Sleep apnea: what is the impact of indoor pollution on sleep quality?

Sleep is essential to our health, yet it is fragile and air pollution can affect its quality. Air pollution can cause sleep apnea and other disorders, but so can indoor pollution! It is still not well known, but the quality of indoor air leads to sleep disorders and therefore a health risk. Let's analyse the connection between sleep apnea and indoor pollution.

What is sleep apnea and what are its symptoms?

Why is sleep so important for health?

Sleep is essential, as you might expect… but do you know why? It is restorative, literally. During sleep, a more intensive secretion of hormones than when awake helps to accelerate healing, increase immunity and maintain hormonal balance. Poor sleep, apnea or night-time disturbances can therefore represent a real health risk.
Not to mention that sleep is what allows memory to function optimally by sorting and storing the day's information in the brain.
Poor sleep means a risk of drowsiness, irritability, attention problems, and hormonal disorders. The symptoms are not far behind and the diagnosis is quickly made.
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder with potentially dangerous effects, both in the short and long term.

Sleep apnea, a breathing disorder that affects sleep

What is sleep apnea syndrome? The symptoms of this disorder are eloquent: involuntary pauses in breathing during sleep. This is called "apnea", moments when breathing stops for no apparent reason. Sleep apnea is an airway syndrome that is often benign but needs to be monitored and followed up with treatment.
According to Vitalaire, sleep apnea syndrome affects around 2 million people in every country. The most affected by this sleep-deteriorating breathing problem are men between 55 and 70 years of age.

Causes of sleep apnea

It often affects older, overweight individuals or those accustomed to heavy snoring.
But other factors can cause these breathing problems during sleep, according to a study published in the medical journal American Thoracic Society in March 2017. It seems that a major risk factor for apnea and other sleep disorders is air pollution.
This is indoor pollution (mainly domestic heating), although it is sometimes linked to outdoor pollution (road traffic) air pollution.

Sleep apnea and pollution: a major risk in vulnerable people

When it comes to the cessation of breathing, this may be frightening. And for good reason, there is a real health risk, especially for people with asthma, allergies, or breathing difficulties. They are even more at risk of sleep apnea when there is high indoor pollution.
At night, breathing is more profound, which causes more pollutant particles to be ingested, causing problems in the nervous system and the respiratory tract. Poor air quality, therefore, aggravates the symptoms of sleep apnea in people with compromised breathing.

However, it should be noted that air pollution also harms the quality of sleep of everyone else.

An impressive study shows the impact of air quality on sleep

A study published in the medical journal American Thoracic Society, therefore, points to a clear connection between (air) pollution and sleep disorders such as apnea.

Let's take a look at this study conducted by researchers at the University of Washington in the United States. They analysed medical data from 1,863 participants in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) on the relationship between sleep and air pollution. The pollutants analysed were NO2 (nitrogen dioxide, a traffic-related pollutant) and PM2.5 (fine particles).
Lead author of the study, Martha E. Billings, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Washington, concluded: "We thought an impact was likely as air pollution causes irritation, swelling, and congestion in the upper airways and can also affect the central nervous system and brain areas that control breathing patterns and sleep.”
The figures speak for themselves: over a period of 5 years, the group with the highest NO2 levels had a more than 60% probability of having sleep disorders compared to the participants with the lowest NO2 levels.

This is currently the leading study on the subject, so the connection has yet to be established in more detail in order to affirm that indoor pollution is a definite cause of sleep apnea.

To improve air quality and reduce the risk of sleep disorders such as apnoea, start by measuring your indoor air quality! The Netatmo Intelligent Weather Station provides you with all the information about the quality of your indoor air thanks to its sensors. In addition, it alerts you when it's time to air out. Protect your health by improving your sleep.

The importance of improving indoor air quality to fight against sleep disorders

How can improving air quality improve sleep quality and reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea? Here is a solution. In order to achieve this, it is crucial to air your home well in the morning and evening, to ventilate it efficiently, and, in general, to ensure that the air is renewed.

Measuring air quality is the first step to improving air quality and reducing the risk of sleep apnea. With knowledge, it becomes easier to fight indoor pollution and thus improve sleep quality.

The connection between indoor pollution, sleep quality, and sleep apnea is well established. The best solution for this? Improve indoor air quality! All that's left is to fight noise, light, and heat loss for a perfect night's sleep…