Can Air Pollution Cause Sleep Apnea?

Air pollution affects the health of everyone around the world. But the situation may be much closer to you. Your sleep and well-being depend on the microclimate in the room where you sleep. When it comes to examining this connection, studies have shown that sleep apnea can be linked to chronic exposure to air pollution. Below you will find more information about this, the effects, and possible steps to reduce such exposure.

Sleep apnea is a sleep-related breathing disorder in which a person's breathing is constantly stopped and started because of a blockage in the airway. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can be caused by soft palate anatomy, obesity, or airway inflammation. Some of the most common signs of this condition include loud snoring, sleepiness, and holding your breath during the night. Of the more than 22 million people who suffer from apnea, it is one of the most common sleep disorders in adults.

To make an accurate diagnosis, an examination is necessary. To make a diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, polysomnography is conducted. Polysomnography is the method of long-term recording of breathing, snoring, breathing effort, blood oxygen saturation, body position, motor activity, electrocardiogram, sleep patterns, and several other parameters during sleep. Accurate assessment of the severity of snoring and sleep apnea allows to predict possible complications and a prognosis of the disease, as well as to determine the optimal treatment tactics, which depends on the combination of causes and severity of sleep breathing disorders.

Does air quality affect sleep apnea?

Does air quality affect sleep apnea?

Since the industrial revolution, air pollution has increased significantly over time due to traffic and industrial sources. This has also contributed to an increase in lung and heart disease. Studies by scientists have shown a correlation between exposure to air pollution and sleep quality. Specifically, a link has been found between long-term exposure to traffic and street pollutants with sleep disorders, including obstructive sleep apnea.

One study found that people with higher exposure to nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter (PM2.5) have a higher chance of sleep apnea. These are two of the most common air pollutants people are exposed to on a daily basis. PM2. 5, consists of small inhaled particles that are too small to be seen except by microscope studies. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is a road traffic pollutant produced by the combustion of automobile fuel emissions.

Inhalation of these pollutants can irritate the upper respiratory tract and cause swelling, which causes restricted breathing and leads to sleep apnea. Poor air quality can affect the central nervous system, which is responsible for controlling breathing and sleep. This can cause your body to suddenly stop breathing in your sleep or cause your symptoms to worsen.

Indoor air quality

Although pollutants, PM2.5 and NO2, come from the environment, this does not mean that they remain outdoors. Outdoor air pollution can make its way into the home and continue to build up, increasing indoor sources of air pollution from everyday activities such as cleaning or cooking.

Environmental pollution is not the only factor that can contribute to or exacerbate sleep disturbances. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep problems are common in people with allergies. Indoor allergens in the bedroom can lead to nasal congestion, which can also increase the risk of sleep apnea. Common allergens include dust, pollen, mold, and particles found in pet hair. Their exposure can cause inflammation of the nasal passages, which worsens the overall condition of sleep apnea patients.

What is the most common cause of sleep apnea?

What is the most common cause of sleep apnea

Being overweight (or having obesity) is known to be the most common cause of constriction of the lumen of the pharynx. With a body mass index of more than 29 kg/m2, apneas are ten times more common than in people with a normal BMI. In these patients, a marked narrowing of the pharynx can be seen due to fat deposits in the lateral walls of the pharynx, the soft palate, the palatine uvula, the lateral arches, and the tongue (the amount of fat deposits in the tongue is determined by magnetic resonance imaging). In a recently published study in North America, it is clearly shown that the severity of sleep apnea disease and the number of fat deposits in the tongue are closely related. And in practice, anyone will tell you that most obese people with short necks snore, the opposite is very rare!

Obviously, the most logical and effective remedy for snoring is to reduce body weight. It is known that reducing weight by just ten percent can cut the number of breath stops in half! Apnea treatment must necessarily be accompanied by normalization of body weight. In order to stop snoring, in the absence of respiratory stoppages, weight reduction already "works" by 5-7%. In addition, weight normalization has no negative side effects and will have a positive effect on all metabolic processes occurring in the body.

Other causes of respiratory arrest (airway collapse) are associated with diseases of the ENT organs, among them:

  • Pathological deviation of the nasal septum;

  • Effects of untreated adenoids in childhood;

  • Hyperplasia (enlargement) of the palatine tonsils;

  • Chronic rhinitis.

Correspondingly, surgical correction of these disorders is one of the remedies for snoring.

From more rare causes of snoring, we can say that a bite disorder, retrognathia (small and moved backward jaw) can also be the cause of apnea, as well as the following diseases: acromegaly, hypothyroidism, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, etc.

The link between air quality and sleep apnea

The link between air quality and sleep apnea

According to the British Association of snoring and insomnia, people who snore sleep at least 2 hours less than they could. And if we take a period of 24 years, snoring "steals" about 2 years of sleep. Not getting enough sleep at night has an extremely negative effect on a person's mental and physical health. Lack of sleep can cause the development of type 2 diabetes, the appearance of excess weight, failure in school/institution, and even a tendency to suicidal behavior, which is why a large number of doctors and scientists are interested in the cause of snoring while sleeping.

Scientists from the University of Bergen (Norway) conducted a large-scale study of people who snore in their sleep or experience drowsiness during the day. After analyzing information from more than 10,000 people, scientists concluded that one of the likely causes of snoring is air pollution. People who are constantly exposed to exhaust fumes are more likely to snore at night. Scientists believe that snoring is caused by inflammation of the respiratory organs due to air pollution. And living near busy highways is almost as dangerous as smoking 10 cigarettes a day.

Unfortunately, the opportunity to move to an environmentally friendly area is not for many city dwellers. So how to combat snoring other, more affordable methods?

How to make the air cleaner

There are several ways to reduce exposure to allergens and other pollutants in your bedroom, as well as tips for reducing exposure to outdoor air pollution:

  1. Reduce your outdoor exposure: Check your local air quality reports and plan your activities, especially when air pollution is particularly bad.

  2. Use a vacuum cleaner more often: Allergens and particulate matter often hide in the dust, allowing them to settle in your home. One effective solution is to use a HEPA vacuum and a microfiber cloth for weekly cleaning.

  3. Close bedroom windows: use your air conditioning system instead of opening windows if you have allergies and live near a freeway or areas with high levels of pollution from traffic. Dust and damaging outdoor particles can easily drift inside your home, so it's best to limit your exposure to the area where you sleep.

  4. Use an air purifier: An air purifier reduces indoor air pollutants and bedroom pollutants in particular.

While the link between sleep health and air pollution could be confirmed with more research, there is a link between sleep apnea and poor air quality. The tips above can help reduce exposure to pollutants that can disrupt your family's sleep.

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