Does Air Quality affect sleep?

In this blog post, we will discuss “does air quality affects sleep?” A brief introduction to air pollution will follow this. Then, the article will focus on the why and how the air quality affects your sleep. In the end, the report will mention some of the methods to improve air quality.

Does Air Quality affect sleep?

Yes, poor air quality levels affect your sleep. It can cause disturbances in your sleeping pattern, and you can develop other sleeping disorders. Some side effects of poor air quality are:

  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Dizziness
  •  Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Sinus Congestion
  • Fatigue
  •  Dryness and irritation in airway tract and skin

The side effects, as mentioned earlier, are short-term symptoms. These are treatable. Prolonged exposure to poor air quality can cause sleep apnea.

Before looking at the details of this issue, let’s first see what air pollution is all about.

What is air pollution?

The introduction of harmful agents into the atmosphere is known as air pollution. The toxic agents are known as pollutants. These pollutants are derived from natural and human activities, and they can be chemical or biological.

Major pollutants present in the air are particulate matter (PM), ground-level ozone (O3), NO2, SO2, and CO. Air also has lead, allergens, bacteria, viruses and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Besides climate change, air pollution has become a significant environmental risk to human health.

Therefore, striving towards minimising air pollution can also help to improve climate change mitigation efforts. In addition, reducing emissions will enhance the quality of air.

WHO has suggested some revised guidelines on 22 September 2021 to improve the overall air quality. This organisation has decided to implement permissible limits of the earlier significant pollutants.

These permissible limits of ambient air quality are as follows:

PollutantsHourly mean concentration (ug/m-3)Annual mean concentration (ug/m-3)
PM2.5155
PM104515
NO22510
SO240
CO4
O38 hour: 100Peak season: 60

What are the health effects of air pollution?

Environmental studies have proved that PM2.5 and PM10 have caused relevant harm to public health. Both pollutants can deeply penetrate inside your lungs. PM2.5 can enter your bloodstream, which results in various respiratory and cardiovascular ailments. It can also affect other organs. WHO has declared these two pollutants as carcinogenic elements.

The detailed adverse effects on human health are as follows:

●    Respiratory ailments: COPD, asthma, bronchitis, whooping cough, common cold and cough, throat infection, lung cancer, chest congestion, sinus congestion, etc.

●    Cardiovascular diseases: Heart attack, cardiac arrest, chest pain, heart blockage, stroke, etc.

●    Mental disorders: Anxiety, insomnia, depression, low productivity, irritation, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, brain stroke, paralysis, etc.

The other effects of air pollution are low sperm counts, low reproductive ability, infertility and congenital infant disabilities.

What are the causes of air pollution?

There are two leading causes of air pollution- natural pollution and anthropogenic pollution. Here’s tabular information about it. This table will also show you a general comparison.

ParametersNatural PollutionAnthropogenic pollution
DefinitionAir pollution, which occurs due to natural phenomena, is called natural pollution. Air pollution, which arises due to human activities, is called anthropogenic/artificial pollution. 
Causes●    Transportation●    Combustion of fossil fuel●     Cooking activities●    Energy generation and consumption●    Agriculture●     Improper Solid Waste Management●    Industries and factories●    Household pollution●    Celebrations●     Construction and demolition ●    Volcanic Eruption●     Wildfire●    Dust storms 

What are the sources of air pollution?

The sources of air pollution are as follows:

● Mobile sources such as cars and buses and other different commutes

● Stationary sources such as oil refineries and factories

● Area sources such as agricultural areas and cities

● Line sources such as roadways and railways

What are the types of air pollution?

There are two types of air pollution – ambient pollution and household pollution. The below represented tabular form will give you a general idea about these types.

