Air Pollution linked to Poor Sleep
Air pollution has long been associated with many health problems, but poor sleep rarely features on that list. Recent research has however revealed that there is actually a close link between poor sleep and air pollution. Exposure to air pollutants, especially nitrogen dioxide and PM 2.5 particulates, could be the reason why you are not sleeping as soundly as you should. A study was carried out in the U.S that revealed the close association between decreased sleep efficiency and air pollution.
How was the study conducted?
This hallmark study was carried out on residents of 6 major cities in the United States. The research, which was conducted by researchers from the University of Washington and other institutions, had about 1863 participants. Most of them were over the age of 68, although the average age of the participants was 63 years. Many factors were considered during this study, some of which include ethnicity, body mass, age and smoking habits.
The participants wore a wrist actigraphy for seven days in a row when sleeping. The purpose of the gadget was to record fine movements during their sleep as a means of measuring sleep efficiency. Simply defined, sleep efficiency refers to the ratio of hours spent asleep with those spent awake. High sleep efficiency means that a participant slept soundly. The converse is also true: a low sleep efficiency points to disturbed sleep.
Quite predictably, the study showed that people with high exposure to pollutants had more disturbed sleep than those who were not highly exposed. The two most offending pollutants were nitrogen dioxide, which is usually emitted by vehicles, and PM 2.5 particulates. Nitrogen dioxide was found to reduce sleep efficiency by a whopping 60%, while exposure to PM 2.5 particulates lowered sleep efficiency by up to 50%.
For a long time, it was thought that air pollution only posed a threat to the health of certain vital body organs, namely the heart and lungs. One can, therefore, understand the bewilderment that many people experience upon learning that pollution can plague their sleep as well. Martha Billings, co- author of this somewhat stunning report had an explanation for the strange findings.
According to her, air pollutants irritate sinuses, the nose and the throat. Secondly, they also affect the brain, which results in problems in the regulation of breathing. When you experience breathing problems in your sleep, there is a high probability that your sleep will be disrupted. You might even have trouble finding sleep in the first place. This is a fairly sound theory that helps solve the air pollution and poor sleep mystery.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Poor Sleep?
Sleep is more important to the human body than you might think. It gives your body a chance to rest and become rejuvenated. It also boosts your brain function while improving memory and mood.
Poor sleep is associated with a sour mood. If you suffer from sleep deprivation, there is a high probability that you will be irate and hard to get along with. You may get overly angry at the slightest provocation. This could negatively affect your relationships with other people, who may tend to stay out of your way. When loneliness starts to creep in, then you realize just how costly poor sleep can be.
Secondly, poor sleep can impair your concentration. You may find it hard to concentrate on even the most basic of tasks, or you may find yourself constantly distracted. Although initially, this might not appear to be much of a problem, it could get worse with time. You could also find yourself suffering from memory loss, however mild. Poor sleep can have very far reaching consequences indeed.
Lack of enough sleep is also characterized by decreased energy levels. You may find yourself tiring very quickly, and generally lacking the energy to do things you would ordinarily not think twice before doing. This can be easily explained away by the fact that it is during sleep that the body replenishes its lost energy, therefore if you fail to sleep enough, your energy levels will be lower than they should be.
Since lack of enough sleep can be more than costly, it is important that you find ways to improve sleep. You should consult with your healthcare provider in order to devise ways to improve yourself. If you can, avoid areas that are prone to air pollution, because they can be the main cause of your sleep troubles.
Although moving to a less polluted area may not be feasible; there are steps you can take to improve the air quality in your home, such as keeping certain plants in your house and bedroom. See Sleeping with Plants for the best plants for this job.
In addition, an air purifier will go a long way to providing the right conditions in your bedroom.
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