Air pollution linked to a bad night's sleep

23 May 2017

After a busy day, there’s nothing worse than getting into bed and being unable to sleep.

But if you’re not worried about work or have any personal hang-ups, what could be keeping you awake? Well, according to new research, air pollution could play a big part in disrupting sleep.

Experts in the U.S. conducted a five-year study on 1,863 people in which they monitored how long participants spent asleep each night and they discovered the impact that air pollution in the body has on the level of sleep efficiency.

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The more nitrogen oxide and particles known as PM2.5s found in a person, the less likely they were to have a soundless sleep; those exposed to the former were 60 percent more likely to have a bad night’s rest, while people with traces of PM2.5 had an almost 50 percent increased risk.

“Your nose, your sinuses and the back of your throat can all be irritated by those pollutants so that can cause some sleep disruption as well as from breathing issues,” Dr Martha Billings, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Washington and lead author, said of the findings, noting air pollution had previously been linked to heart health, lung function and breathing.

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“We thought an effect was likely given that air pollution causes upper airway irritation, swelling and congestion, and may also affect the central nervous system and brain areas that control breathing patterns and sleep.”

Dr Billings added that improving air quality would not only boost health but improve sleep quality too. With more shut eye this could possibly reduce some health issues.

She did explain that more studies are required though in order to fully understand and explore the link between other pollutants and sleep, how exactly such pollution can disrupt sleep and whether noise from traffic is actually a driving factor behind struggling to snooze.

Results were presented at the recent American Thoracic Society’s annual international conference.

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