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Trouble Sleeping? Why Air Pollution Could be to Blame

If you find yourself staring at the ceiling come bedtime, it might not be down to what many would suggest (stress, too much caffeine or watching late-night TV). In fact, it could be a problem caused by air pollution – and a number of researchers believe they’ve found sufficient evidence to back up this claim.

According to a story published in The Guardian, a study presented at the American Thoracic Society’s annual conference last year revealed that those exposed to higher amounts of nitrogen dioxide and fine particles (also referred to as PM 2.5s), were found to experience lower levels of sleep efficiency.

Martha Billings, co-author of the study and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Washington, commented on the findings. “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,” she explained.

The study took a number of variables into account when analysing the results, such as age, smoking status and conditions like sleep apnea in order to conduct fair research. However, it isn’t clear whether the poorer sleep was caused by pollution itself, or factors associated with increased levels of pollution – such as the noise that comes with more congested roads. Either way, it’s evident that polluted air does play a role in a bad night’s sleep.

Roy Harrison, professor of environmental health at the University of Birmingham, commented on the findings in the same article. “Previous research has shown associations between nitrogen dioxide exposures and effects upon various physiological and biochemical functions in the body, as well as hospital admissions and mortality,” he revealed. “It should therefore come as no surprise that such exposures also affect sleep patterns,” he concluded.



Image courtesy of Kinga Cichewicz, Unsplash

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