Air pollution is commonly referred to as an invisible killer. Even though it can often go undetected, it is responsible for up to 10 million premature deaths a year, 4 million of which being from an illness attributable to household air pollution. From inefficient air flow to high humidity, the build-up of small particles such as carbon monoxide has caused indoor particulate pollution levels to be as much as 20 times higher than accepted guideline values.
Apart from the third of our life spent in our bedrooms sleeping, the remaining two-thirds are spent indoors. Considering how much of our lives we spend indoors, it is important to consider the impact of indoor air pollution and the different ways in which we can ensure we stay healthy and get the best sleep possible.
Impact on sleep
Air pollutant particles are so minuscule in size that once they enter our body, they are absorbed by every single organ, and even manage to make their way into our bloodstream.
Considering the well-known negative consequences of air pollution on our health, such as its links to cancer and heart disease, it should not be surprising that our sleep can also be gravely affected. In fact, a five-year study that looked into the effects of air pollution on sleep on around 2000 participants in the US found that those who sleep exposed to high levels of air pollution have lower sleep efficiency than those who sleep in better quality air. This is thought to be as a result of the congestion of small particles in the nose, sinus, and airways which can cause irritation. This subsequently leads to the narrowing of your airways disrupting normal breathing and therefore the quality of your sleep.
Children are at an even higher risk of the damages of indoor pollution. The National Safety Council states that ‘children breathe in 50% more air per 0.45kg of body weight than adults do’. Therefore, with their small, developing lungs, their airways are more prone to narrow and be inflamed as the dirt accumulates. With good quality sleep being a critical determinant in the physical and mental development of a child, it is imperative to make the right steps to ensure the best air quality inside a child's bedroom.
There are three specific factors in the air that we breathe that can affect our sleep quality.
Any substance that are not a normal component in the air that affect air quality is called air pollution. This air pollution can come from outdoor air, including pollen and smoke. Building materials, chemicals in cleaning products and how you heat your home can also contribute to air pollution.
No one likes a stuffy room filled with stagnant air. Keeping your bedroom air well circulated is important not only to regulate an optimal bedroom temperature but to prevent the buildup of impurities and molds.
As explained in our Temperature article, self-regulating your body temperature is essential in achieving good quality sleep. Yet a humid bedroom can cause problems in falling and staying asleep. Overtime, dampness in the air can also contribute to mold growth and allergies which in turn fuels our sleeplessness even more.
Keep it clean
The easiest way to clean your bedroom air is to just keep a window open. This will not only help circulate the unclean air out and the cleaner air in, but will help increase air flow and manage humidity
Aim to open your windows for at least 10 minutes a day, especially if your cooking or taking a shower. If you live in a highly congested, polluted area then you can use a fan or air purifiers that also help ventilate your air.
Keep it green
Plants such as Aloe Vera are known to be the best natural air purifiers. The plants take in the carbon dioxide and instant release fresh oxygen as part of their natural process to make food. It is recommended to have a plant every 10 square metres, which is also the average size of a small bedroom.
Keep it half humid
Most British homes are old, and with constant wet and cold weather, it is important to make sure we prevent our homes getting damp. Dampness which can come from cooking, to washing clothes encourages mould and fungi to grow, which may cause an irritated nose or shortness of breath.
The best humidity level is 50%. During the summer where humidity levels rise, keeping your window open,using an extractor when cooking, drying your clothes outside and investing in a dehumidifier are different ways to keep your humidity level at optimum. During damp winter days, you can boost humidity levels by using a humidifier. Remember to change the water in your humidifier to prevent the build up of bacteria in dirty water reservoirs.