Noisy nights take toll on UAE residents’ health

Kate Bridle, sleep service manager and lead technologist at The London Sleep Centre, Dubai Healthcare City, said about a fifth of their patients have sleep disruption due to excessive noise pollution.

Kate Bridle, sleep service manager at The London Sleep Centre, says noise pollution can cause depression and anxiety. Satish Kumar/ The National
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ABU DHABI // Sleep deprivation, stress and anxiety are some of the many effects noise pollution can have on an individual, experts say.

Kate Bridle, sleep service manager and lead technologist at The London Sleep Centre, Dubai Healthcare City, said about a fifth of their patients suffer sleep disruption owing to noise pollution.

“Sleep initiation and maintenance insomnia are the most common,” she said. “Sleep initiation insomnia means that someone is unable to fall asleep in the first place, and with sleep maintenance insomnia, falling asleep is not a problem but they experience multiple awakenings throughout the night and are ­unable to stay asleep.

“Unfortunately, the downside of living in a vibrant, 24-hour city such as Dubai is that noise is an issue for many living in built-up areas, such as Dubai Marina or Downtown.”

Ms Bridle said that, in the short term, a lack of adequate sleep can affect judgment, mood, ability to learn and retain information, and can increase the risk of serious accidents and injury.

Chronic sleep deprivation may lead to a host of health problems including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression and even early mortality, she said.

Dr Deema Sihweil, clinical director at the psychology centre at the Carbone Clinic, said sound sleep was critical to maintaining a balanced state of mind.

“It is also paramount to helping one heal or reduce stress levels,” she said. “Experiencing stress alone can keep one awake and, as if that is not painful enough, coping with extraneous noises throughout the night can compound that stress and make conditions even worse.”

Noise pollution is part of any city life, and Dubai is no exception, Dr Sihweil said.

“It’s a very common complaint, or at least when evaluated, noise pollution turns out to be a significant contributor to stress levels of city dwellers.”

In the short term, noise pollution can be extremely annoying for a sensitive or light sleeper. In the long run, continuous noise can have detrimental effects on individuals, couples and families with children, said Dr ­Sihweil, with increased anxiety, aggression, low concentration, poor workplace or school performance, social tension and physical health issues all common side-effects of poor-quality sleep.

“Dubai Municipality works around the clock to address complaints from residents and can be a great way to address noise pollution in neighbourhoods,” she said. “While often there is little that can be done to regulate construction site working hours, which seems to be mostly at night, especially in extreme climates, it is still worth gathering neighbours to file a formal complaint to either the building management or to the municipality to try to address accordingly.”

Other measures that may work include insulating windows with soundproof glass and keeping air-conditioning on to act as a white noise barrier to extraneous sounds, Dr Sihweil suggested.

“Extreme measures would be to consider moving to a quieter neighbourhood that does not experience high-intensity and frequent noise pollution from traffic or construction,” said Dr Sihweil.

Dr Atta Alkaznaji, a specialist in neurology at Burjeel Hospital in Abu Dhabi, has seen patients complaining of health problems caused by noise.

“First of all there is sleep deprivation,” he said. “Then stress and anxiety. Then there is a loss of interest and performance at work and in social settings and family situations. These symptoms can be chronic.”

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