Is mould the cause of your sleep problems?
Sometimes, it seems like the hardest thing in the world to do is to get to sleep. Be it struggling to drift off, tossing and turning in the early hours or waking up too early and not being able to get any more shuteye - it’s something we’ve all had to deal with at one point or another.
George Clooney blames his insomnia on a racing mind, helped only by going to sleep with the TV on, whilst Lady Gaga’s fibromyalgia and PTSD are both conditions known to negatively affect a person’s sleep. On the other hand, Rihanna’s reported ‘3 to 4 hours of sleep’ is self-inflicted, with the popstar admitting to binge-watching TV late at night.
A 2016 Centre for Disease Control report concluded that sleep problems, including insomnia, sharply increases the risk of heart attacks, cancer, and obesity. Moreover, insomniacs are far more likely to suffer from mental health issues like depression as well as being linked to all major psychological disorders.
But could mould be meddling with your sleep, and potentially causing you serious health concerns?
One study set out to investigate whether exposure to dampness and mould could induce sleep disturbances, and their findings suggest that it could be far more common than you think.
The researchers gave 11,318, adults in northern Europe a postal questionnaire and followed them up between 1990 and 2010, recording their sleep anomalies and any potential problems. The scientists defined a sleep problem being prevalent if it occurred three times a week.
They found that the four most commonly reported types of sleep disturbances were: difficulty getting to sleep, difficulty staying asleep, early morning awakening and general insomnia symptoms like snoring, and excessive daytime sleepiness.
They also recorded information on respiratory health and home and work environments, to see if there was any correlation between the participants’ exposure to mould and their sleep problems.
The results found that floor dampness, visible mould and mould odour would all contribute to the four major sleep problems. Within the study, one in three of the subjects developed insomnia, over the 10-year period, one-quarter of the subjects suffered from interrupted sleep and 15% of them starting snoring.
One of the primary causes of dampness in the home and subsequent mould growth is floor dampness from concrete flooring. This arises during the construction of new homes when the flooring is undergoing the curing process. Emissions of toxic chemicals from waterlogged concrete has been linked to asthma.
The report concludes its findings, saying: “the observed association between damp and mouldy buildings and the onset of sleep disturbances is a novel finding.” and emphasizes the importance of reducing indoor dampness and mould at home, to reduce the risk of impaired sleep quality, and any potential health consequences.
So, does this mean that your sleep problems are down to mould in your house? The science is still fresh, and there is plenty more for researchers to investigate, but the results of this study indicate that it could be a possibility. Or perhaps you’re like Rihanna, and simply enjoy a little bit too much late-night TV.
Wang J, Janson C, Lindberg E, Holm M, Gislason T, Benediktsdóttir B, Johannessen A, Schlünssen V, Jogi R, Franklin KA, Norbäck D. Dampness and mold at home and at work and onset of insomnia symptoms, snoring and excessive daytime sleepiness. Environ Int. 2020 Jun;139:10 5691. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2020.105691. Epub 2020 Apr 6. PMID: 32272294