New research finds that sleep can be most efficient and restful for older adults when nighttime bedroom ambient temperature ranges between 68 to 77 °F.
The authors observed an overall trend: a 5-10 % drop in sleep efficiency as the nighttime ambient temperature increases from 77°F to 86°F. Importantly, this research also reveals substantial between-individual differences in optimal bedroom temperature.
“These results highlight the potential to enhance sleep quality in older adults by optimizing home thermal environments and emphasizing the importance of personalized temperature adjustments based on individual needs and circumstances,” said lead researcher Amir Baniassadi, PhD, Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research at Hebrew SeniorLife, and Harvard Medical School.
“Additionally, the study underscores the potential impact of climate change on sleep quality in older adults, particularly those with lower socioeconomic status, and supports increasing their adaptive capacity as nighttime temperatures increase in cities across the country,” Baniassadi said.
This longitudinal observational study examines the association between bedroom nighttime temperature and sleep quality in a sample of community dwelling older adults. Using wearable sleep monitors and environmental sensors, researchers monitored sleep duration, efficiency, and restlessness over an extended period within participants' homes while controlling for potential confounders and covariates. The study collected nearly 11,000 person-nights of sleep and environmental data from 50 older adults. The associations were primarily nonlinear, and substantial between-subject variations were observed.
The findings were published in the article, Nighttime ambient temperature and sleep in community-dwelling older adults, appearing in Science of The Total Environment. Authors were Amir Baniassadi; Brad Manor, PhD, Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research at Hebrew SeniorLife, and Harvard Medical School; Wanting Yu, ME, Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research at Hebrew SeniorLife; Thomas Travison, PhD, Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research at Hebrew SeniorLife, and Harvard Medical School; and Lewis Lipsitz, MD, Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research at Hebrew SeniorLife, and Harvard Medical School.
Older adults often experience inadequate, restless, and disrupted sleep which in turn influences many outcomes related to their health and wellbeing such as cognitive and physical function, mood and affect, irritability and reaction to stress, productivity, diabetes management, and risk of cardiovascular diseases. Indeed, poor sleep is disproportionately more common among older adults. Meanwhile, research on its causes has been mostly focused on physiological and behavioral factors despite evidence suggesting that the environment the person sleeps in can be as influential.
As a result, while numerous medical and behavioral interventions have been developed to improve outcomes related to sleep, the potential of environmental interventions have been largely overlooked. Within this context, the link between home ambient temperature and sleep within older adults can be a potential target for improving sleep, which motivated the researchers to conduct this study. The authors plan to continue this line of work by focusing on the potential impact of climate change on sleep in low-income older adults and developing interventions to optimize their environment.
Read more about this subject in this blog post by Dr. Baniassadi: Sleep and Rising Temperatures: The Hidden Impact of Climate Change on Older Adults.
About Hebrew SeniorLife
Hebrew SeniorLife, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, is a national senior services leader uniquely dedicated to rethinking, researching, and redefining the possibilities of aging. Hebrew SeniorLife cares for more than 4,500 seniors a day across six campuses throughout Greater Boston. Locations include: Hebrew Rehabilitation Center-Boston and Hebrew Rehabilitation Center-NewBridge in Dedham; NewBridge on the Charles, Dedham; Orchard Cove, Canton; Simon C. Fireman Community, Randolph; Center Communities of Brookline, Brookline; and Jack Satter House, Revere. Founded in 1903, Hebrew SeniorLife also conducts influential research into aging at the Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research, which has a portfolio of more than $85 million, making it one of the largest gerontological research facilities in the U.S. in a clinical setting. It also trains more than 1,000 geriatric care providers each year. For more information about Hebrew SeniorLife, visit our website or follow us on our blog, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
About the Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research
Scientists at the Marcus Institute seek to transform the human experience of aging by conducting research that will ensure a life of health, dignity, and productivity into advanced age. The Marcus Institute carries out rigorous studies that discover the mechanisms of age-related disease and disability; lead to the prevention, treatment, and cure of disease; advance the standard of care for older people; and inform public decision-making.
Science of The Total Environment
Method of Research
Subject of Research
Nighttime ambient temperature and sleep in community-dwelling older adults
Article Publication Date