During the Covid-19 restrictions, traffic was less and flights almost stopped – so more people were getting a good night’s sleep. And this is really important – because sleep disturbance or insufficient sleep has a series of adverse health consequences.
It’s now been known for decades that the modern way of life disturbs natural sleep rhythms and interferes with the biological clocks in our metabolisms that have evolved over millions of years – literally from the time that life began – and it’s the higher mammals e.g. us that find sleep disturbance most damaging.
A study around involving nearly 5,000 people living in noise hotspots close to 6 major European airports, including Heathrow, for over 5 years found a 14% increase in the risk of high blood pressure for every 10dB increase in night-time noise. There was no correlation with daytime noise. (reported in 13/02/2008)
And it’s not just the noise itself, but the way it disturbs sleep even if it doesn’t wake you up.
This adverse effect of night-time noise was confirmed 5 years later by a similar study involving 1,500 people near Heathrow. This study also detected an adverse effects with daytime noise. For night-time noise the overall increased risk of hospital admission for stroke was increase by 29%, for coronary heart disease by 12% and for cardiovascular disease by 9%. For day-time noise the corresponding figures were 23%, 11% and 14%. These effects were stronger in the case of persons with South Asian ethnicity.
Other sources of noise were studied and, as measured by subjective reports of annoyance, aircraft noise was more annoying than noise from road traffic or from rail which in turn led to comparatively higher effects from aircraft noise. (reported in 09/10/2013)
Noise is associated with activation of the sympathetic nervous system and so it would not be surprising for it to be associated with other health problems and more recently an analysis of many different but similar scientific published papers (a meta-analysis) covering nearly half a million individuals found a 6% increase in the risk of Type 2 diabetes following only a 3dB increase in noise exposure, regardless of source. Within the data, however, a stronger effect was observed with aircraft noise than with road or rail noise.
Strange to say, Covid-19 paradoxically gave some people a health break due to the absence of night-time aircraft noise.
Why don’t we try to ensure this becomes permanent by campaigning for a UK-wide blanket night flight ban.