Study shows association between ambient air pollution and sleep apnea
As per data from the World Health Organization (WHO), nine out of ten people breathe polluted air every day; every year 7 million people every year caused by ambient (outdoor) and household air pollution. Because of the rising levels of air pollution, WHO has listed air pollution as the greatest environmental risk to health in 2019.
The association of air pollution with respiratory and lung diseases is well-known. Air pollution also increases the risk of an acute event such as stroke, acute myocardial infarction, acute asthma attack, exacerbation of COPD.
Now, a new study published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society has demonstrated an association between PM2.5 and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and obstructive sleep apnea. The study found that individuals with higher annual NO2 and fine particulate pollution (PM2.5) exposure levels had greater chances of sleep apnea.
Data from 1,974 participants in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) who also enrolled in both MESA’s Sleep and Air Pollution studies were analysed. The participants were a diverse group: 36% were white, 28% black, 24% Hispanic and 12% Asian. Almost half (48%) of the study subjects had sleep apnea.
Exposure to air pollution was estimated at the home of each participant with the help of air pollution measurements gathered from hundreds of MESA Air and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) monitoring sites in six US cities + local environment features and statistical tools.
The likelihood of sleep apnea increased 60% for 5 μg/m3 increase in annual PM2.5 exposure; the risk also rose 39% for each 10 parts per billion increase in yearly NO2 exposure.
No association was observed between air pollution and sleep efficiency.
The study does not establish cause and effect relationship between air pollution and sleep apnea. Instead, it has only shown an association between the two. However, the results do suggest that environmental factors may also contribute to sleep disorders, besides individual risk factors.
Improvement in air quality would now also mean improved sleep quality.
Dr KK Aggarwal
Padma Shri Awardee
President Elect Confederation of Medical Associations in Asia and Oceania (CMAAO)
Group Editor-in-Chief IJCP Publications
President Heart Care Foundation of India
Past National President IMA