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Sleepless In a Warming World…

Posted on July 18, 2017 by Jeanne Roberts There have been 0 comments

We have been told to expect hotter summers. In the American Southwest, where climate change puts down the biggest footprint, we can also expect long-term droughts.

What no one has mentioned is the likelihood that humanity – made nocturnal by artificial light – will suffer even more, and longer, restless nights than those already driven by progress. This is because human sleep is regulated (to a much greater extent than among non-human mammals) by temperature.

Sleepless In Seattle … and Everywhere Else

According to a recent study, higher body (core) temperatures – driven by hotter summers and noticeably hotter nighttime temperatures – will leave vast swathes of humanity so poorly rested that health complications will result. Environmental medicine has already acknowledged the link between sleep and health.

The data for the study is extracted from government surveys conducted between 2002 and 2011. The cohort, 765,000 individuals, is the largest such study ever undertaken to determine how rising temperatures disrupt sleep.

Being Poor and Old Makes Everything Worse

Scientists have spent the last two decades teasing out this diagnosis, and can now confirm that hotter summers, coupled with poverty and aging, will leave a significant portion of humanity sleepless and sick. In more specific terms, those making less than $50,000 a year, and those over 65, would bear the brunt of sleeplessness’s effects, sometimes by as much as a 3-to-l ratio.

Among the poor and aging – a population whose health is already compromised – this means a host of health problems including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even early mortality. It also means clinical depression, which in early research appears to be a major causative factor in some common diseases like diabetes and heart disease. For example, in a 2007 study of 10,000 people, those with insomnia were five times as likely to develop depression. Lack of sleep also ages people, as greater amounts of cortisol released into the bloodstream break down collagen, the substance found in muscles, bones, skin, blood vessels, digestive system, tendons, and skin.

Sleep Deprivation, the Road to Social Chaos

Lack of sleep not only increases the likelihood of disease and chronic illness, but affects cognitive processes. This – occurring among what the study defines as about one-third of adults – will lead to shorter tempers, less cooperative attitudes, more accidents, greater violence, and a lack of the kind of care and attention which keeps airplanes in the sky and oil tankers off the beaches. If you think life is chaotic now, thank your lucky stars you may not live to see the mid-century mark!

Lack of sleep can also make studying for a test pointless, because none of the information is retained. Even more bizarre, long-term sleeplessness can cause paranoia, hallucinations, generalized anxiety, distress, and increased alcohol use. Many sleep-deprived individuals begin using alcohol as a sleep aid, and discover – often too late – that alcohol’s sleep inducing effects last only for the first hour, after which insomnia is actually worsened.

Teens, On the Sleepless Road to Ruin

Adolescents, who are generally sleep deprived because of their seemingly endless curiosity and energy (all those texts to send, all those video games to play, all that hacking to do), are among the least able to do without adequate sleep. In spite of that, many school districts require them to get up as early as 5:30 a.m. to meet transportation and teaching schedules. This, even though teens are biologically predisposed to stay up late and sleep late, according to Dr. Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist and sleep specialist.

Sleepless teens suffer from all the previously-mentioned mental and health effects, plus behavior and learning problems, and attempted suicide. Sadly, 90 percent of teens are sleep deprived, and this lack of sleep – occurring at such a crucial stage of development – can have permanent effects on both physical and mental maturation.

Can’t Sleep? There’s No App for That

As climate change increases, the problems of sleeplessness will inevitably accelerate. The best thing parents can do for their school-age offspring is insist on early bedtime. The best thing adults can do for themselves is to turn off the television, close the Google search window, and put away the cell phone.

If all else fails, the sleepless can consult a physician or holistic practitioner. The doctor will likely prescribe a mild, non-narcotic sleeping pill like Lunesta or Halcion. Holistic healers are more likely to recommend melatonin, taken with 1,000 milligrams of N-Acetyl-Cysteine and a full glass of water – a remedy that can take as long as five weeks before the sleepless start seeing consistent results. Other remedies include 5-HTP(tryptophan), valerian, chamomile, or kava, to name a few, but always consult a health professional before taking anything, including herbs. Many can interact with prescription medicines, sometimes dangerously.

Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference

Sometimes mastering the art of sleep can be as simple as a change of sheets. Yes, sheets, but not the microfiber ones, which are largely synthetic fibers and don’t “breathe” like pure organic cotton. The same goes for pillowcases. There is almost nothing more disturbing than waking up 10 times a night only to feel your sweaty forehead stuck to a hot, soggy microfiber pillowcase.

The same is true for blankets, nightclothes, and undergarments. If you must polyester, do it on the outside, but keep the good stuff next to your skin.


This post was posted in Blog and Green Library, Health and Safety, Sleep Well and was tagged with adolescents, chronic illness, climate change, depression, diabetes, disease, hallucinations, heart disease, insomnia, melatonin, obesity, ORGANIC, paranoia, Sleep, sleeplessness, suicide, SUSTAINABLE, USA MADE

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