ParametersAmbient PollutionHousehold Pollution
DefinitionAir pollution in the outside environment is called ambient pollution/outdoor pollution.Air pollution created inside any closed structure is called indoor pollution/household pollution.
Causes●    Transportation●    Combustion of fossil fuel●     Cooking activities●    Energy generation and consumption●    Agriculture●     Improper Solid Waste Management●    Industries and factories●    Household pollution●    Celebrations●     Construction and demolition●    Household activities●    Perfumes and fresheners●    Cooking fuel/activities●    Cigarette●    Radon●    Poor ventilation●    Uncleaned furniture●    Pets●    Asbestos   

What factors affect your sleep?

Following factors affect your sleep:

Pollutants

Indoor air quality is affected due to various household activities such as cooking, dusting, pets, perfumes, etc. The pollutants present in indoor air pollution are allergens, particulate matter (PM2.5), VOCs, CO2, NO2 and O3. Such contaminants can play with your brain functionality.

Indoor temperature and moisture content

If your bedroom does not have a perfect room temperature or the moisture levels aren’t appropriate, it can affect sleep productivity. In addition, dry air can cause skin and nasal irritation, which can disrupt your sleep. Therefore, it is always better to maintain relative humidity levels at 40-50%.

Ventilation system

A poor ventilation system is also one of the significant factors of sleepless nights. Poor ventilation causes the accumulation of pollutants inside the room and can make your room stuffy and mushy.

Indoor hygiene

Maintaining the cleanliness of your room is of utmost importance. Unwashed sheets, pillow covers, rugs can make you more vulnerable to allergies. Dirty wooden decks and tabletops, ungroomed pets are heaven for contaminants.  

Interaction with outdoor air pollution

Your sleep is also dependent upon the exposure levels of outdoor air pollution. Recent studies have proved that people exposed to more traffic experience poor sleeping quality.

Why and how does air quality affect your sleep?

According to the American Thoracic Society Annals, they have observed two common pollutants such as PM2.5 and nitrogen dioxide, which can obstruct sleeping habits.

These pollutants are mainly responsible for sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is the condition caused by blocked upper airways, which restrict the flow of oxygen into the body. Blocked upper airways cause this sleeping disorder due to particulate matter, dust, and pollen, usually less than 10 micrometres in diameter. People residing near industries, power plants, agricultural fires, high-density traffic are more at risk of sleep apnea.

Microscopic particles, when inhaled, can dissolve into the bloodstream. Thus, oxygen-depleted blood affects brain functionality which causes sleep regulation. In addition, these inhaled particulates may directly migrate to the brain. All such conditions can cause central nervous system malfunction.  

Indoor air pollution can also cause upper airway inflammation. Constant exposure to any air pollution can damage the mucous membranes of the throat and nose; this results in nasal congestion. Pollutants also cause irritation and swelling in the upper airway. Nasal congestion can cause great sleeping discomfort.

Scientists have also noticed that air pollution causes a drop in cognitive performance. Apart from sleep health issues, air pollution can play with your emotional balance, reflecting your moods. Such mood swings and anxiety can be responsible for chronic insomnia and less sleep duration.

As mentioned earlier, a poor ventilation system can affect CO2 levels in your bedroom. Wargocki conducted a recent study and his fellow researchers to analyse indoor air quality levels at night. They were experimenting with how the ventilation rate can cause an effect on the indoor air quality levels.

For this research, around sixteen students had participated. They were allowed to open their windows only in the daytime. In addition to it, there was an inaudible fan installed in their rooms for ventilation. Wrist actigraphs tracked their sleeping activity.

It was observed that CO2 levels in the air were decreased when the fan was on. Thus, this ventilation set-up encouraged sleeping efficiency. This also resulted in improved cognitive performances.

Allergens like dirt, dust mites in beddings, ragweed, pet fur, etc., can interrupt your regular sleep cycle and its performance. In addition, these irritants can worsen allergy and asthma symptoms. Eventually, these results make it impossible to have good night sleep.

Even volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can be your serial sleep killer. Many household activities include laundry, perfumes, mattresses, furniture and electronics products such as airborne toxic chemicals. These contaminants can cause you a headache and can make you irritated. This results in a disturbance in sleep efficiency.

