Airplanes and Snoring an Aural Assault

Besides providing an easier environment for sleep, quiet and peaceful sleeping surroundings may help keep blood pressure down.

It turns out that certain loud noises often associated with city life, when present during sleep, have a raising effect on blood pressure in normally healthy individuals. Certain common night noise producers, such as a loud snoring partner, and close passing cars and airplanes, took center stage in a recent European study. Effects of night noise on heart rate were also measured, but the results were inconclusive.

140 individuals, ranging in age from 45-70 years, and all living in close proximity to four major European airports (Athens, Milan, Stockholm and London) with night flights, participated in the study. Blood pressure was monitored in the participants every 15 minutes of the night, and spikes in blood pressure were shown to often be associated with the presence of loud noises, or noise “events”. An event was classified as a noise above 35 decibels. There were upwards of 19 airplane events in a night, 14 snoring events and very few car events (averaging less than one across the four cities) per night.

The effect of an airplane event on blood pressure was an average increase of 6.2 mmHg in systolic blood pressure and an average increase of 7.4 mmHg in diastolic blood pressure. The effect of an airplane event on heart rate was on average a seemingly insignificant 5.4 b.p.m. (beats per minute).

While airplane events were the most measurable source of blood pressure spikes, it is the conclusion of the study that “noise level appears to be independent of the noise source.” This means for instance that if one sleeps in the proximity of a particularly loud snorer (on par with the noise created by a passing airplane), the effect of the noise from the snoring on blood pressure should be comparable to that of the noise of an airplane.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a serious condition that can lead to heart disease, as well as kidney disease and other ailments. The measured spikes in the study were significant, suggesting that precautions should be taken in avoiding or dampening loud sounds while asleep. The study cannot be considered definitive or comprehensive, but useful in identifying a potentially serious and prevalent connection.

Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Haralabidis, Alexandros. et al. European Heart Journal. “Acute effects of night-time noise exposure on blood pressure in populations living near airports.” February 2008