Effect of continuous heat exposure on sleep stages in humans

Sleep. 1988 Apr;11(2):195-209. doi: 10.1093/sleep/11.2.195.


Six young men were exposed to a thermoneutral environment of air temperature (Ta) 20 degrees C for 5 days and nights followed by an acclimation period of 5 days and nights at Ta 35 degrees C and 2 recovery days and nights at Ta 20 degrees C. Electrophysiological measures of sleep, esophageal temperature, and mean skin temperature were continuously monitored. The total nocturnal body weight loss was measured by a sensitive platform scale. Compared with the 5 nights of the baseline period at 20 degrees C, sleep patterns showed disturbances at 35 degrees C. Total sleep time was significantly reduced, while the amount of wakefulness increased. The subjects exhibited fragmented sleep patterns. The mean duration of REM episodes was shorter at 35 degrees C than at 20 degrees C of Ta, while the REM cycle length shortened. In the acclimation period, there was no change in sleep pattern from night to night, despite adaptative adjustments of the thermoregulatory response. The protective mechanisms of deep body temperature occurring with heat adaptation did not interact with sleep processes. Upon return to baseline condition, a recovery effect was observed on a number of sleep parameters which were not significantly affected by the preceding exposure to prolonged heat. This would suggest that during exposure to dry heat, the demand for sleep could overcome that of other regulatory functions that are temperature-dependent. Therefore, a complete analysis of the effect of heat on sleep parameters can be assessed only if heat exposure is compared with both baseline and recovery periods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Temperature Regulation*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sleep Stages / physiology*
  • Sweating
  • Time Factors