While airplane officials have predicted record air travel this summer, a new study shows that exposure to airplane noise, even at moderate levels, may disrupt sleep. This highlights research on the adverse effects of environmental noise on health.
The study by Boston University’s School of Public Health and Oregon State University found that people who were exposed to airplane noise at levels as low as 45 dB were more likely to sleep less than seven hours per night. To understand this better, the sound in a library is generally 40 dB and a typical conversation at home is 50 dB, according to the statement by Boston University. The study was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
It is well known that sleep is important for health and mental well-being. Lack of it can cause increased risks of cardiovascular disease, depression, diabetes, cancer, and other health conditions. According to experts, most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night for healthy functioning, according to the statement.
This study is important as it is the first large-scale analysis of aircraft noise and sleep duration that accounts for the disruptive effects of multiple environmental exposures in communities, such as greenery and light at night (LAN). Although airplanes are common, little is known about the health effects of the noise they produce.
“This study helps us understand the potential health pathways by which aircraft noise may act, such as through disrupted sleep,” study senior author Junenette Peters said in the statement.
For the study, the researchers examined airplane noise exposure and self-reported sleep disturbance in more than 35,000 participants living around 90 of the major US airports. The participants were selected from the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS), an ongoing study of US female nurses who have completed biennial questionnaires since 1976. After considering factors such as demographics, health behaviours, comorbidities, and environmental exposures such as greenery and LAN, the findings showed that the probability of sleeping less than seven hours increased as airplane noise exposure increased.
Although the results showed a clear link between airplane noise and sleep duration, no consistent association between aircraft noise and quality of sleep were observed.