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Effects of ground-borne noise from railway tunnels on sleep: A polysomnographic study

Journal article
Authors Michael Smith
Mikael Ögren
Julia Ageborg Morsing
Kerstin Persson Waye
Published in Building and Environment
Volume 149
Pages 288-296
ISSN 0360-1323
Publication year 2019
Published at Institute of Medicine, School of Public Health and Community Medicine
Institute of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Section of Occupational and environmental medicine
Pages 288-296
Language en
Keywords Sleep, Ground-borne noise, Railway tunnels, Experimental study, structurally radiated noise, low-frequency noise, subjective sleep, environmental noise, cortisol response, traffic noise, fragmentation, vibration, disturbance, road, Construction & Building Technology, Engineering, epanski e, 1987, international journal of neuroscience, v33, p207
Subject categories Civil Engineering


Residents of dwellings near railway tunnels may be exposed to noise, which propagates through the tunnel and ground and into the home. Noise radiated into bedrooms may disrupt sleep, which can have negative consequences for physical and mental wellbeing. In this paper, we present a laboratory investigation of the impact of ground-borne railway noise on physiologic and self-reported sleep. Over five consecutive nights, including habituation and control nights, 23 healthy participants were exposed to noise of two different frequency spectra at maximum levels of 35,40 and 45 dB. Sleep was measured using polysomnography and questionnaires. Heart rate was measured using electrocardiography. Sleep was significantly disturbed, both in terms of physiologic and self-reported measures, during nights with 45 dB noise, although the number and size of effects was modest. No significant differences in overall sleep structure or subjective sleep disturbance and quality were found between control and 35 dB nights. Within 60 s following noise onset, the noise spectrum with higher amplitude frequencies above 100 Hz led to increases in heart rate at noise levels of 35 dB and above, and increased arousal probability at a noise level of 45 dB. The results generally support that the proposed Swedish guideline value of 35 dB maximum noise level indoors may be suitable for protecting against adverse sleep outcomes due to ground-borne railway noise.

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