Does poor air quality make you tired?

In this blog post, we will discuss “Does poor air quality make you tired?” Firstly, this article will briefly introduce you to the basics of air pollution. Secondly, we will outline the facts about the air quality index and its meaning. Finally, the article will mainly focus on why poor air quality makes you tired. In the end, the report will share essential tips to decrease the air pollution around you.

Does poor air quality make you tired?

Yes, poor air quality can make you tired and sluggish. The pollutants present in the air can decrease your blood’s oxygen levels, making your body unhealthy. Tiredness and air pollution are linked to the following factors:

  • Smoke
  • Sleep
  • Stuffy room
  • High-intensity exercise on smoggy days

Before going into its detail, let’s go ahead to see the facts of air pollution.

 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. 

What is Outdoor and Indoor pollution?

Air pollution in the outside environment is called outdoor pollution. The examples of outdoor pollution are as follows:

  • 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

Air pollution created inside any closed structure is called indoor pollution. The examples of indoor pollution are as follows:

  • Household activities 
  • Perfumes and fresheners 
  • Cooking fuel/activities
  • Cigarette 
  • Radon 
  • Poor ventilation 
  • Uncleaned furniture 
  • Pets 
  • Asbestos

 There are two leading causes of air pollution- natural pollution (happened due to natural events like dust storms) and anthropogenic pollution (happened due to human activities like combustion of fossil fuels).

What is AQI, and what levels make it unhealthy?

WHO has set up the air quality guidelines to regulate the emissions; however, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) has calculated its own AQI to safeguard the public health of Americans. 

Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has determined the air quality index (AQI) to know the air quality you inhale. The table given below will show how the air quality index looks like.

Air Quality Index (AQI)Levels of Health Concern
(When the AQI is in this range)(air quality conditions are)
0 to 50Good           
51 to 100Moderate
101 to 150Unhealthy for Sensitive group
151 to 200Unhealthy
201 to 300Very Unhealthy
301 to 500Hazardous

The primary purpose of AQI is to inform residents about the impact of local air quality on their health. The Environment Protection Agency calculates the AQI for five major pollutants: ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide.

The meaning of the Air quality index as mentioned earlier categories are as follows:

Meaning
Air quality is considered satisfactory; air pollution is of little or no risk.
Air quality is acceptable; some pollutants present in the air might be dangerous for a minority of people who are very sensitive to air pollution.
Members of sensitive groups may get ill effects. However, the general public is likely not to get affected.
This air quality level can pose a threat to everyone. However, members of sensitive people may experience more severe effects.
Emergency level of air quality; Entire population might be affected
Health alert: Every person breathing such air quality may get serious health issues.

 Thus, it is clear that excluding the first two levels are relatively good to venture out and to do various outdoor activities. However, the last three levels will give you or other adverse effects by inhaling dirty air. 

Now let’s see the exact relation between poor air quality and your sluggish behaviour.

The Science behind poor air quality and tiredness

Do you feel sluggish all the time? Do you think of resting on your couch and mindlessly scrolling your cellphones? Your workload may not always be the reason for such exhaustion. But, the air you breathe might be.

Researchers are trying to establish the link between poor air quality and tiredness. Your energy levels depend upon the air quality you breathe in. You must be wondering how it is possible. In brief, explain that indoor and outdoor pollution can make you equally exhausted, confused and lower your work efficiency. This is because the toxic pollutant cocktail you inhale through your nose can deeply penetrate your lungs. Now, these pollutants, along with oxygen, gets dissolved in your bloodstream.

Any living matter receiving less oxygen will feel drowsy, and your overall body system will not work correctly. This is what exactly happens when more pollutant-infused blood circulates in your body. Let’s see in-depth the reasons which can make you feel tired.

Smoke

Air experts also suggest that persistent exposure to smoke can make you feel more fatigued all day. The symptoms of high levels of smoke such as the burning sensation of eyes, runny nose, cough, phlegm, shortness in breathing and wheezing all make you feel tired and can reduce your work productivity.

Smoke comprises pollutants such as particulate matters such as dust and soot, black and brown carbon and organic carbon. Sometimes, these fine particulates are intricately composed of sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide in air pollution. Medical research across the globe have discovered that these pollutants can destroy the red blood cells, known as erythrocytes. Further, these pollutants can decrease the body’s oxygen-carrying capacity.

This concludes that the body’s vital organs, namely the heart, brain, and lungs, are not gaining sufficient oxygen for proper metabolic activities. These consequences make you feel tired most of the time. An insufficient addition, an oxygen supply fluctuates your mood levels, makes you irritable and sluggish all the time.

