Dispelling the Rumors: Renewable Energy Isn't to Blame for Sleep Issues
Have you ever heard of wind turbine syndrome? It's the term used to describe the negative health effects associated with being near wind turbines. But does this so-called syndrome have any scientific basis?
What is wind turbine syndrome?
This term is typically used to describe symptoms such as:
- Night terrors
- Sleep problems
- Memory problems
Proponents of the existence of wind turbine syndrome argue that the low frequency sounds and infrasound generated by wind turbines are to blame for these symptoms.
Is there any science behind wind turbine syndrome?_The short ambiguous answer is, “sort of.” _
A 2010 study compared two groups of residents in Maine. One group lived within a mile of a wind farm and the other group lived between two and four miles away.
Researchers found that those who lived closer to a wind farm had worse sleep, were sleepier during the day, and scored worse on a test that measured mental health.
A meta study published in 2014 concluded that the low-frequency sound and infrasound generated by wind turbines did not present unique health risks. It found that those who live near wind turbines had higher levels of annoyance. The authors determined that these annoyance levels were to blame for any associated symptoms, rather than the wind turbines themselves.
A Canadian study published in 2016 looked specifically at the effect of wind turbines on self-reported sleep disturbance.
It found that new wind farms were associated with increased reports of poor sleep quality, daytime sleepiness, and insomnia. However, after further analysis, these effects were strongly associated with negative attitudes toward wind turbines, their visibility, and concerns about their impact on property valuation. What made this study particularly interesting was the fact that changes in sleep were not associated with distance from wind turbines, but from these subjective factors instead.
This doesn't mean we should dismiss the potential health effects of wind turbines, but it does suggest that we can alleviate any potential risks by changing our attitude about them.
The nocebo effect
Why do so many people genuinely believe that wind farms are harming their health when research appears to find little evidence that there are serious health risks?
Australian researchers found that of the 51 wind farms in Australia, 64.7 percent had never been subject of a noise or health complaint (more than 21,000 residents lived within roughly three miles of the wind farms that had received no complaints).
Among those who complained, 90 percent filed their complaint only after anti-wind farm groups began adding health concerns to their platform.
The nocebo effect could be at play here. This is the term used when we experience negative effects from something that shouldn't have any negative effect on us. In the same way that the mind can heal if it believes in the treatment being provided (the placebo effect), the nocebo effect can harm if the mind believes that to be possible.
How to improve your sleep if you live near a wind farm
It's worth reminding yourself that wind turbines have not been found to harm health in the peer-reviewed literature cited here. The only negative health effects appear to come as a result of negative and incorrect thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs toward wind farms.
In other words, the more negative your attitude is toward wind turbines, the more negative symptoms you are likely to experience.
As a result, you have the power to turn things around. Harness the power of positive sleep thoughts and use them to replace negative thoughts. You'll likely experience improved sleep (and health) as a result.
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Martin is the creator of Insomnia Land’s free sleep training for insomnia. His online course uses CBT for insomnia techniques to help participants fall asleep and stay asleep. More than 4,000 insomniacs have completed his course and 97 percent of graduates say they would recommend it to a friend.