Testing the impact of extreme weather on urban sleep quality – new project

  • New project looks at the impact of high summer temperatures and the urban heat island (UHI) phenomenon on sleep quality in major cities
  • UHI is the residual heat released by buildings at night after storing it through the day
  • Overheating in bedrooms at night is recognised by the World Health Organisation as one of the most serious consequences of raised global temperatures
  • The project brings together sleep scientists, building physicists and design experts

With global temperatures set to increase, a team of researchers at Loughborough University is looking at the impact of extreme weather on sleep.

The Sleep in the City project examines how increasing temperatures, in particular the ‘urban heat island’ (UHI) phenomenon, can affect the bedroom environment, sleep quality and wellbeing.

UHI phenomenon is where the heat absorbed by the built environment during the day is slowly released at night, keeping temperatures much higher compared to those found in the surrounding countryside.

The research will be focussed on flats in London, over summer 2023 and 2024, with the goal of helping residents improve their comfort on summer nights, whilst also offering guidance for regulators, builders and owners.

One of the project’s researchers Professor Kevin Morgan said: “The UHI phenomena is already recognised as a major public health issue in large cities.

“This public health challenge is getting worse as global warming continues to increase the frequency and severity of heatwaves.

“Overheating in bedrooms at night is recognised by the World Health Organisation as one of the most serious consequences of raised global temperatures.

“It can be mitigated by appropriate housing design and construction, but at present there are no criteria for ‘temperature-related sleep disturbance’ to guide engineers and architects.

“This project will map the impact of summer temperatures on sleep and establish those criteria.”

The three-year project, supported by Government funding, will operate from the Loughborough University London site at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

The project brings together a multi-disciplinary team of sleep scientists, building physicists and experts in user-centred design and health.

As well as providing data about the temperatures, noise and air quality in their bedrooms, and the quality of sleep, the team will also test established behavioural and physical interventions designed to improve summer sleep.

It comes as scientists around the world officially declare the emergence of the El Nino phenomenon.

The project has been designed to capture the impact of this fluctuating weather system, which shifts the position of the Pacific jet stream leading to warmer global temperatures.

Project lead Professor Kevin Lomas said: “A project of this scale and scope is long overdue.

“Our findings will be of benefit to many different organisations coping with the impact of global warming around the world.”

For more information or to take part in the study, contact Prof Morgan: k.morgan@lboro.ac.uk

Or visit: https://www.lboro.ac.uk/research/sleep-in-the-city


Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 23/130

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 2023 QS World University Rankings – the seventh year running – and University of the Year for Sport by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is ranked 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2023, 10th in the Guardian University League Table 2023 and 11th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’, and in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 over 90% of its research was rated as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally-excellent’. 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.