborough University: Loughborough to lead UK’s first ever study on the effects of climate change on sleep

The first study in the UK to look at the impact of climate change on sleep is being led by Loughborough University.

Quality sleep is essential to our health and wellbeing, with almost every major disease in the developed world – Alzheimer’s, cancer, obesity and diabetes – being linked to poor sleep.

For the first time, academics from Loughborough will investigate how higher night-time temperatures, caused by climate change, affect people’s sleep quality in their own homes across the UK.

The World Health Organisation cites sleep disturbance as one of the most serious consequences of high night-time temperatures, and the UK Climate Change Committee places overheating in homes in its highest health risk category.

Analysis by Loughborough University released in 2021 found that 4.6 million English bedrooms experienced summertime overheating.

The new ‘Home Heat Health: Sleep in the City’ study – funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council – will identify how temperature affects people’s sleep in their own homes.

The findings will define the night-time temperatures that will cause sleep disruption detrimental to health, enable the development of credible bedroom overheating criteria for use in standards and regulations, and enable more targeted overheating advice.

It will also help those caring for vulnerable citizens to know when to intervene to provide night-time support.

During the study, participants will wear actigraphy watches to record their daily movements and sleep disruption, and report the quality of each nights’ sleep through a phone app. These results will be compared with measurements of indoor and outdoor temperature and air quality. Home surveys will be used to try and understand how the design of homes affects temperatures and what simple measures might be undertaken to improve sleep quality.

The project is being led by Professor Kevin Lomas from the University’s School of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering. He said: “Disentangling the effect of high summer temperatures on sleep is difficult, but we have a world-class, multi-disciplinary team of building physicists, sleep scientists, social scientists, and health experts drawn from across the University who are well placed to crack the problem.

“With global warming remaining a major threat to the world, a project of this scale and scope is long overdue. Our findings will be of benefit to many different organisations across the world.”

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