A new study indicates that air pollution levels may be affecting the sleep patterns of people. Previously, air pollution was linked with a negative impact on hearth health, as well as breathing and lung issues.
For the study, scientists considered two main pollutants, which include nitrogen dioxide or NO2 and PM2.5 or fine particle pollutants.
How Was The Study Conducted?
The scientists examined data of 1,863 participants with an average age of 68 from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Athelosclerosis or MESA. These participants were also a part of MESA’s Air Pollution and Sleep studies. After gathering air pollution data from the Air and Environment Protection Agency, and studying pollution levels in six American cities, the researchers were able to measure the amount of air pollution each participants’ house suffered at the end of the first year and again at the end of the fifth year.
Wrist actigraphy sensors were used on the participants. These sensors can detect even the smallest movement during sleep and are immensely helpful in measuring the sleep efficiency i.e. the time spent sleeping on the bed vis-à-vis the time spent awake.
Based on the amount of pollution that they were living in, the researchers divided the participants into four groups. The scientists also considered the participants’ body mass, ethnicity, income, sleep apnea, smoking habits, and other such external factors.
Air Pollution To Be Blamed For Disrupted Sleep?
The study showed that the group exposed to the greatest amount of NO2 pollutants in more than five years was 60 percent more likely to develop sleep disorder vis-à-vis the group with the lowest exposure. Similarly the group with the highest exposure to PM2.5 was 50 percent more likely to develop improper sleeping compared to those with the least exposure.
Researchers were mainly trying to determine how continuous exposure to such highly polluted areas would impact people’s sleeping habit. They posited that high levels of air pollution for a short span may also cause the same issues. However, more research is needed to establish this hypothesis.
“These new findings indicate the possibility that commonly experienced levels of air pollution not only affect heart and lung disease, but also sleep quality. Improving air quality may be one way to enhance sleep health and perhaps reduce health disparities,” the study’s lead Martha Billings remarked.
Scientists involved with the research also claimed that they are presently unaware why air pollutants caused the sleep reduction. Further research and more studies similar to this one are required to find the association between air pollution and sleep patterns.
The study’s results were published in American Thoracic Society.