Sleep

You might yawn all day and feel tired if you have sleepless nights or even disturbed sleep. Researchers have linked that poor air quality concerns your sleeping efficiency and can make you feel sluggish the next day. They further stated that high levels of air pollution cause irritation in the upper respiratory tract, which can lead to insomnia and disturbed sleeping patterns. In addition, poor indoor air quality levels can irritate your airway tracts, making your sinus congested. Such a process ultimately affects your breathing.

One recent study presented at the American Thoracic Society (ATS) 2017 conference in Washington, D.C. – suggests that long-term exposure to high levels of pollution may disrupt sleep. Dr Martha E. Billings, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Washington and the lead author of the study, said that air pollution affects human health. It impairs lung function and impacts good breathing ability. She further noted that inhalation of filthy air causes irritation of the upper airway tract and causes swelling and congestion of sinuses and respiratory tract. Thus, this affects the supply of enough oxygen and affects the central nervous system. Finally, the disruption of the central nervous system makes you feel tired and irritated.

The researchers utilized data from an ongoing study called the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) to study the association between sleep and air pollution. They observed the connections between exposure to air pollution and the quality of sleep of around 1,863 people living in six different cities of the United States. The primary focus of the study was on two factors—the sleep duration and the number of times a person gets awake during sleep.  

The people participating in this study wore FitBit like actigraphy watches. These devices helped to track the sleeping pattern of every person. They helped to note down the number of times and duration the individuals were awake in the night.

The researchers then analyzed this data set with the significant pollutants present in their homes. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), the primary contaminants found in their houses were nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter of 2.5 microns of diameter. Billings revealed that around 60% of participants suffered from poor sleep and had low sleep efficiency. This was because they were exposed to high levels of indoor air pollution during the nighttime. The less sleep duration and the number of awakenings in sleep increased with the surge in the air pollution in their homes. Continuous exposure to high levels of poor indoor air quality can result in sleep-related disorders such as sleep apnea and chronic sleep deprivation. Thus, such medical conditions can make you feel tired and irritated all the time. These factors can affect your work efficiency too.

Stuffy room

Stuffiness and stale air inside a room is significant sign of indoor poor air quality. Indoor air pollution can also make you an unnecessary potato couch. Living in such a room can make you feel sluggish and sick. The other symptoms of poor indoor air quality are allergic reactions and respiratory issues like asthma. These medical conditions can make you feel sluggish.

The pollutants inside a room can originate from multiple ways such as cooking, flowers, woollen garments, pets and so on. These pollutants can get stuck in linen dresses, carpet floors and sofas. Constant exposure to dust particles can cause fatigue. A stuffy room is generally due to the closure of windows and lack of ventilation. Such stagnant air inside a room can trap several airborne particles such as dust and mould spores. Even tobacco smoke can stick to your clothes. The overall dirt and poor indoor air quality can release a musty smell and make you feel not fresh every day. Such stuffy and stale air is not only unpleasant to smell; it can affect your health too. Thus, a musty smell from stagnant air can make you feel tired and less active during day time.

Much scientific research has concluded that stale smell and smelly feel is because of the accumulation of certain chemicals and humidity levels in the air. Scientists further noted that the ratio of airborne contaminants to oxygen begins to increase. This happens because of the depletion of oxygen and lack of fresh air. Besides mould spores and dust particles, biological by-products include exhaled carbon dioxide and microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOCs). Microbial volatile organic compounds or MVOCs are carbon-based molecules. They have a shallow odour threshold. This means that even some tiny colonies can be a reason for the musty smell. These contaminants are formed due to bacterial and fungal growth. As a result, such sources release a strong, peculiar stuffy odour. Fungi and bacteria can induce allergic reactions, asthmatic conditions and sinusitis. These medical conditions can give you inadequate sleep and make you tired the next day. In addition, the blocked nose can cause less supply of fresh air to the body and can result in drowsiness.

Outdoor activities

The International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics researchers suggested that exhaustion is majorly caused due to complex interactions between SO2, CO, and NO2. Environmentalists have also keenly observed that high air quality alerts directly correspond to the energy levels of humans. You can experience such a type of laziness when you vigorously exercise outdoors in polluted air. Prolonged exposure to impure amounts of air leads to insufficient oxygen supply. Even the carbon monoxide generated from your vehicles have the same power to lessen your oxygen levels.

