Air Quality & Sleep – Are they interlinked?

4 April 2022

We all know that pollution is bad for us and the environment – but could toxic air pollutants have even more far-reaching effects? New research is investigating the impact of air pollution on sleep quality.

Sleep is essential for mental health, physical health, and our overall quality of life. Unfortunately, it’s often one of the first things to be sacrificed when schedules fill up. However, even if you manage to get a full night of sleep, indoor and outdoor air pollution can decrease the quality and health benefits of your sleep. Studies have previously shown that air pollution impacts heart health, and affects breathing and lung function. But, until recently, less has been known about whether air pollution does affect sleep. A study from the Technical University of Denmark found that people who lived in areas with high levels of outdoor pollution were 60% more likely to sleep poorly than those in regions with a lower level of pollution.

Ventilation is one of the most significant determining factors of a room’s air quality. Sleeping with your windows and doors shut may raise carbon dioxide levels in your room to 2,500 parts per million (ppm) while you sleep – which is around three times the recommended levels. Fundamentally, overnight exposure to elevated levels of carbon dioxide can lead to lower sleep efficiency (the amount of time you spend asleep compared to the time you spend awake).

Can Particle Pollution Disrupt Sleep?

Rising levels of air pollution have become a serious environmental issue affecting human health, and many are experiencing high rates of insufficient sleep duration or a lack of sleep as a result of it. But nevertheless, indoor air pollution could be more harmful than outdoor air. The outdoor air is around 4 to 5 times less polluted than the air indoors. Airborne chemicals can enter the body easily, illustrating the need for clean air. Investing in a quality air purifier is one of the fastest and most effective ways to improve air quality. It’s almost impossible to limit all toxins and pollution, but an air purifier will result in much cleaner air. Air purifiers are suggested to improve sleep. They purify the air by trapping more than 99% of up to 0.3-micron airborne allergens, which are the elements that wake you up in the middle of sleep.

Does Mould and Other Allergens Affect How Well You Sleep?

PM2.5 is a category of particulate matter made up of tiny particles or droplets in the air with a width of 2.5 microns or less. In a study presented at the American Thoracic Society’s annual conference, researchers showed how exposure to PM2.5 was linked to an increased chance of low sleep efficiency. These particles are considered to be higher danger than larger particles, as they are small enough to travel into their respiratory tract when inhaled, with some even entering lungs and the bloodstream. Exposure to PM2.5 has been linked to short-term symptoms including coughing, sneezing, runny nose, shortness of breath, and throat irritation. On the other hand, longer term symptoms have in some cases included decreased lung function and worsened asthma symptoms. Ultimately, symptoms of PM2.5 exposure can cause breathing issues, leading to disrupted sleep, according to the study’s authors. However, it’s possible that sleeplessness may also be a direct effect of pollution exposure.

Is There Any Link Between Air Pollution and Sleep Apnoea?

Sleep apnoea is a condition that causes your breathing to stop and start again repeatedly during your sleep. An apnoea is defined when breathing ceases for longer than 10 seconds. The condition often disrupts sleep, which can lead to daytime fatigue, drowsiness, and irritability. Other more serious complications as a result of sleep apnoea can include increased risk of diabetes, elevated blood pressure, liver problems and metabolic syndrome. Recent studies have been conducted that find links between exposure to air pollution and the risk of having sleep apnoea. Extensive research has shown that the chance of having sleep apnoea increases significantly following increased exposure to PM2.5 and nitrogen dioxide. Whilst the researchers are unable to prove that air pollution directly causes sleep apnoea, they do note that improving indoor air quality will directly contribute to better sleep health.

What Can You Do to Increase Indoor Air Quality While You Sleep?

Sleep is one of the key foundations of our health, our wellbeing and our overall quality of life. We all know that air pollution is dangerous for our health, and it is therefore fundamental that we take necessary steps to protect ourselves from air pollution during rest periods. When trying to improve the air quality in a space, one of the most important considerations should be ventilation and air purification. Air purifiers are one of the newest additions identified, as an effective method of removing allergens, viruses, toxins, and other pollutants from the air. Portable air purifiers can increase the airflow within the space, replacing polluted air with clean air.

Are Portable Air Purifiers an Effective Way to Reduce Air Pollution?

HEPA Filters are particularly effective as an air purification solution – with a 99.5% filtration efficiency, meaning they’re able to trap 99.95% of all particles down to 0.1 microns in the air. Our HEPA experts have put together a number of helpful guides & articles, which you can access here.