As mentioned earlier, humidity levels of your room should be maintained in the range of 40-50% as dry air causes dryness and irritation to your throat, nose and ears.

A senior research scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health stated that up to 17% of U.S. adults have sleep disorders and night breathing problems. However, many U.S. citizens are unaware of whether they suffer from such conditions.

His research further stated that such sleep-disordered breathing could cause an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.

As we look into the relationship between air quality and sleep, let’s the go-ahead to figure out how to have good air quality to improve your sleep efficiency.

What can I do to protect myself from air pollution?

I will elaborate on some of the measures to protect yourself from air pollution.

Personal Hygiene

You can also fight the effects of air pollution by maintaining personal hygiene:

●    You can cut your nails short to avoid the accumulation of dirt.

●    You can also practice mouth gargling after coming home to free your mouth from unwanted guests.

●    You can also brush twice a day to keep airborne infections at bay.

●    You can also take steam therapy at home to cleanse your lungs.

Quit Smoking

Smoking cigarettes, hookahs (shisha), electric vape or any other types of cigars are not at all suitable for your health. It’s best to stop smoking. Active and passive smoking provides the direct entry of harmful pollutants into your body. This causes the risk to your respiration and other organs dependent on it.

Physical Exercise

Physical activities have many benefits to your body. It not only improves your stamina and immunity levels but also helps to increase your lung capacity. Yoga, sanas, swimming, running, cycling, brisk walking and dancing are some of the best forms of exercise to improve your health.

Breathing Exercise

The majority of people in the world don’t breathe properly. However, correct breathing techniques can keep illnesses due to air pollution at bay. A pranayama is a form of yoga asana which helps to improve breathing methods and lung functionality.

Some of the pranayama types that help you fight air pollution are Kapalbhati, Anulom Vilom, Chandra Nadi, Surya Nadi and Bhastrika. It is strongly recommended to learn this art of breath from a well-certified yoga trainer.

You can also increase your lung muscles by simply taking a deep breath and holding it for a count of 10. Then, slowly breathe out the air. If you can keep your breath for a longer time, then you have good lungs health.

Good diet

Always go for a well-balanced diet to remain fit and strong. Consistent eating of junk and fast food will increase the risk of obesity and other diseases. In addition, such people are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of air pollution. Instead, add more fresh veggies and fruits to your diet. Also, you can consume less meat to minimise carbon footprints.

You can also add anti-inflammatory foods as these types of food help to cleanse your lungs effectively. Anti-inflammatory foods which I recommend are:

●    Turmeric

●    Blueberry and other berries

●    Leafy Vegetables

●    Beetroot

●    Avocado

●    Celery

●    Almonds

●    Carrots

●    Broccoli

Immunity booster drinks

You can do your immunity booster drinks by using readily available items in your kitchen. Immunity booster drinks help to cleanse your lungs. Some of the DIY immunity booster drinks are as follows:

●    Take a glass of warm white milk. Add half a teaspoon of turmeric powder to it. Also, add two strands of saffron to it. Drink it at night before sleeping. You will get good sleep, and you will be relieved from chest congestion.

●    Boil water by adding half cinnamon stick. Drink the spice-infused water once a day. Your sinuses would be cleared up.

    Buy an excellent green tea. Prepare a green tea by following the packet instructions. Have it whenever you feel irritation in your throat.

●    Take some crushed 1 or 2 peppercorns, a half-inch of a blade of lemongrass and 1 inch of grated ginger and half a teaspoon of turmeric powder. Add everything in one glass of boiling water and reduce it to half a glass. Drink two tablespoons of this spice-infused warm water every after three hours. Adding honey is optional.

●    You can also drink warm water and add honey if you want. Honey helps to relieve throat irritation.

Use Mask

Mask can prevent you from inhaling the polluted air. You would be able to work in contaminated areas without any fear of allergy infections and stress.

