What Air Conditioning Is Doing To Your Health

Science has found yet another reason that you should have air conditioning (as if we needed any extra ones). In a strange new study by the National Institute of Health, researchers found that sleeping at lower temperatures has important effects on a person's metabolism. Most bizarrely of all, this effect could make a big difference when it comes to metabolic problems like diabetes.

During the course of the study, five healthy young men agreed to sleep in climate controlled facilities at the National Institute of Health and to allow researchers to select their meals to keep their caloric intake consistent. For the first month, the rooms were kept at 75 degrees, considered to be a neutral temperature. The following month, the temperature was set at 66 degrees each night, which was obviously much cooler but not cold enough to induce shivering that would affect the quality of the participants' sleep.

And as it turns out, sleeping at the cooler temperature made a "slight but meaningful" impact, causing their bodies to produce more "brown fat," which is a type of fat that is metabolically active. Brown fat, which is usually found in only small amounts in humans, actually removes sugar from the blood stream and burns calories. Over time, researchers said, this increase in brown fat could lower a person's risk for diabetes and have important effects on their overall metabolism.

And it looks like all it might take would be turning down your thermostat before bed. Sleeping at 66 degrees roughly doubled the amount of brown fat the participants had, though these benefits disappeared when they went back to sleeping at 75 degrees again, and during the final month of the study, when the men slept at 81 degrees, the amount of brown fat dipped well below its original levels.

Overall, the whole thing sounds really weird. Like, I understand how important sleep is, but this study is suggesting that we could all literally lower our risk of diabetes in our sleep. In a country where diabetes affects almost 10 percent of the population, that's huge.

Of course, this is only one study, and a study with only five participants. We can't say for sure if the effect is the same for people across different ages, genders, and ethnicities, or whether the fact that these men were already in good health had something to do with the effectiveness of this temperature change.

But hey, who knows? Maybe leading a healthier life really is as simple as cranking up the AC before you go to sleep.