EEG power spectral responses to wind farm compared with road traffic noise during sleep: A laboratory study

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Wind turbine noise is dominated by low frequencies for which effects on sleep relative to more common environmental noise sources such as road traffic noise remain unknown. This study examined the effect of wind turbine noise compared with road traffic noise on sleep using quantitative electroencephalogram power spectral analysis. Twenty-three participants were exposed to 3-min samples of wind turbine noise and road traffic noise at three sound pressure levels (33, 38 and 43 dBA) in randomised order during established sleep. Acute (0–30 s) and more sustained (30–180 s) effects of noise presentations during N2 and N3 sleep were examined using spectral analysis of changes in electroencephalogram power frequency ranges across time in 5-s intervals. Both noise types produced time- and sound pressure level-dependent increases in electroencephalogram power, but with significant noise type by sound pressure level interactions in beta, alpha, theta and delta frequency bands (all p < 0.05). Wind turbine noise showed significantly lower delta, theta and beta activity immediately following noise onset compared with road traffic noise (all p < 0.05). However, alpha activity was higher for wind turbine noise played at lower sound pressure levels (33 dBA [p = 0.001] and 38 dBA [p = 0.003]) compared with traffic noise during N2 sleep. These findings support that spectral analyses show subtle effects of noise on sleep and that electroencephalogram changes following wind turbine noise and road traffic noise onset differ depending on sound pressure levels; however, these effects were mostly transient and had little impact on conventionally scored sleep. Further studies are needed to establish if electroencephalogram changes associated with modest environmental noise exposures have significant impacts on sleep quality and next-day functioning.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13517
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Sleep Research
Issue number3
Early online date13 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • qEEG
  • sleep
  • spectral power
  • traffic noise
  • wind farm noise
  • wind turbines


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