Masks I recommend

NameWhy I recommend it
BASE CAMP CROSSDUST MASKEAPI Filter Technology & Advanced NanotechnologyUser FriendlyMore Durable Six layers face maskFilter materials of the dust mask: Double-Layer Melt-blown with Electrostatic Adsorption Performance, Activated carbon, Non-woven Polypropylene
NIOSH approved N95 maskFour layers maskFlexible nose pad, dual strapsDisposable maskEasy to breathe
BASE CAMP Reusable Cloth Face MaskThree layers mask; 100% cotton Skin-friendly and breathablePocket to add additional filterReusable Mask

How can I individually reduce air pollution?

You can always try your level best to minimise air pollution. The following are the methods to reduce air pollution at an individual level.

 

Plant Trees

Encourage tree plantation drives amongst the communities. You can be a green saviour of your region. Trees are the natural air purifiers of the environment, and it supplies us with clean air.

Municipal councils or the local authorities can develop urban forests to increase the green cover of the locality. They can also plan to create vertical green walls to improve oxygen levels of the region naturally. But don’t forget to plant only indigenous trees.

Human/ religious celebrations in eco-friendly ways

Nowadays, many couples celebrate gender (of their baby) revealing parties by bursting firecrackers. But, unfortunately, these firecrackers can transform into massive wildfires if they are burst near trees.

Thus, you can celebrate such celebrations by planting trees in your nearby barren land. Bursting firecrackers on any religious, festive or personal occasion are only going to harm your loved ones.

You can also celebrate Christmas by not cutting Christmas Trees. Instead, you can buy artificial ones and use them in the coming years too.

Discourage Plastic

Single-use plastic has been one of the major concerns in the environment. Plastic pollution indirectly contributes to the degradation of air quality. Plastic, when burned, releases various toxic gases such as dioxins into the air.

Encourage alternative use of the plastic product. For example, you can wear a cloth bag for shopping. You can also carry your travel cutlery set to a restaurant. Additionally, you can take your water bottle instead of purchasing a packaged drinking water bottle every time.

Use of public transportation

Increase the use of public transport to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion. You can also try carpooling or the cab sharing option. Then, you can also use bicycles instead of scooters. Lastly, you can always opt for walking a shorter distance.

Alternative use of fossil fuel

It would be best to try switching to other fuel alternatives. For example, don’t use wood for the fireplace. Instead, you can wear multiple layers of clothes for warmth. In this way, you can conserve energy. Additionally, you can also install solar panels on house roofs to convert solar energy into electricity.

You can also buy electric and hybrid vehicles to minimise tailpipe emissions. Finally, propose or discuss a plan with your mayor or any relevant local authority to promote your region’s renewable energy sector.

Reduction of personal carbon footprints

You can also keep a check on your carbon footprints. For example, you can delete unwanted photos, videos or emails from clouds and email boxes as and when possible. Unfortunately, this unwanted stuff takes a lot of energy, which indirectly contributes to air pollution.

You can also switch off the lights and electrical appliances of the vacant rooms. Try buying local products instead of imported ones. Be vocal about them. You can also discover your own country rather than travelling to different ones.

Create Awareness

Air pollution is unpredictable; air pollution in your vicinity can affect people living in Asia and vice-a-versa. However, you can create public awareness about air pollution amongst your community by teaching and interacting with your kids about the importance of good air.

Educate youth by telling them the ill effects of poor air quality. Then, let your country’s future know that they deserve a better place to live!

How can the local authorities improve the air quality of your region?

You can always observe the changes happening in your surrounding nature. If you experience bad air quality or any activities producing air pollution, you can always concern relevant local authorities or the mayor.

Here are some methods which local authorities can do.

Proper disposal of waste

Improper solid waste management of an area is an invitation to many diseases and infections. In addition, burning solid waste in public can cause air pollution, although such practices are rare in the US.

