Garbage study claims: global warming will cause U.S. sleep loss

From the UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA – SAN DIEGO and the “correlation is not causation unless we take a survey and plug the results into a model and ignore UHI” department comes this “anything goes” paper that has the magic words for making headlines, but very little if any real science in it.

Losing sleep over climate change

Climate change may keep you awake — and not just metaphorically. Nights that are warmer than normal can harm human sleep, researchers show in a new paper, with the poor and elderly most affected. According to their findings, if climate change is not addressed, temperatures in 2050 could cost people in the United States millions of additional nights of insufficient sleep per year. By 2099, the figure could rise by several hundred million more nights of lost sleep annually.

The study was led by Nick Obradovich, who conducted much of the research as a doctoral student in political science at the University of California San Diego. He was inspired to investigate the question by the heat wave that hit San Diego in October of 2015. Obradovich was having trouble sleeping. He tossed and he turned, the window AC in his North Park home providing little relief from the record-breaking temperatures. At school, he noticed that fellow students were also looking grumpy and bedraggled, and it got him thinking: Had anyone looked at what climate change might do to sleep?

Published by Science Advances, the research represents the largest real-world study to date to find a relationship between reports of insufficient sleep and unusually warm nighttime temperatures. It is the first to apply the discovered relationship to projected climate change.

“Sleep has been well-established by other researchers as a critical component of human health. Too little sleep can make a person more susceptible to disease and chronic illness, and it can harm psychological well-being and cognitive functioning,” Obradovich said. “What our study shows is not only that ambient temperature can play a role in disrupting sleep but also that climate change might make the situation worse by driving up rates of sleep loss.”

Obradovich is now a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a research scientist at the MIT Media Lab. He is also a fellow of the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Obradovich worked on the study with Robyn Migliorini, a student in the San Diego State University/UC San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology, and sleep researcher Sara Mednick of UC Riverside. Obradovich’s dissertation advisor, social scientist James Fowler of UC San Diego, is also a co-author.

The study starts with data from 765,000 U.S. residents between 2002 and 2011 who responded to a public health survey, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study then links data on self-reported nights of insufficient sleep to daily temperature data from the National Centers for Environmental Information. Finally, it combines the effects of unusually warm temperatures on sleep with climate model projections.

The main finding is that anomalous increases in nighttime temperature by 1 degree Celsius translate to three nights of insufficient sleep per 100 individuals per month. To put that in perspective: If we had a single month of nightly temperatures averaging 1 degree Celsius higher than normal, that is equivalent to 9 million more nights of insufficient sleep in a month across the population of the United States today, or 110 million extra nights of insufficient sleep annually.

Areas of the western and northern United States — where nighttime temperatures are projected to increase most — may experience the largest future changes in sleep. CREDIT Courtesy N. Obradovich

The negative effect of warmer nights is most acute in summer, the research shows. It is almost three times as high in summer as during any other season.

The effect is also not spread evenly across all demographic groups. Those whose income is below $50,000 and those who are aged 65 and older are affected most severely. For older people, the effect is twice that of younger adults. And for the lower-income group, it is three times worse than for people who are better off financially.

The effect on sleep of warmer than usual nights is most acute during the summer and among lower-income respondents and the elderly. CREDIT Courtesy N. Obradovich.

Using climate projections for 2050 and 2099 by NASA Earth Exchange, the study paints a bleak picture of the future if the relationship between warmer nights and disrupted sleep persists. Warmer temperatures could cause six additional nights of insufficient sleep per 100 individuals by 2050 and approximately 14 extra nights per 100 by 2099.

“The U.S. is relatively temperate and, in global terms, quite prosperous,” Obradovich said. “We don’t have sleep data from around the world, but assuming the pattern is similar, one can imagine that in places that are warmer or poorer or both, what we’d find could be even worse.”

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The research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation, grants no. DGE0707423 and TG-SES130013 to Obradovich, DGE1247398 to Migliorini, and BCS1439210 to Mednick. Mednick is also funded by the National Institute on Aging (R01AG046646) and the Department of Defense (Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award).


In the press release, they give this DOI link, which seems to be DOA: http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.1601555

But I dug out the article and here is the link: http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/5/e1601555.full

The SI is here: http://advances.sciencemag.org/highwire/filestream/195722/field_highwire_adjunct_files/0/1601555_SM.pdf

Abstract

Human sleep is highly regulated by temperature. Might climate change—through increases in nighttime heat—disrupt sleep in the future? We conduct the inaugural investigation of the relationship between climatic anomalies, reports of insufficient sleep, and projected climate change. Using data from 765,000 U.S. survey respondents from 2002 to 2011, coupled with nighttime temperature data, we show that increases in nighttime temperatures amplify self-reported nights of insufficient sleep. We observe the largest effects during the summer and among both lower-income and elderly respondents. We combine our historical estimates with climate model projections and detail the potential sleep impacts of future climatic changes. Our study represents the largest ever investigation of the relationship between sleep and ambient temperature and provides the first evidence that climate change may disrupt human sleep.


