Most adults need 6-8 hours of sleep every night; children need even more. But the quality of sleep is just as important as the quantity. Your body and mind progress through many stages of sleep throughout the night (or day, if that’s when you sleep). Disturbances – including poor air quality – at any stage of the sleep cycle can result in fatigue, impaired memory, a weakened immune system, even depression.
Factors that affect sleep quality
Your ability to cycle fully through the stages of sleep depends on internal and external factors. Jet lag, work shift changes, medical conditions, and the use of medications or other substances such as tobacco and caffeine can all have a negative affect on the quantity and quality of sleep.
The environment in which you sleep also has a significant influence on sleep quantity and quality, according to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Environmental factors include:
- Lighting. Bright lighting disturbs restful sleeping. Falling asleep with the lights on or a television or computer on is a bad idea, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
- Noise. Background noise at a very low level may help relax some people, but not all people. The National Sleep Foundation recommends white noise from a fan or air cleaner to help block out unwanted sound at night.
- Room temperature. While the ideal room air temperature varies from person to person, the Harvard Medical School notes that people “sleep best at the temperature that feels most comfortable.”
- Air quality. The air you breathe while sleeping affects the quality of your sleep. Research has shown that air pollution and other airborne contaminants can disturb sleep quality.
How air pollution affects sleep quality
Researchers from the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Chicago found that exposure to air pollution while sleeping increases habitual snoring. They found that up to 24% of children in polluted neighborhoods experienced habitual snoring three or more times a week, compared to 7% in neighborhoods with the lowest pollution levels. Snoring is often caused by obstructed nasal airways and results in poor sleep quality.
In another study, The Harvard School of Public Health found that air pollution significantly increases the risk of Sleep-Disordered Breathing (SDB). The most common form of SDB is sleep apnea, which is characterized by abnormal pauses in breathing. The study reported that the risk of sleep apnea increased by 13% in summer months when pollution levels were also elevated.
Tips for getting a good night’s sleep
Here are simple steps you can take to promote a good night’s sleep:
Stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time, seven days a week.
Exercise, but not too late at night. Try to exercise almost every day, but never within 2-3 hours of bedtime.
Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants that fight sleep. Drinking alcohol too close to bedtime prevents the onset of deep sleep stages needed for healthy rest.
Get plenty of sunlight. Exposure to natural sunlight for at least 30 minutes every day will help your body develop and maintain a regular sleep pattern.
Maintain a good sleep environment. This includes controlling noises and maintaining appropriate lighting, a comfortable bed and a comfortable room temperature.
Use an air purifier. IQAir recommends the New Edition HealthPro Plus room air purifier for creating a healthy sleeping environment. The HealthPro Plus excels at controlling air pollution, including ultrafine particles, and also includes gas and odor protection. The HealthPro Plus also features a 320-degree vented diffuser that helps prevent drafts that could disturb the sleeping environment.