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How Well Do People Sleep in an Evacuation Shelter?

In a new study, Japanese researchers investigated the nature of sleep in an evacuation shelter environment.

The study, which involved a mock shelter in the winter, reveals that the low temperature (41°F/ 5°C) inside the gymnasium adversely affected sleep, decreasing sleep efficiency by 10% when using basic emergency blankets that provide limited insulation.

A burgeoning body of research has established the far-reaching effects of sleep.  Lack of sleep can impact your mood, and chronic sleep deficits can drive up the risk of developing depression.“Sleep affects almost every tissue in our bodies,” says Dr. Michael Twery, a sleep expert at the U.S. National Institutes of Health. “It affects growth and stress hormones, our immune system, appetite, breathing, blood pressure and cardiovascular health.”

The last few years have seen an increase in the number of major disasters, with more people being forced to live in shelters and temporary housing. Evacuation shelters are often large with an uneven distribution of heat. Power outages can also be expected, which can mean a lack of heating and a drop in temperature at the shelter.

As such, researchers from the Architecture and Building Environment Laboratory at Toyohashi University of Technology’s Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering saw a need to study how people live and sleep at shelters and temporary housing, and to investigate the effect of power outages.

The laboratory created a mock evacuation shelter in the school gymnasium, and compared the quality of sleep at this shelter with that of subjects’ own beds.

The researchers used four of the emergency blankets currently stocked in the case of emergency, as well as a standard futon set. The quality of sleep with these two arrangements in the gymnasium were compared to that in subjects’ own beds.

The findings show that the low temperature inside the gymnasium impacted the subjects’ sleep and body temperature regulation. The emergency bedding did not provide sufficient thermal insulation, even when four of the emergency blankets were used from the stocked supply at the gymnasium. In terms of sleep quality, sleep efficiency decreased by 10% or more and fatigue increased compared to when subjects slept in their own beds.

Further research should include looking into providing down jackets to wear in addition to the emergency blankets, as well as other realistic ways to help regulate body temperature and improve sleep in order to prevent deterioration in people’s quality of sleep at low temperatures.

The findings are published in the journal Energy and Buildings.

Source: Toyohashi University of Technology


How Well Do People Sleep in an Evacuation Shelter?

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2019). How Well Do People Sleep in an Evacuation Shelter?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 1, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 16 Nov 2019 (Originally: 16 Nov 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 16 Nov 2019
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