The wastes are mainly disposed of in the engineered landfills and recycled before final disposal to landfills and waste incinerators.

In addition, waste incinerators help to convert waste into energy.

However, many researchers have claimed that gasification technology or waste-to-energy technology may release harmful gaseous contaminants. Thus, it is necessary that waste collectors rigorously segregate the waste before sending it to waste incinerators.

The best solution is to minimise waste at a personal level. Statistically, 70% of the waste generated can be recycled effectively. Thus, strive to recycle your waste at a personal level as much as possible.

 

Reducing air pollution from agriculture

Stubble burning is still practised in some parts of the US. This event contributes to the degradation of air. Local authorities can help farmers convert this waste into cattle fodder or be transformed into pellets as fuel. In addition, farmers should stop the usage of harmful pesticides or fertilisers to decrease air pollution.

How can I reduce indoor air pollution?

Maintaining household or indoor hygiene

You can decrease poor air quality by adequately maintaining indoor hygiene. For example, you can frequently clean your cupboards and open decks to avoid an accumulation of dust particles. You can then vacuum your carpets and sofas at least twice a week.

Make sure your doggies and cats are well-groomed. Use chimneys and exhaust fans in kitchens. You can also install an exhaust fan in washrooms. Always make sure you are keeping your house well ventilated.

Keep doors and windows open when possible. Maintain the health of electric appliances such as heaters, humidifiers, AC, fans, air ducts and so on at regular intervals of the year. Avoid overuse of strong perfumes or strong scented candles indoors. You can additionally use indoor plants to make your indoors more lively and fresh.

Indoor plants

Indoor plants do the same work as outdoor ones- they help to purify indoor air naturally. These indoor plants are also easy to maintain.

The indoor plants which I recommend are as follows:

●    Snake plant

●    English Ivy

●    Peace Lily

●    Red-Edged Dracaena

●    Boston Fern

●    Spider Plant

●    Weeping fig

●    Bamboo Palm

●    Rubber Plant

 

Air purifiers

Air purifiers help to improve indoor air quality. The risk of getting air pollution-related diseases decreases due to the use of air purifiers. Air purifiers having good HEPA filters do an adequate job of filtering pollutants.

Air Purifiers I recommend are as follows:

NameWhy I recommend it
Blueair Pro XL Air Purifier●     99.7% of airborne pollutants such as mould, allergens, smoke particles and pollens are captured.
AIRMEGA 400S● Reduction of 99.97% of particulates of 0.3 microns.● Also responsible for reducing more than 99% of VOCs, NH3 and CH3CHO.●     Washable and permanent pre-filters are available
Blueair Pure 121●     Includes 3-part filtration system.●      Captures 99% of common airborne PM 2.5 pollutants such as allergens, odours, smoke, mould spores, dust mites and pet dander.●     An activated carbon filter removes common odours caused by smoke, pets, and gases (VOCs) and smoke caused by wildfires.

Humidifiers

The humidity levels in the office should be maintained between 30 and 50% in the office. This range helps to keep dust mites, mould and other allergens under control. In addition, when AC or heater makes the air in the room dry, humidifiers can maintain correct humidity levels.

Humidifiers I recommend

NameWhy I recommend it
Amazon Basics Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier●     4 litre of tank capacity●     Auto shut-off feature and 12 or 24-hour timer settings● It can be used in both seasons
MOVTIP Humidifier●     Portable Mini-humidifier●     500 ml capacity, still produces longer mists● Easy to operate
LEVOIT Humidifier●     It can be used for both seasons●     6 litres of capacity● Easy to clean and has a remote control

Dehumidifiers

Dehumidifiers also work similarly to humidifiers. It controls the high levels of humidity in the office.

