October 12, 201
Stress, snoring spouses and insomnia cause more sleep issues for residents living within 10km of wind farms than noise from the generators, a Flinders University study has found.
Using geographic and random sampling methods, the team surveyed more than 500 South Australians – living either within 10km of a wind farm or within 800m of a major road, as well as those in a quiet rural area – asking them if they experienced any sleep disruptions.
If they answered yes, the residents were asked what they believed was the cause.
“Due to the unique sound made by wind farms and the known sleep disruption from other noise sources, such as road traffic, it’s important to investigate the potential relationships between noise and sleep disturbance,” lead investigator Prof Peter Catcheside said.
Lead author Georgina Rawson said the survey found that the proportion of residents living near wind farms who reported moderate-to-severe sleep difficulties for any reason was no different compared with people in quiet rural areas.
“Of all residents living within 10 km of a wind farm who responded to the survey, only 0.3 per cent attributed sleep disturbance to wind farm noise, which was no higher than the rate of sleep disturbance attributed to road traffic or other noise sources (2.2 per cent) and less than sleep disturbance attributed to any other cause (16.1 per cent), such as insomnia,” Ms Rawson said.
The research also compared the rate of sleep disturbance reported by residents near a wind farm to those who lived nearby to a busy road (defined as having more than 50,000 cars passing through every day); with the road traffic residents almost twice as likely to report noise-related sleep disturbance than residents living near a wind farm.
“Overall, within the survey group there was a low prevalence of noise-related sleep complaints. Consequently, much larger surveys would be required to better estimate the prevalence of wind farm noise-related sleep impacts on nearby communities,” Prof Catcheside said.
“However, ongoing analysis of our recently completed laboratory study will help to clarify wind farm compared to road traffic noise effects on direct measurements of sleep.”
The preliminary research will be presented at the Australasian Sleep Association’s Sleep DownUnder 2021 conference being held virtually this week.
Flinders University researchers will also present findings from a lab study examining the effect of “replicated” wind farm noise on people’s sleep.
As part of a large laboratory study, PhD candidate Tessa Liebich studied 68 participants – a mixture of individuals with and without self-reported sleep issues who lived near a wind farm, a busy suburban road or a quiet rural area.
Study participants were exposed to nights of continuous wind farm noise, wind farm noise only during sleep periods, wind farm noise only during wake periods and a quiet control night, in random order, while undergoing detailed sleep monitoring.
In this study, wind farm noise did not appear to effect traditional sleep measurements, including the time taken to fall asleep and time spent asleep during the night.
“Well-controlled studies of wind farm noise on sleep are lacking, despite people’s complaints and the known effects of other types of noise on sleep,” Ms Liebich said.
“Despite no effect being observed using our traditional measures of sleep in this study, work is still ongoing to test for sleep disruption effects in more sensitive sleep measurements and with wind farm noise compared to road traffic noise.”
Both studies were funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.