How Indoor Air Quality Can Impact Good Quality Sleep
Good sleep is one of the most important factors in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This is because the lack of sleep may increase the risk of health issues such as obesity, kidney diseases, heart stroke, diabetes, etc. Unfortunately, as most people do, sacrificing sleep is the first thing people do when they have too many tasks (whether personal or work-related) on their plate.
Did you know that even if you get enough sleep, the quality of your sleep can be decreased (which inevitably increases the risk of health issues) in the presence of indoor or outdoor air pollution? According to a comprehensive review investigation by Bing Cao, Yan Chen, and Roger Mcintyre in 2021, poor sleep quality may be triggered by air pollutants. Through their literature research, they found that most studies (search was conducted on PubMed and Web of Science) found one or more air pollutants to have negative effects on sleep quality.
Let’s take a deeper dive into how air pollutants are responsible for impacting the quality of sleep. Firstly, it is due to the ventilation of a particular room. If you sleep in a room that has poor ventilation (i.e., shut doors and window), the carbon dioxide level in the room can concentration to higher levels such as 2,500ppm-3000ppm. This amount is approximately 3x more than the recommended carbon dioxide level. It is this exposure to higher levels of carbon dioxide that can lead to lower sleep quality (referring to the increased time one spends awake in bed). The 2016 study found that it might decrease cognitive ability the next morning.
Similar to higher carbon dioxide concentrations, other indoor air pollutants such as mold, dust mites, pollen can also accumulate and trigger allergy symptoms while in bed. The most common one that causes insomnia is nasal congestion. While it is normal to be constantly exposed to these air pollutants, poor indoor air ventilation may enhance and trigger allergy symptoms. The most common allergens that are found to impact sleep quality are the following: mold, dust mites, pollen, pet dander.
A 2017 study found that pollutants falling under the PM2.5 category correlated to a poor quality of sleep. Specifically, they found that individuals that have a higher exposure to PM2.5 were more likely to have restless sleep when compared to individuals with lower PM2.5 exposure levels. PM2.5 stands for “particulate matter” and the 2.5 refers to those particulate matters that have a width of 2.5microns or less. This category of particles are more generally dangerous than larger particles because they are small enough to enter deeper into your lungs when inhaled. Some may be small enough to even enter the bloodstream and be distributed throughout the body.
Exposure to PM2.5 has been shown to correlate to short-term symptoms relating to breathing issues such as coughing, sneezing, shortness of breath, runny nose, etc. Unsurprisingly, these can lead to a bad night’s sleep. It is also possible that PM2.5 directly causes sleeplessness as well.
So what can you do to improve indoor air quality? Well for starters, a cool breeze coming from your window, turning the fan on, or keeping your room door open will decrease carbon dioxide from accumulating in your room (at least to dangerous levels); this will likely not improve the air quality for other pollutants. Another option to keep carbon dioxide levels low is to use an air purifier near your bed. However, we should mention if the outdoor air pollution is worse than the indoor air pollution, it is a wiser decision to leave the windows or doors closed. As such, it’s important that you keep up with the latest weather news and follow the recommended guidelines appropriately.
A more effective way to improve air quality is to remove mold and other allergens at the source. This will make the biggest impact. Read our other article about how to prevent mold growth. Whatever the issue is, kill it at the source. For example, if you find dust mites are the biggest problem, reduce the humidity and remove things that gather dust mites (ex. Curtains, carpet, etc). Read this to learn more ways on how to reduce allergens found in your bedroom.
Sleep is very important. Don’t put it aside and take initiative to help yourself achieve a better quality of sleep. Don’t forget that getting good quality sleep can improve your overall health. Put your health first.