Oxygen serves as a source of fuel for every cell in your body, powering functions like cell division and metabolism, which makes it essential for survival. Due to increased industrial activity, the air around you can contain particulate matter, a mixture of liquid droplets and solid particles, in addition to oxygen. Breathing in particulate matter, which may contain soot, dirt, smoke and dust, increases your risk of respiratory problems and other health issues.
These issues can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, leaving you feeling sluggish and tired. Keep reading to learn more about the importance of clean air for getting a good night's sleep.
Pollution increases the risk for three types of respiratory problems, highlighting the importance of clean air for human health.
When you have a respiratory infection, you may develop symptoms that make it difficult to fall asleep. These symptoms include a hacking cough, a stuffy nose, sneezing and sore throat. Some people with respiratory infections also develop fever and chills. If you have these symptoms, you may have a hard time staying asleep as well.
For COPD sufferers, sleep can trigger episodes of hypoxemia, or a lower-than-normal amount of oxygen in the blood. One study showed that 40% of people with COPD experience sleep disturbances linked to shallow breathing and other respiratory symptoms. Exposure to polluted air can make these symptoms even worse, exacerbating your sleep problems and leaving you feeling tired during the day.
People with lung cancer also experience bouts of insomnia and other sleep problems, some of which are linked to chemotherapy drugs used to treat the cancer. For example, some medications cause urinary frequency, which means a person with lung cancer may have to get up several times per night to use the bathroom, resulting in poor sleep quality.
The importance of clean air can't be ignored when it comes to allergies. Poor air quality worsens allergies, making it difficult to get a good night's sleep when your symptoms are at their worst. Seasonal allergies cause sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose, itchy eyes and other symptoms that make it difficult to sleep through the night. As a result, seasonal allergies are associated with poor sleep quality, snoring and waking up frequently during the night. Some people also have difficulty falling asleep due to the discomfort caused by their symptoms. If you're exposed to high levels of pollution, these symptoms are likely to worsen, making it even more difficult to get a good night's sleep.
Exposure to air pollution may also increase the risk of heart disease, especially coronary artery disease, which develops due to the accumulation of plaque, a sticky substance composed of cholesterol and calcium, on the walls of the arteries. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that exposure to pollutants increases the risk for heart disease by causing calcium to build up in the coronary arteries and contributing to premature aging of the blood vessels.
Researchers from Harvard Medical School report that sleep problems and heart disease are "often in bed together" because there's such a strong link between them. People with heart disease and other heart problems may have trouble breathing during the night, causing them to wake up frequently. Chest pain and heart palpitations may also occur at night, leading to poor sleep quality.
You can't avoid pollution altogether, but there are several things you can do to improve the air quality in your home or office.
If you smoke cigarettes, the best thing you can do for your health is quit completely. Quitting is difficult, but many resources are available to help, including medications and counseling programs. While you're working on cutting down, avoid smoking indoors or around other people.
Another way to improve air quality is to use an air purifier. These machines contain special filters that trap dust, soot and other particles, leaving the air in your home cleaner and less likely to aggravate your allergies or other respiratory problems. Air purifiers come in many different sizes, making them ideal for living spaces from tiny apartments to large houses. A SoClean air purifier is a good option, as it eliminates 99.9999% of allergens, mold spores, viruses, dust particles and bacteria.
Finally, you can improve the air quality in your home by using caution when shopping for cleaning products and when using any product that contains harsh chemicals. Look for cleaners made from natural ingredients that don't contain volatile organic compounds.
Always follow the directions when using paints, solvents and other products, use as little of the product as possible to achieve your desired result and keep the containers closed when they're not in use. If you're planning a major remodeling project, stock up on N95 masks and wear them consistently, as drywall and other housing materials can emit pollutants when they're removed.
By acknowledging the importance of clean air, we can all help create a healthier environment. And hopefully enjoy a more restful slumber in the process.
© 2020 American Sleep Association.