Airplanes Above, Sound Sleepers Below

Sleep disruption not tied to airport noise exposure

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Surely those airplanes zooming overhead interfere with people's sleep, right? Perhaps surprisingly, this just doesn't seem to be the case.

A new study found that people exposed to high levels of airport noise reported no differences in sleep quality compared to those exposed to less noise.

"Sleep insufficiency is a major health risk factor," explained the authors of this study, led by James B. Holt, PhD, MPA, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. "Exposure to environmental noise may affect sleep duration and quality."

These researchers wanted to see if one major source of environmental noise — airports — was tied to insufficient sleep. To do so, they looked at data from the 2008 and 2009 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The BRFSS involved a phone survey of more than 745,000 people around the US who provided data on the number of days they felt they did not get enough rest or sleep. The patients' ZIP codes were used to determine their location in relation to an airport.

The FAA data was used to identify noise exposure around 95 major airports in the US. There were three zones of noise exposure, depending on the amount of noise the zone was exposed to. Areas exposed to zero airport noise were also included to serve as a comparison point.

Dr. Holt and team found that during the previous month, study subjects noted an average of 8.6 days with insufficient sleep. A total of 10.8 percent of the patients reported insufficient sleep for all days of the previous month, while 30.1 percent said they had no days with a lack of sleep.

When Dr. Holt and team analyzed the data in terms of ZIP code and level of airport noise exposure, they found no significant link between the two. In other words, those living in a zone with the most airport noise exposure had no more nights of insufficient sleep than those living in an area without any exposure to airport noise.

"Our results are consistent with other findings of no association or a weak association of airport noise with sleep disturbance," Dr. Holt and team wrote.

Only 855 participants (0.11 percent) lived in a zone with the highest level of airport noise exposure. Further research is needed to better understand how airport noise and sleep may be linked, Dr. Holt and team noted.

This study was published online April 16 in the CDC's Preventing Chronic Disease. The authors disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
April 15, 2015
Last Updated:
April 20, 2015