Modern technology gives us many things.

Living cities are also... sleepless and we pay dearly for that

An argument often heard by those who reject a life in a village or in rchia, is that it is extremely quiet. Especially in the evenings what we call "nekra" falls. People have become addicted to the hustle and bustle of cities, despite the risks, such as safety, alienation or traffic congestion.

But unbeknownst to most, those who live in high-rise buildings in cities pay a higher price: lost hours of sleep at night

Ένας υγιής ενήλικας χρειάζεται, κατά μέσο όρο, 7 έως 9 ώρες την ημέρα. Ο αριθμός είναι περισσότερος για παιδιά, που μπορεί να χρειαστούν από 9 έως 16 ώρες την ημέρα. Παρά τις ατομικές διαφορές, η νύχτα είναι γενικά η ώρα που το σώμα μας επιφυλάσσει για ύπνο.

But given that if we don't get enough sleep, we will get sick, Spanish associate professor and researcher at the University of Murcia María Ángeles Bonmatí Carrión explains the risks we run if we don't sleep at night.

"Since we are diurnal animals, we sleep at night. There are variations, of course, due to what are known as different chronotypes. Some of us are night owls, who tend to go to bed later and get up later, while others are larks, preferring to get up earlier and go to bed earlier" says the Spanish expert in her article on The Conversation.

"Over millions of years we have evolved to organize our physiological processes according to the changing states of light and dark."

But the Spanish expert explains that our nights have changed a lot in just a century and a half thanks to the widespread use of electric light. “Now, in most populated areas, the night now dark. Light enabled humans, whose eyes are adapted to daylight, to colonize the night by getting rid of the darkness and, consequently, to extend our period of activity into the small hours.'

Night activities in the city debilitate people.

Recent studies have shown that among adults and the elderly, the higher the level of artificial light during the night, the less sleep they get. It has also been observed that artificial light at night – both indoors and outdoors – can increase sleep problems by 22%.

“Artificial light is considered to be, in itself, a form of pollution, bringing with it a number of health problems. Mainly, it makes us sleep less," says Carrión, explaining that artificial light confuses the internal clock that regulates sleep, "telling us it's daytime and it's not time to sleep yet."

Traffic and nightlife

So since people for many years have colonized the night with electric light, the nights have become noisier depriving ourselves of the peace and quiet we need to fall and sleep.

The noise that seeps into our homes at any time of the day is bad for our health, regardless of whether it bothers us or not. But at night, it can also affect our sleep.

According to the European Environment Agency, prolonged exposure to ambient noise contributes to 48.000 new cases of heart disease and 12.000 premature deaths each year in Europe.

The negative effects of traffic noise have been widely demonstrated. However, in cities at night there are other important sources of noise. One of the biggest is the nightlife. Attempts to take action in Spain have mostly failed, Carrión says, such as noise mapping for many Spanish cities.

«Ο θόρυβος που δημιουργείται από τη νυχτερινή ζωή αυξάνεται λόγω της αύξησης των θέσεων σε υπαίθριες ταράτσες στα μπαρ, σε βαθμό ως αποτέλεσμα της πανδημίας του κορονοϊού. Για παράδειγμα, στη Βαρκελώνη ο αριθμός των τραπεζιών εξωτερικού χώρου έχει αυξηθεί κατά 62% από το 2019 και 5.700 νέα τραπέζια έχουν εμφανιστεί στη Μαδρίτη, ανεβάζοντας το σύνολο σε 60.912».

όπως αναφέρει η ειδική, ο καθαρισμός των δρόμων, που συχνά γίνεται τη νύχτα ή πολύ νωρίς το πρωί, είναι ένας άλλος παράγοντας. «Κάπως ειρωνικά, θα μπορούσαμε να πούμε ότι ο νυχτερινός καθαρισμός των δρόμων επηρεάζει τα καθαριστικά αποτελέσματα που έχει το γλυμφατικό σύστημα [σημ. το εγκεφαλονωτιαίο υγρό επιτρέπει την απομάκρυνση των απορριμμάτων από τον εγκέφαλο, και είναι κρίσιμο για το γλυμφατικό σύστημα] στον εγκέφαλό μας, ενώ κοιμόμαστε» αναφέρει η Μaría Ángeles Bonmatí Carrión.

Cancers and heart problems

But what are the consequences of this combination of light and noise pollution in the evenings for our health? According to Carrión, many and serious.

«Αυτές περιλαμβάνουν αυξημένη πιθανότητα καρδιαγγειακών και μεταβολικών καταστάσεων ( ή διαβήτη), διαταραχές ψυχικής υγείας, ακόμη και ορισμένους τύπους καρκίνου, όπως καρκίνου του μαστού, του προστάτη ή του παχέος εντέρου».

In addition, 22 million people suffer from a chronic sleep disorder and 6,5 million suffer from severe chronic sleep disorders. It has been estimated that a million years of healthy life are collectively lost each year due to the effects of noise. Coronary artery disease and sleep disorders account for the largest proportion of noise-related illnesses.


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