Sunday 21 May 2017 21.45 BST
The study explored the proportion of time participants spent asleep in bed at night compared with being awake – a measure known as sleep efficiency.
The results reveal that greater exposure to nitrogen dioxide and small particulates known as PM 2.5s are linked with a greater chance of having low sleep efficiency. That, researchers say, could be down to the impact of air pollution on the body.
“Your nose, your sinuses and the back of your throat can all be irritated by those pollutants so that can cause some sleep disruption as well as from breathing issues,” said Martha Billings, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Washington and co-author of the research. Billings added that pollutants entering the blood could have an effect on the brain and hence the regulation of breathing.
The study, presented at the American Thoracic Society’s annual international conference, drew on air pollution data captured for nitrogen dioxide and PM2.5 levels over a five-year period in six US cities, including data captured near the homes of the 1,863 participants. The data was then used to provide estimates of pollution levels in the home.
Researchers then captured data from medical-grade wearable devices worn by the participants on their wrists over a period of seven consecutive days to monitor fine movements while they slept – an approach that offers insights into how long each participant spent asleep or awake.
From the results, the team grouped the participants according to their sleep efficiency, finding that the top quarter of the participants had a sleep efficiency of about 93% or higher, while the bottom quarter had a sleep efficiency of 88% or less.