According to a new study, there is a link between air pollution and breathing-related disruptions during sleep.
The study was conducted by Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham & Women’s Hospital and published online in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
The researchers in the study were trying to find a link between air pollution, which irritates the airways and disruptions in sleep.
Breathing-related sleep disruptions come in several forms, of which the best known is sleep apnea. Approximately 17% of Americans are affected by sleep apnea which causes people to repeatedly wake up when their airways constrict and breathing is cut off. Many people have sleep apnea and don’t even know they have the condition, which can contribute to the development of heart disease and stroke.
Researchers found that when the temperatures rose throughout the year, sleep apnea and low levels of oxygen went up. Sleep-disordered breathing also increased during the summer as the weather warmed up and air pollution worsened.
The researchers used data from the Sleep Heart Health Study, which included more than 6,000 participants and looked at the cardiovascular effects of sleep-disordered breathing. From that study, conducted between 1995 and 1998, the researchers evaluated more than 3,000 of the participants for the air pollution study.
They found that incidents of sleep apnea and low levels of oxygen during sleep went up as the temperature rose during all seasons of the year. Sleep-disordered breathing also rose during the summer as air pollution worsened.
Particles of pollution "may influence sleep through effects on the central nervous system, as well as the upper airways," wrote co-author Antonella Zanobetti in a news release, noting that the exact mechanism is unclear. "These new data suggest that reduction in air pollution exposure might decrease the severity of such sleep disruptions."
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