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.”

Home Heat Health: Sleep in the City starts in September and will run for 33 months.

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: PR 22/101

The project is led from the School of Architecture Building and Civil engineering which was rated world-leading in the recent Research excellence Framework assessment, with the UK’s top-ranked research environment.

The research team includes: Professor Kevin Lomas (Principal Investigator) and Dr Arash Beizaee School of Architecture Building and Civil Engineering; Prof Kevin Morgan and Dr Iuliana Hartescu from the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences; and Prof Victoria Haines and Dr Jo Barnes from the School of Design and Creative Arts.

Project partners include: The Department for Levelling up, Housing and Communities; the Department for Business and Industrial Strategy; the UK Health Security Agency, (formerly Public Health England); Galliard Homes property development; Clarion, the UK’s largest housing association;  United St Saviour's Charity, a social housing provider;  Arup, the building and engineering consultancy; APEX noise consultants; the Good Homes Alliance, which promotes quality housing; and the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE).

About Loughborough University

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2022 QS World University Rankings and University of the Year for Sport by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2022, and 10th in both the Guardian University League Table 2022 and the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.