environmental pollution and sleep

How to Minimize the Impact Environmental Pollution May Be Having on Your Sleep

Photo by Ben Blennerhassett on Unsplash

It may seem strange to say, but did you know environmental pollution might be keeping you up at night? Air, light, and noise pollution may be contributing to the fact 35% of Americans are not getting enough sleep. And that is a problem capable of leading to serious health issues.

What is proper sleep? Most adults require seven hours of sleep per night, and children under age 18 require even more – but getting to sleep is not the only problem. If you wake up frequently, you might not be getting enough quality sleep to adequately support your health and well-being.

How Sleep Impacts Your Health

Irregular sleep has been associated with disease. The American Heart Association states poor sleep habits may put you at risk for:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Obesity
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke

Sleeplessness can also negatively affect your mood, brain function, and other waking activities. If this impacts you, there are steps you can take to ensure you get a better night’s sleep. Let’s explore the consequences of environmental pollution on your ability to sleep and what you can do about it.

Air Pollution

In 2018, a study investigated the impact of poor air quality on sleep. The sleep patterns of more than 1800 subjects across six U.S. cities were studied. Researchers discovered subjects exposed to high levels of air pollution were 60% more likely to have sleep deprivation than those who were not.

Air pollution has also been linked to sleep apnea, a condition where breathing becomes irregular or stops during sleep. It is linked with an increased risk of stroke.

There are several ways you can improve your air quality if you live in a polluted area:

  • Use an air purifier or air filters in your home. Be sure to clean or replace them regularly.
  • Dust frequently to remove allergens and other particles that may come from pollution.
  • Open your windows regularly to release chemicals out of your home.
  • Use green cleaning products. Many traditional cleaners contain chemicals capable of contaminating your air, causing indoor air pollution and health problems.
  • Buy easy-to-maintain plants to help clean your air and freshen your home.

The Impact of Artificial Light

Light pollution from homes and industry interrupts the sleep patterns of local wildlife, putting these populations at risk for their very survival. LED lights are especially disruptive. This artificial light may be harming your sleep habits as well.

You get drowsy at night due to the production of melatonin, a hormone geared to regulate sleep. Too much light at night can trigger cortisol, the stress hormone, and that can keep you up. Additionally, blue light from your smartphone, laptop, or tablet can also interfere with melatonin production, making it difficult to get to sleep.

Protect your sleep by making sure your bedroom is completely dark. You may need to purchase room darkening blinds or blackout curtains. Additionally, stay off any light-emitting devices for 1-2 hours before sleep or use a blue light blocking app on your device.

Noise Pollution

Noise pollution may also harm your sleep and health when you’re exposed at night to sounds above a certain level (65 decibels), such as barking dogs or loud car traffic. Ideal noise levels for sleep are 30 decibels or less. So, if you live in a noisy area, this may affect you.

Frequent exposure to high levels of noise can also harm your health. Noise pollution has been linked to high blood pressure, headaches, sleep disorders, and more. Experts say it takes 16 hours of sleep to recover from only two hours of exposure to 100 decibels of noise, including common urban sounds such as nightclub music or construction noise.

Reducing noise pollution may be a challenge if you cannot soundproof your sleeping area. Use noise-canceling headphones with relaxing music or an app to get to sleep. You can also use earplugs to block noise.

Protecting Your Sleep

There are many other ways to protect your sleep. Establishing a regular nighttime routine, managing your stress in the evening, and avoiding food or drink too close to bedtime can help. It’s also wise to maintain other proper health habits.

If taking measures to regularly ensure you get a good night’s sleep are not working, you may need to check with your doctor to rule out any medical issues. However, physicians or health practitioners won’t always ask about environmental issues, such as pollution, when assessing your health. Bring all your concerns and questions when talking with your healthcare providers. It is essential you be your own healthcare advocate.
Protecting the quality of your sleep is an important action to take when caring for your health. Air, light, and noise pollution may be factors contributing to your sleep disruption you have not yet considered. Investigate all potential issues impacting a good night’s sleep – your health is worth it!

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