Effects of night time road traffic noise—an overview of laboratory and field studies on noise dose and subjective noise sensitivity
This paper presents an overview of research on sleep and noise at the Department of Environmental Hygiene, University of Gothenburg. Different methods were developed to study primary and after effects of night time road traffic noise on sleep. Three one-week laboratory experiments were undertaken to study the relevance of different noise descriptors— Leq, maximum peak noise level and number of events with high peak noise levels—for sleep disturbance effects. The noise exposure was either single noise evenys or a continuous, even road traffic noise. It was concluded that Leq was not related to sleep disturbance effects. Peak noise levels were significantly related to subjective sleep quality and body movements. Results from a third continuing study showed that there is a threshold for effects of the number of single noise events on sleep quality. Habituation to noise among subjects with differing noise sensitivity was studied in a two-week experiment. A significant noise effect on subjective sleep quality was found among sensitive subjects only. No habituation was seen for the negative influence of noise on sleep quality, mood and performance. Long-term effects of road traffic noise were also investigated in a field survey among 106 individuals. This study revealed the presence of a decrease in sleep quality as well as psycho-social effects on tiredness and mood, together with increased reports of headaches and nervous stomach. As in the laboratory study, sensitive individuals were more affected by noise than less sensitive individuals.