Sleepless Nights After Noisy Flights
As the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) continues reporting a rebound in air travel compared with 2019 activity, a new analysis has found that exposure to even moderate levels of airplane noise may disrupt a person's normal sleep.
Aircraft noise is unique for its multispectral acoustical properties that impact the human auditory system.
The study showed that the odds of sleeping less than seven hours rose as airplane noise exposure increased.
A lack of adequate sleep has increased risks of cardiovascular disease, depression, diabetes, cancer, and numerous other health conditions. Health experts state that most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night for healthy functioning.
Published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives on April 14, 2023, the Boston and Oregon State Universities (OSU) study found that air passengers exposed to airplane noise at levels as low as 45 dB were more likely to sleep less than seven hours per night.
For comparison, the sound of a whisper is 30 dB, a library setting is 40 dB, and a typical conversation at home is 50 dB.
These researchers examined airplane noise exposure and self-reported sleep disturbance among more than 35,000 participants living around 90 of the major US airports.
This study is the first large-scale analysis of aircraft noise and sleep duration that accounts for the disruptive effects of multiple environmental exposures in communities, such as greenery and light at night.
Despite how everyday exposure to noise from aircraft is for many people, little is known about the health effects of aircraft noise, particularly in the U.S., according to study lead author Matthew Bozigar, assistant professor of epidemiology at OSU.
Short sleep duration was also more likely among nurses who lived on the West Coast, near a major cargo airport or a large body of water, and nurses who reported no hearing loss.
While the results suggested a clear link between airplane noise and sleep duration, the researchers observed no consistent association between aircraft noise and quality of sleep.
Note: As of May 7, 2023, the U.S. TSA reported airport security activity was recently comparable to volumes measured in 2019.