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J Occup Health. 2003 May;45(3):146-52.

Effect of acute exposure to loud occupational noise during daytime on the nocturnal sleep architecture, heart rate, and cortisol secretion in healthy volunteers.

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Department of Pharmacology, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, Pondicherry, India.



Noise is one of the commonest physical stressors to which industrial workers are exposed. Many workers complain of symptoms associated with a non-specific generalized stress response, including disturbed sleep. However, industrial workers may be exposed to more than one source of stress and it is not possible to completely attribute the disturbed nocturnal sleep and changes in heart rate to the effects of loud noise alone. This study was done to find out whether acute exposure of healthy individuals to loud occupational noise during the daytime would cause changes in their nocturnal sleep architecture, heart rate during sleep and serum cortisol levels.


Baseline polysomnography was done on ten subjects who were exposed for eight hours either to continuous occupational background noise levels of >75dB(A), or a quiet environment. Sleep polysomnography was done on the night prior to and after exposure. Blood was collected for serum cortisol estimation at night prior to sleep and in the morning after waking up. Statistical analysis was done by repeated measures ANOVA with Tukey's post test.


The sleep efficiency was less than 80% and the total time spent in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, Slow Wave Sleep (SWS) and the REM onset latency were significantly decreased on the night after exposure to noise. There was a significant increase in stage shifts. The percentage fall in heart rate during sleep was decreased compared to the baseline values. The serum cortisol levels in the morning after exposure to noise was significantly increased.


Workers exposed to loud background occupational noise react to the stress and show changes in nocturnal sleep architecture and heart rate which may be contributed to the exposure to noise.

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