Insomnia can strike at any point, but if you’ve been struggling to sleep for a while, there could be a potentially very harmful reason behind it.
It’s no laughing matter if you’re trying to get some shut-eye before a big day and your brain just won’t relent and let the slightly-sinister-sounding sandman whisk you into the land of nod.
If you thought it was all down to your unhealthy habit for a Netflix binge before bedtime, or a thorough Facebook stalk of your ex, then you might be in for a surprise – albeit an extremely unpleasant one.
A worrying new study has revealed air pollution could actually be the root cause of people struggling to grab some kip and it seems the effects it has on us are far worse than we could have imagined, according to the Guardian.
The UK is already battling hideous – not to mention hugely unhealthy – levels of air pollution at the moment, with the study showing increased levels of nitrogen dioxide could have a detrimental affect on people’s sleep patterns.
The study looked at 1,863 people and found pollution has a big effect on a person’s respiratory and nervous system, which ultimately could alter their quality of sleep.
It is thought people living in areas hit by rising levels of nitrogen dioxide are 60 pr cent more likely to find themselves awake at night against their will, compared to those living in areas with cleaner air.
Lead researcher on the study and assistant professor at the University of Washington, Martha Billings said:
Prior studies have shown that air pollution impacts heart health and affects breathing and lung function, but less is known about whether air pollution affects sleep.
We thought an effect was likely given that air pollution causes upper airway irritation, swelling and congestion, and may also affect the central nervous system and brain areas that control breathing patterns and sleep.
To reach their disturbing conclusions, scientists measured the effect of nitrogen dioxide and ‘small particulate matter’ on people with the average age of 63.
They then analysed air quality data from six American cities, measuring pollution levels already at the participants homes and monitored their sleep patterns.
To make sure their research was thorough and to account for any loopholes, they made sure to take into account the participants’ age, weight, ethnicity, economic background as well as sleep and health problems.
All of this is pretty troubling, considering air pollution has been linked to 40,000 premature deaths a year and a shocking 37 out of 43 areas across the UK, have exceeded the legal European limits on air pollution.
To try and tackle this monstrous problem, the government have proposed plans to slash pollution levels – although it may be too little too late – with experts slamming the plans as ‘weak.’
Some of their proposals include scrapping old ‘pollution heavy’ vehicles, taking out speed bumps to improve traffic flow and investing more in electric cars.
Seems we’ve got a lot to do to ensure our air becomes cleaner, not just for ourselves but for future generations too, otherwise disturbed sleep will become the least of our concerns.