WHO Environmental Noise Guidelines for the European Region: A Systematic Review on Environmental Noise and Effects on Sleep

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018 Mar 14;15(3):519. doi: 10.3390/ijerph15030519.


To evaluate the quality of available evidence on the effects of environmental noise exposure on sleep a systematic review was conducted. The databases PSYCINFO, PubMed, Science Direct, Scopus, Web of Science and the TNO Repository were searched for non-laboratory studies on the effects of environmental noise on sleep with measured or predicted noise levels and published in or after the year 2000. The quality of the evidence was assessed using GRADE criteria. Seventy four studies predominately conducted between 2000 and 2015 were included in the review. A meta-analysis of surveys linking road, rail, and aircraft noise exposure to self-reports of sleep disturbance was conducted. The odds ratio for the percent highly sleep disturbed for a 10 dB increase in Lnight was significant for aircraft (1.94; 95% CI 1.61-2.3), road (2.13; 95% CI 1.82-2.48), and rail (3.06; 95% CI 2.38-3.93) noise when the question referred to noise, but non-significant for aircraft (1.17; 95% CI 0.54-2.53), road (1.09; 95% CI 0.94-1.27), and rail (1.27; 95% CI 0.89-1.81) noise when the question did not refer to noise. A pooled analysis of polysomnographic studies on the acute effects of transportation noise on sleep was also conducted and the unadjusted odds ratio for the probability of awakening for a 10 dBA increase in the indoor Lmax was significant for aircraft (1.35; 95% CI 1.22-1.50), road (1.36; 95% CI 1.19-1.55), and rail (1.35; 95% CI 1.21-1.52) noise. Due to a limited number of studies and the use of different outcome measures, a narrative review only was conducted for motility, cardiac and blood pressure outcomes, and for children's sleep. The effect of wind turbine and hospital noise on sleep was also assessed. Based on the available evidence, transportation noise affects objectively measured sleep physiology and subjectively assessed sleep disturbance in adults. For other outcome measures and noise sources the examined evidence was conflicting or only emerging. According to GRADE criteria, the quality of the evidence was moderate for cortical awakenings and self-reported sleep disturbance (for questions that referred to noise) induced by traffic noise, low for motility measures of traffic noise induced sleep disturbance, and very low for all other noise sources and investigated sleep outcomes.

Keywords: hospital noise; sleep; transportation noise; wind turbine noise.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Data Accuracy
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / standards*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Noise, Transportation / adverse effects*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Probability
  • Self Report
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / etiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires