Air pollution is a common issue and the health effects of it are very serious. It is one of the top 10 health threats of 2019. It has been estimated that about 7 million people worldwide die prematurely each year from air pollution.
Air pollution doesn’t only pose a major threat to the climate, but also on our health. It mostly affects the upper airways, the heart, brain, and even your sleep. Many people experience respiratory and cardiovascular diseases due to the effects of air pollution.
Recently, air pollution has been the hot topic, especially after the wildfire smoke clouded San Francisco and the Thai authorities started to fire water cannons in the hopes of dispersing heavy smog. Thus, new research has discovered that air pollution can do more harm than to affect your lung health. It can have a huge impact on your mood and sleep.
How Does Air Pollution Affect Your Sleep Apnea?
Recently, a study published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society has examined the connection between obstructive sleep apnea and two common air pollutants — a type of fine particle pollution, known as PM2.5, and nitrogen dioxide.
PM2.5 2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller particles that are produced by burning wood, power plants, agricultural fires, motor vehicles and certain industrial processes. For comparison, pollen, and dust have a diameter of about 10 micrometers.
The authors of the study found out that people who live in areas with high amounts of these two types of pollutants are more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder during which the breathing repeatedly stops and starts while a person sleeps. One of the most common types of this sleep disorder is obstructive sleep apnea and it occurs when the throat closes and blocks the flow of air.
So, the link between air pollution and sleep apnea still remains even after the researchers considered other factors, such as body mass index, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and family income. There were 1,974 participants in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) who also took part in the sleep and air pollution study.
The participants were a racially diverse group and the average age was 68 years. The researchers took into account the exposure to air pollution each participant has using measurements taken in six U.S. cities.
How Does Air Pollution Affect You?
This study was focused on an interesting area of research, but more research is definitely needed. There are many factors which can contribute to sleep apnea. However, future studies in this area will have to consider other factors, such as noise and light pollution, stressors, different types of sleep environments and shape of the airway.
Air pollution can cause upper airway congestion, but there are other things, such as mold spores, pollen, and dust which can increase the symptoms of sleep apnea. Nevertheless, many of these things vary with the season.
Further studies are needed to investigate this link, but the findings aren’t surprising. Sleep apnea might occur if air pollution damages the mucous membranes of the nose and throat. That’s why there have been many studies which have proven the connection between nasal congestion and sleep apnea.
Some air pollutants can even be held responsible for causing upper airway swelling and irritation. This swelling can deteriorate sleep apnea symptoms, depending on its location and severity. What’s more, many researchers suggest that air pollution might have a direct impact on the brain to interfere with breathing during sleep.
There has been a recent study in China which found a link between exposure to air pollution and a drop in cognitive performance. But not even this study could prove whether air pollution could directly affect the brain.
What’s more, another study proved that people’s happiness, as measured by their posts on social media, decreased when air pollution increased. It seems like pollution has an emotional effect. As a result, when people aren’t happy, the likelihood of making irrational decisions is higher. The effect of air pollution on mood may be due to direct physical effects and the stress of trying to avoid air pollution.
People’s mood is hugely affected by the air in the city they live in. Living in a dirty city means that people will experience the long-term health effects of air pollution.
The United States has really been doing well with air pollution. Consequently, the number of deaths from air pollution has dropped dramatically.