Researchers at the University of Washington have found that (over a period of five years) people living in an environment with high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) - in plain words traffic-related pollutant gas - could have a sixty percent chance of poorer quality sleeping patterns than those who live in areas of lower levels of NO2.
Those who live in areas of high pollution are not only at higher risk of heart disease and respiratory illness but also from being denied a good night's sleep with insomnia becoming a way of life.
What the lead researcher says
Martha Billings (assistant professor of medicine and the lead author):
"Prior studies have shown that air pollution impacts heart health and affects breathing and lung function, but less is known about whether air pollution affects sleep. We thought an effect was likely, given that air pollution causes upper airway irritation, swelling and congestion, and may also affect the central nervous system and brain areas that control breathing patterns and sleep.
How the research was carried out
The team used air pollution data gathered from those USA cities (where the participants in the study lived) to estimate air pollution levels after one year and then after five years. The researchers then used wrist actigraphy (which measures body movements) to provide them with detailed estimates of "sleep ad wake" patterns over seven consecutive days.
Will our quality of sleep improve with lower levels of air pollution?
Dr. Billings went on to say: "These new findings indicate the possibility that commonly experienced levels of air pollution not only affect heart and lung disease, but also sleep quality. Improving air quality may be one way to enhance sleep health and perhaps reduce health disparities."
Experts blame diesel fumes for poor air quality
Air pollution experts are warning that the only way to tackle the air pollution crisis is to keep millions of older diesel vehicles (responsible for the bulk of nitrogen dioxide emissions) away from pollution hot spots.
According to the American Lung Association, almost 50% of USA citizens are subjected to unhealthy air – laden with one or more criteria air pollutants. A major source of this air pollution is the exhaust from the tailpipes of trucks and cars.
What is diesel fuel?
- Diesel fuel is a petroleum product that is used in diesel engines in some automobiles, generators, light-duty and heavy-duty trucks, and railroad locomotives. It is a mixture of petroleum compounds and is less expensive to produce than gasoline.
- Diesel exhaust is a mixture of gases and tiny particles. This exhaust contains carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur compounds, formaldehyde, benzene, volatile organic compounds, persistent organic pollutants (POPs), methanol and other gases. Greenhouse gases released by this exhaust affect climate change.
How are we exposed to diesel fuel?
We can all be exposed to diesel fuel - both the fumes and the exhaust - if we live and/or work in a pollution hot spot.
We can be exposed to diesel fuel if we breathe air that has been contaminated with diesel exhaust or vapors or if we drink or swim in water that has been contaminated with diesel fuel from a spill or leaking underground storage tank.
Air Pollutants are everywhere and unless you are living in the middle of a wilderness area, it is difficult to escape air pollution - and diesel which can increase the risk of lung cancer, asthma, headaches and heart disease. Avoid walking or jogging in areas with heavy bus or truck traffic and limit the use of gasoline-fueled equipment at home. If you have a diesel-driven vehicle, don’t let the engine idle when parked outside your home. Take your family out into natural areas as much as you can for their leisure activities.
In the work place, we can be exposed to diesel fuel, diesel fuel vapors and diesel exhaust as a truck or forklift driver, railroad worker, mine worker, auto mechanic, vehicle maintenance worker, firefighter, farm worker, lumberjack, trucking company worker, toll booth collector, or worker at a facility where diesel-powered equipment is used. You can also be exposed to diesel exhaust if you work in a tunnel, bus garage, parking garage, bridge, loading dock, facility where diesel-powered equipment is used, or in or near areas where vehicles with diesel engines are used, stored, or maintained.
Here in the UK, diesel has become a considerable cause for concern. Air pollution is linked to an estimated 40 000 early deaths per year while 37 out of 43 areas across the country exceeding legal European Union limits for the presence of nitrogen dioxide - much of which comes from diesel engines.
Helping combat insomnia
We spend, or should spend, at least a third of our lives in bed asleep so it makes good sense to ensure that your bed and your bedroom is comfortable and environmentally friendly
so that the sleep you enjoy is restful and of good quality