Can Air Pollution Affect Your Sleep Quality?

Air quality and sleep

There’s nothing better than feeling refreshed after a good night’s sleep.  

But the fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5) in your air can prevent you from getting the much-needed rest. After all, a stuffy nose and an itchy throat can make it difficult to fall asleep.  

Beyond that, multiple studies have discovered that poor air quality causes poor sleep quality—and all the health problems that come with it. These include hypoxia, insomnia, diabetes, heart disease, and mental health issues. 

In today’s article, we’ll dive into the research on air pollution and sleep. Plus, we’ll share tips on how to raise your air quality for a better night’s sleep. 

Why Is Ambient Air Pollution Worse At Night? 

There’s a common assumption that air quality is better at night because there’s less human activity. However, scientists note that it’s the opposite. In fact, ambient PM2.5 levels peak between 9:00 PM and 11:00 PM around the world. That’s because the sun helps break down air pollutants and facilitate airflow. So, when the sun sets, air pollution increases and remains in the air that we breathe.  

The Relation Between Air Pollution and Sleep Quality  

Poor sleep quality affects up to 33% of children and 60% of older adults, making it a serious health concern. While experts often attribute this to caffeine and screen time, it’s also affected by poor air quality. 

Here are five ways poor air quality impacts your sleep quality: 

#1 – Triggers Allergies and Asthma 

Mattresses, pillows, and bedding are a hotbed for air pollutants like PM2.5. Just the act of placing a blanket over your head causes you to inhale 20x more air pollution. Worse, many people move while asleep, which releases all the air pollutants trapped in the bed. All of these can trigger your allergies and asthma, making it difficult to breathe and fall asleep. 

#2 – Increases the Chances of Developing Sleep Apnea 

Many studies have revealed a link between high PM2.5 levels and sleep apnea. It’s easy to see why. PM2.5 can easily penetrate your lungs and damage your respiratory system. In fact, it’s one of the main perpetrators of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). 

#3 – Increases Risk of Air Pollution-Related Diseases 

Aside from COPD, particulate matter can cause cancer, ischemia, cardiovascular diseases, nervous system impairments, and more. And as your health declines, the harder it is to sleep—especially when you’re experiencing aches and pain all over your body. 

#4 – Reduces Sleep Duration and Efficiency 

Penn Medicine reports that an increase in PM2.5 levels results in a 3.2% decline in sleep efficiency. Meanwhile, an increase in carbon dioxide leads to a 4% decline. This means that the poorer the air quality, the less time you spend on actually sleeping. 

#5 – Disturbs Your Circadian Rhythm 

Because air pollution makes it hard to sleep, it disrupts your sleeping and waking patterns. More than this, a study in mice found that increased PM2.5 results in circadian rhythm dysfunction, which leads to: 

  • Metabolic disorders 
  • Dysregulated body functions 
  • Pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases 

Worried About Your Air Quality? 

Monitor the Particulate Matter levels around the world with our free, real-time PurpleAir Map or join PurpleAir's mission to make air quality data accessible to everyone by investing in an air quality monitor for your home. 

Together, we can be informed and make changes in our daily habits and the community to improve air quality.