Even if you wear a mask and exercise or run outside in a smoggy condition, you will end up spending more energy on breathing. Even if these masks help you protect from pollution invading your respiratory system, they come with downsides. During the high intensity of exercises, the body’s urge for more oxygen increases. Thus if enough oxygen is supplied throughout the body, it can increase dizziness, tiredness and heart problems.

Below, I will explain detailed solutions to mitigate air pollution.

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: 

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

Name Why 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 mask Flexible 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: 

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 Purifier99.7% of airborne pollutants such as mould, allergens, smoke particles and pollens are captured. 
AIRMEGA 400SReduction 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 121Includes 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

Name Why I recommend it
Amazon Basics Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier 4 litre of tank capacityAuto shut-off feature and 12 or 24-hour timer settingsIt can be used in both seasons
MOVTIP HumidifierPortable Mini-humidifier500 ml capacity, still produces longer mistsEasy to operate
LEVOIT HumidifierIt can be used for both seasons6 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

Name Why I recommend it
Pro Breeze DehumidifierCan extract 50 pints of moisture a dayEnergy-saving auto-off systemBuilt-in Humidity sensor
HOmeLabs DehumidifierEliminates moistness, odour controllerEasy to cleanRemovable water tank
TCL Portable Dehumidifier20 pints of moisture removed per dayIt can be operated at low temperatures tooEasy to maintain

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

Does air pollution affect water?

Do Candles Clean the Air?

Effects of poor air quality on the environment

Conclusion

In this blog post, we discussed, “does poor air quality make you tired?” Firstly, this article briefly introduced you to the basics of air pollution. Secondly, we outlined the facts about the air quality index and its meaning. Finally, the article mainly focused on why poor air quality makes you tired. In the end, the report shared essential tips to decrease the air pollution around you.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Does poor air quality make you tired?

Can bad air quality make you sleepy?

Yes, bad air quality makes you exhausted because of the increased pollutants in the air. In addition, many people feel sluggish when the air quality levels are unhealthy. Thus, you should avoid exercising outside at such times.

What are the symptoms of poor air quality?

The symptoms of poor air quality are as follows:

  • Dryness and irritation of airway tracts such as nose and throat.
  • Dryness and irritation of eyes and skin.
  • Headache and dizziness
  • Hypersensitivity and allergies
  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Sinus and chest congestion

How does terrible air quality make you feel?

Bad air quality doesn’t make you feel lively and fresh. On the contrary, your productivity levels go down, and you can feel irritated.

Does wearing a mask help with poor air quality?

Yes, wearing a mask help you with poor air quality levels. In addition, studies have shown that wearing a mask has reduced exposure to PM2.5 levels and airborne particles. As a result, getting ill and other diseases also get diminished. First, however, you need adequately cover your mouth and nose with a mask.

How do you recover from poor air quality?

You can recover from poor air quality by following steps:

  • If you are unwell, please consult GP and take proper medications
  • Stay indoors as much as possible
  • Avoid exercising outdoors, especially when air quality levels are poor.
  • Take rest and don’t stress yourself much, remember mental health matters.

How long does it take to recover from poor air quality?

Recovery from poor air quality depends on every person’s immunity system and coping mechanism. However, if the air quality levels are lacking, it may take a few days to recover. In addition, if you are exposed to hazardous levels of air pollution for a longer time, then your body will take months or even years to recover.

Reference

Beltz, R., 2018. Feeling tired? smoke could have an effect on your energy level. krem.com. Available at: https://www.krem.com/article/weather/air-quality/feeling-tired-smoke-could-have-an-effect-on-your-energy-level/293-585897838  

Davis, N., 2017. Air pollution linked to poor sleep, study finds. The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/may/21/air-pollution-linked-to-poor-sleep-study-finds

Johnson, C., 2019. What are the Pros & cons of exercising when it’s Smoggy? Katerra. Available at: https://learn.kaiterra.com/en/air-academy/what-are-the-pros-cons-of-exercising-when-its-smoggy  

Pultarova, T., 2017. Trouble sleeping? air pollution could be the culprit. LiveScience. Available at: https://www.livescience.com/59253-air-pollution-linked-to-worse-sleep.html  

Sandoiu, A., 2017. Sleep and air pollution. Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health-news/air-pollution-may-be-disrupting-your-sleep  

Why am I so tired all the time? air quality could be the culprit. AIRPORT Indoor Air Solutions. Available at: http://airprohawaii.com/2019/06/05/why-am-i-so-tired-all-the-time-air-quality-could-be-the-culprit/

What was missing from this post which could have made it better?

Leave a Comment