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Journal Article


Elmenhorst EM, Griefahn B, Rolny V, Basner M. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019; 16(6): e16061073.


Unit for Experimental Psychiatry, Division of Sleep and Chronobiology, Department of Psychiatry, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


(Copyright © 2019, MDPI: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute)






OBJECTIVES: Air, road, and railway traffic, the three major sources of traffic noise, have been reported to differently impact on annoyance. However, these findings may not be transferable to physiological reactions during sleep which are considered to decrease nighttime recovery and might mediate long-term negative health effects. Studies on awakenings from sleep indicate that railway noise, while having the least impact on annoyance, may have the most disturbing properties on sleep compared to aircraft noise. This study presents a comparison between the three major traffic modes and their probability to cause awakenings. In combining acoustical and polysomnographical data from three laboratory studies sample size and generalizability of the findings were increased.

METHODS: Data from three laboratory studies were pooled, conducted at two sites in Germany (German Aerospace Center, Cologne, and Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors, Dortmund). In total, the impact of 109,836 noise events on polysomnographically assessed awakenings was analyzed in 237 subjects using a random intercept logistic regression model.

RESULTS: The best model fit according to the Akaike Information Criterion (AIC) included different acoustical and sleep parameters. After adjusting for these moderators results showed that the probability to wake up from equal maximum A-weighted sound pressure levels (SPL) increased in the order aircraft < road < railway noise, the awakening probability from road and railway noise being not significantly different (p = 0.988). At 70 dB SPL, it was more than 7% less probable to wake up due to aircraft noise than due to railway noise.

CONCLUSIONS: The three major traffic noise sources differ in their impact on sleep. The order with which their impact increased was inversed compared to the order that was found in annoyance surveys. It is thus important to choose the correct concept for noise legislation, i.e., physiological sleep metrics in addition to noise annoyance for nighttime noise protection.

Language: en


aircraft noise; awakening; exposure–response curve; noise legislation; railway noise; road traffic noise; sleep


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