The Air Pollution and Snoring

The Link Between Air Pollution and Snoring No ratings yet.

Published On January 3, 2021 | By SDA Editorial Staff | About Snoring

We all know about the dangers of air pollution. Whether it is from heavy industry or heavy vehicular traffic, air pollution has seen a rise in many respiratory issues in the world’s population, on top of all kinds of environmental problems.

However, there are still some air pollution effects that we are only beginning to feel or notice today. Much like how we only noticed the hole in the ozone layer 30 years later, we are only now beginning to realize the adverse effects of air pollution on our ability to sleep.

Today we are going to be exploring a possible link between air pollution and sleeping disorders like snoring. But first, let’s briefly look at one of the most common sleeping disorders so we can all start off reading this article with the same general knowledge level.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is an unfortunately common problem. It is a breathing-related sleep disorder and is one of the most common causes of snoring. There are two main types of sleep apnea: obstructive and the far less common central.

Obstructive sleep apnea is when there is a physical blockage of the airways in the throat when you are sleeping. It has various causes, from obesity, alcohol, and substance use, to sleeping tablets. Central is less common and has a neurological aspect to it as the brain fails to send a signal to the throat muscles to keep breathing when you sleep.

Now that we understand that sleep apnea is quite literally a breathing problem, hopefully, it is a bit easier to understand that there may be a link between air pollution and snoring.

The Effects of Air Pollution on Breathing

For many years now, we’ve known that air pollution has adverse effects on one’s breathing ability and lung health. While we may not think or realize it, that adverse effect still lingers even when the world sleeps.

It’s no secret that we are often more vulnerable when we sleep, which is especially true when we suffer from sleeping disorders. As we discussed, air pollution dramatically affects your breathing ability, often causing or triggering conditions such as allergies and asthma. This also means it can and likely will affect you in your sleep, triggering, or compounding sleeping disorders such as sleep apnea.

A study by researcher Antonella Zanobetti, Ph.D. a senior research scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health, proved that air pollution could increase the risk of sleep-disordered breathing. Up to 17% of U.S. adults have sleep-disordered breathing, with many unaware of such problems.

According to Zanobetti, sleep-disordered breathing and air pollution have been linked to cardiovascular disease. However, this link was at the time not fully understood. Her study was believed to be the first into the possible link between pollution and breathing problems while we sleep. You can read more about her studies in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Additionally, her team found that as summer came around and pollution levels rose from the lower range to the higher range, people were more likely to have shallow breathing or to have stopped breathing entirely for approximately 10 seconds.

Air Pollution and Sleep Apnea

With the combined knowledge of the effects of sleep apnea and the possible effects of air pollution, we can now start to draw some parallels, as you might already have started doing yourself.

Ever since the Industrial Revolution, air pollution has skyrocketed thanks to industrial resources and vehicles. Since the studies conducted by Zanobetti, many more scientists and researchers have looked at the possible links between air pollution and sleep quality. Many concluded that there is a relationship between sleep disorders and long-term exposure to outdoor pollutants.

One such study, the Annals of the American Thoracic Society (ATS), concluded that those who have a level of exposure to pollutants nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter had a higher chance of developing obstructive sleep apnea.

These two air pollutants are the most common ones that you would face daily, at least in a modern, urban environment. PM2.5, also known as particle pollution, is essentially the fine particles that you inhale, the particles that would be too small to see without a microscope. Nitrogen dioxide is most commonly encountered via traffic-related pollutants, such as vehicle engines.

The link that scientists and researchers found was that these two common pollutants could cause irritation and swelling in the upper airways when inhaled over extended periods. This swelling leads to an obstruction in the airways, causing or exaggerating the effects of sleep apnea and similar sleeping disorders.

It isn’t just these outdoor pollutants that can cause issues with breathing and sleep apnea. Various items might be in your home right now that could be causing or heightening problems, such as dust, pollen, or mold. Unfortunately,  these allergens or pollutants can cause inflammation in the nasal passages, leading to more snoring and worsening of your sleep apnea.

The Implications of Air Quality for Children

One of the worst aspects of this information is the effects it can have on our children. A study done by a collection of researchers in the European Respiratory Journal in 2014 found that snoring was becoming a prevalent problem among school children between the ages of 6 and 12.

It was concluded that the air quality had taken a massive toll thanks to air pollution in various neighborhoods throughout Tehran, Iran. This means that children, who are still in their developmental stage at such a young age, and therefore at their most vulnerable, are developing sleeping and breathing disorders such as sleep apnea when these disorders would previously only affect adults at most.

If there were ever a cause to help try and reduce your carbon footprint, it would be for the kids.


To sum up the informational load above, we can conclude that there is a link between air pollution, sleeping disorders, and snoring. Pollution and allergens – external irritants of any kind – can aggravate and worsen the effects of disorders such as sleep apnea. In worse cases, it can even cause these effects and disorders to develop over time.

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