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Falling asleep at your desk may be linked to pollution

Falling asleep at your desk may be linked to pollution

Exposure to traffic pollution is a trigger for daytime sleepiness, according to new research, released as part of the Healthy Lungs for Life campaign.

The new research was presented at the European Respiratory Society’s International Congress in London from 3-7 September, which brings together the brightest minds in lung health to discuss possible breakthroughs.

Over 12,000 adults were included in the Respiratory Health in Northern Europe (RHINE) study, which shows that people exposed to high levels of pollution had a 65% higher chance of suffering from daytime sleepiness, compared to those who had no exposure. Traffic noise in the bedroom was also a trigger – with people 46% more likely to feel sleepy in the day if exposed.

What’s more, the research suggests that you are also 29% more likely to be a habitual snorer if you are exposed to traffic noise while you sleep.

Daytime sleepiness affected 1 in 5 involved in the study, while one in 4 reported habitual snoring.

Ane Johannessen, epidemiologist from the University of Bergen in Norway, who has authored the study together with Icelandic professor Thorarinn Gislason and other Northern European researchers, said:

“Exposure to traffic should be taken into account when planning treatment for patients with sleep disturbances, because reducing noise and pollution exposure in the bedroom may have a beneficial effect. Reducing exposure through relocating the bedroom away from pollution sources or making the bedroom more soundproof to protect against traffic noise, as well as mapping alternative and less polluted outdoor everyday routes may help patients with their sleep disorders.”

The study also showed that men, older subjects, smokers and those with lower education were more likely to report habitual snoring. Typically they were less physically active, with a higher BMI, and more likely to have a diagnosis of OSA.

Women, older subjects, smokers, and those with lower education were more likely to report daytime sleepiness.

Commenting on the study, Professor Jørgen Vestbo, President of ERS and Professor of Respiratory Medicine at the University of Manchester, said:

“The question of who snores may be a running joke in some households but for many snoring is a serious issue, with direct links to physical and mental well being and the same is true for daytime sleepiness. We want people to think more about the environment around them and the impact it can have – from the way they sleep to the air they breathe”.