Dehumidifiers I recommend

NameWhy I recommend it
Pro Breeze Dehumidifier●     Can extract 50 pints of moisture a day●     Energy-saving auto-off system● Built-in Humidity sensor
HOmeLabs Dehumidifier●     Eliminates moistness, odour controller●     Easy to clean● Removable water tank
TCL Portable Dehumidifier●     20 pints of moisture removed per day●     It can be operated at low temperatures too●     Easy to maintain

Other FAQs about Air Quality that you may be interested in.

What are the causes and consequences of air pollution?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of air pollution?

What Happens When We Breathe in Polluted Air?

Conclusion

In this blog post, we discussed “does air quality affects sleep?” A brief introduction to air pollution followed this. The article also focused on why and how the air quality affects your sleep. In the end, the report mentioned some of the methods to improve air quality.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Does Air Quality Affect Sleep?

Can poor air quality affect sleep?

Yes, poor air quality affects sleep. Your home’s comfort level and sleeping quality depend upon the amount of moisture content in the air.

What are some side effects of poor air quality?

Some side effects of poor air quality are:

  •  Coughing and sneezing
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Sinus Congestion
  •   Fatigue
  • Dryness and irritation in airway tract and skin

The above-mentioned side effects are short-term symptoms.

Does pollution make you sleepy?

Both indoor and outdoor air pollution make you lazy and lower productivity.

Why does air quality in the bedroom get worse at night?

Air quality in the bedroom gets worse at night because the temperature drops during the nighttime hours. As a result, many pollutants get trapped inside your house as well as down near the ground. The effect is much worse if your bedroom is poorly ventilated.

Can air pollution cause snore?

Yes, air pollution can cause the risk of snoring during childhood.

How can I improve the air quality in my bedroom?

You can improve the air quality in your bedroom by:

  • Use cooking vents
  • Keep your rugs and carpets clean
  • Control the humidity of your room by using a humidifier.
  • Open windows of your bedroom whenever possible
  •  Clean your heaters and AC often.
  • Buy indoor plants to freshen up the air.

What are the symptoms of bad air quality at home?

Poor indoor air quality causes health effects similar to the common cold or influenza. These symptoms include itchy eyes, running nose, dizziness, coughing and tiredness. These symptoms are treatable.

References

Doheny, K., 2010. Air Pollution Linked to Sleep Breathing Problems. [online] WebMD. Available at https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20100617/air-pollution-linked-to-sleep-breathing-problems 

Liao, C. and Laverge, J., 2019. 0181 Association between Indoor Air Quality and Sleep Quality. Sleep, [online] 42(Supplement_1), pp.A74-A74. Available at https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/42/Supplement_1/A74/5451752?login=true 

McGowan, M., 2017. Using Indoor Air Quality Tactics To Sleep Better At Night, Perform Well The Next Day | ashrae.org. [online] Ashrae.org. Available at: https://www.ashrae.org/news/ashraejournal/using-indoor-air-quality-tactics-to-sleep-better-at-night-perform-well-the-next-day 

Pultarova, T., 2017. Trouble Sleeping? Air Pollution Could Be the Culprit. [online] livescience.com. Available at https://www.livescience.com/59253-air-pollution-linked-to-worse-sleep.html

Resmed.co.in. 2020. How to Sleep Better During High Air Pollution Days | ResMed India. [online] Available at https://www.resmed.co.in/blogs/how-to-sleep-better

Thoracic.org. 2019. Air Pollution May Increase Risk of Sleep Apnea. [online] Available at https://www.thoracic.org/about/newsroom/press-releases/journal/2019/air-pollution-may-increase-risk-of-sleep-apnea.php

Western Hills Heating and Air Conditioning. 2019. 3 Ways Indoor Air Quality Affects Your Sleep. [online] Available at https://westernhillsheating.com/blog/3-ways-indoor-air-quality-affects-your-sleep 

Yu, H., Chen, P., Paige Gordon, S., Yu, M. and Wang, Y., 2019. The Association between Air Pollution and Sleep Duration: A Cohort Study of Freshmen at a University in Beijing, China. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, [online] 16(18), p.3362. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6766077/

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