A good night’s sleep is key to good health, but what is the best temperature to achieve optimal rest? A recent study conducted on a group of older adults in Boston shed light on this question. The study, which involved 50 volunteers over the age of 60, found that the ideal temperature range for the most restful sleep for seniors is between 20 and 25 °C (68-77 °F).
Effect of temperature on sleep efficiency
The study found that when the temperature was increased from 25 to 30 °C, participants’ sleep efficiency decreased by 10%. This decrease in sleep efficiency could have serious implications, as previous studies have shown that a 10% decrease in sleep efficiency can impair brain function, increase stress, anxiety and fatigue, and affect blood sugar control the next day.
Climate change implications
As global temperatures continue to rise, it is crucial to consider the impact of climate change on sleep quality. As nights become increasingly hot, measures must be taken to improve thermal comfort in living spaces, especially in nursing homes and public apartments. Reflective paints and other building materials are being considered as alternatives to air conditioning.
Amir Baniassadi, an engineer and health researcher at Harvard Medical School who led the study, emphasizes the importance of considering the potential impact of climate change on sleep: “As we deal with the broader impacts of climate change, we should not overlook its potential impact on something as fundamental as sleep.”
Long-term consequences of poor sleep
Insufficient sleep can have long-term consequences for physical and mental health. It can even affect the perception of those around us, which affects our relationships. Historical data and longitudinal studies show that rising temperatures have already disrupted sleep patterns in the past, and further warming is likely to exacerbate the problem. It is estimated that by 2099, rising temperatures could result in about 50 hours of sleep per person per year.
Tracking sleep patterns in real-world conditions
Unlike many previous sleep studies conducted in controlled laboratory settings, in this study, sleep patterns and air temperature were tracked by participants in their own homes. Sensors were installed in the bedrooms of participants aged 65 years and older to monitor indoor temperature and humidity. They also wore a ring-like device at night that tracked sleep, skin temperature, heart rate and movement. In total, the researchers collected about 11,000 nights of sleep and environmental data for analysis.
Personalizing the sleep environment
While the study found that temperatures between 20 and 25 °C are most favorable for restful sleep, it varies significantly from person to person. Each person may have a different optimal temperature setting for sleep, which may even change over time. The lead researcher suggests making small adjustments to sleep conditions, such as improving air exchange and choosing lightweight clothing for sleep. However, a more significant effect may come from improving thermal comfort in the building itself, albeit at a greater cost.
The study also highlighted the potential impact of climate change on sleep quality in older adults of low socioeconomic status. Study participants lived in a variety of housing, ranging from government-subsidized apartments to private single-family homes. The findings underscore the need to address the specific challenges faced by vulnerable populations in the face of climate change.
In conclusion, this study provides valuable insights into the optimal temperature regime for restful sleep for older people. It emphasizes the importance of considering the impact of climate change on sleep quality and points to the need for measures to improve thermal comfort in living spaces. As air temperatures continue to rise, addressing these issues will become increasingly important.