Road traffic noise has been associated with adverse health effects including sleep disturbances. Use of sleep medication as an indicator of sleeping problems has rarely been explored in studies of the effects of traffic noise. Furthermore, using registry data on sleep medications provides an opportunity to study the effects of noise on sleep where attribution of sleep problems to noise is not possible.
We used questionnaire data from the population-based study Health and Environment in Oslo (HELMILO) (2009–10) (n = 13,019). Individual data on sleep medications was obtained from the Norwegian Prescription Database (NorPD). Noise levels (L night) were modeled for the most exposed façade of the building at each participant’s home address. Logistic regression models adjusted for potential confounders were used to analyze the association between traffic noise and sleep medication use both for one whole year and for the summer season. The results were reported as changes in the effect estimate per 5 decibel (dB) increase in noise level.
We observed no association between traffic noise and sleep medication use during one year [odds ratio (OR) = 1.00; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.96, 1.04]. For sleep medication use in the summer season, there was a positive, however non-significant association (OR = 1.04; 95% CI: 0.99, 1.10). Among individuals sleeping with the bedroom window open, the association increased slightly and was borderline statistically significant (OR = 1.06; 95% CI: 1.00, 1.12).
We found no evidence of an association between traffic noise and sleep medication use during one year. However, for the summer season, there was some suggestive evidence of an association. These findings indicate that season may play a role in the association between traffic noise and sleep, possibly because indoor traffic noise levels are likely to be higher during summer due to more frequent window opening. More studies are, however, necessary in order to confirm this.
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