There isn’t a single mention of UHI or Urban Heat Island in the paper, but they do say this in a roundabout way in the SI for the paper: http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/advances/suppl/2017/05/22/3.5.e1601555.DC1/1601555_SM.pdf

Some might desire that we control for common demographic covariates. Unfortunately, as these demographic characteristics may also be impacted by the climatic variables within a locality (for example, if a particular demographic sorts into living in less extreme environments), including these variables has the potential to bias our coefficient of interest on nighttime temperature anomalies (making the variables ‘bad controls’). As a result we exclude them from our specification in Equation 1 in the main text.

They reference “climatic variables within a locality”, i.e. “microclimates” or UHI if one considers that. The IPCC stated in AR3 that

“it is well-known that compared to non-urban areas urban heat islands raise night-time temperatures more than daytime temperatures”

In the abstract of this study, Obradovich posits:

Might climate change—through increases in nighttime heat—disrupt sleep in the future?

It’s as if this kid never heard of UHI as a factor for increasing nighttime temperature. Mind-boggling.

I wonder how many of the respondents were from major cities, like Las Vegas, NV? There, the city has been booming, and if you consider the usual “climate change” metric, i.e. average temperature, yes it looks like it’s gotten warmer there since about 1973-75, before that, the trend is mostly insignificant.

But if you look at the Maximum and minimum temperatures separately, a clear UHI signal emerges that correlates with the building boom. Maximum temperatures are actually lower than in 1937.

While minimum temperatures are upwards

Increasing minimum temperatures are a sure sign of UHI, the city government itself even acknowledges it¹. ((see references). UHI increases nighttime temperatures due to there being more concrete, asphalt, and other impermeable surfaces storing daytime heat and releasing it at night -this  is not “climate change” in the sense they use it, yet they don’t seem to even be aware of it as a possible confounding factor. Did the author, Obradovich, control for city dwellers vs. country dwellers? It doesn’t look like it.

The graph they cite “The effect on sleep of warmer than usual nights is most acute during the summer and among lower-income respondents and the elderly.” also isn’t about climate change. It’s about affordability for air-conditioning – not only for purchase, but for powering it. Low income and fixed income people (elderly) often can’t afford to purchase and/or run an air-conditioner. But instead of factoring in that, they immediately jump to climate change” as the culprit. Interestingly, in Table S4 of the SI for the paper, they show that low-income people tend to have about 4 times the rate of sleep loss as the financially well of. This could be due to lack of air-conditioning, or simply worrying how you are going to pay your bills and keep your kids fed – the things that really keep people up at night.

In a story in Psychology Today, they list the most common reasons for less sleep:

Increased sleep deprivation, or sleep deficit, has sometimes been described as a symptom of the recent decrease in leisure time in American society (see, for example, Juliet Schor’s bestseller The Overworked American). Working hours increased during the second-half of the 20th century, along with sharp growth in American productivity and prosperity. A doubling of productivity could have translated into both higher incomes and decreased working hours, yet today employees rarely have a choice between getting paid in time or money. Instead, Americans, relative to the past, work more, earn more, and spend more. This focus on work and consumption over leisure time has brought about an increased “time squeeze.”  While this is especially true for the average American woman, the time squeeze cuts across gender, social class, and marital status.

Moreover, the recent growth of digital media and smartphones has dramatically raised productivity expectations and blurred the line between work and personal life. This decrease in free time and increased pace of life and stress has brought with it reduced sleep, with real consequences for physical and mental health, performance at work, and quality of life.  For example, in the 1960s, the average amount of time Americans spent sleeping was between 7 and 8.5 hours a night, while today 50% of the population averages under 7 hours, and, according to a 2008 survey, 1 out of 3 Americans say they get a good night’s sleep only a few nights a month or less.

But Obradovich doesn’t seem to look at any of those factors, such as having a cell phone waking you up at night, or the general trend for less leisure time and more work. No, Obradovich jumps right on the correlation with temperature, thinking that is the only cause, seemingly excluding other more confounding factors. Then, they take that data from the survey and plug it into a model of their own design, and bam – instant conclusion – we’ll all get less sleep due to “climate change”.

Finally, Obradovich commits the cardinal sin of climate alarmists everywhere conflation of weather and climate in his thinking:

The study was led by Nick Obradovich, who conducted much of the research as a doctoral student in political science at the University of California San Diego. He was inspired to investigate the question by the heat wave that hit San Diego in October of 2015. Obradovich was having trouble sleeping. He tossed and he turned, the window AC in his North Park home providing little relief from the record-breaking temperatures. At school, he noticed that fellow students were also looking grumpy and bedraggled, and it got him thinking: Had anyone looked at what climate change might do to sleep?

Kid, one HEAT WAVE does not equate to “climate change” it’s weather, and weather is NOT climate.

In my opinion, this study by Obradovich is garbage, and was a conclusion looking for a paper to support it. How this sort of junk gets past peer review I have no idea.

References:

(1) Summary Report, Urban Heat Island Effect, City of Las Vegas, Office of Sustainability,  April 2010

From:  http://www.lasvegasnevada.gov/files/UHI_Report_2010-2.pdf

(2) Source for data: NOAA/NWS Las Vegas, from

http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/vef/climate/LasVegasClimateBook/index.php

(3) Losing Sleep in the 21st Century
In a rapidly evolving American society, people are sleeping less and less. May 07, 2013

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/limitless/201305/losing-sleep-in-the-21st-century

Ref.: https://wattsupwiththat.com/2017/05/28/garbage-study-claims-global-warming-will-cause-u-s-sleep-loss/

 

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