Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and sleep health in U.S. adults, NHANES 2005-2014

By Pengfei Guo, Zhihao Jin, Giselle Bellia, Jiajun Luo, Kosuke Inoue, Krystal J Godri Pollitt, Nicole C Deziel, and Zeyan Liew
Environ Res
September 6, 2023
DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2023.117092


Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are synthetic chemicals that induce oxidative inflammatory responses and disrupt the endocrine and central nervous systems, all of which can influence sleep.


To investigate the association between PFAS exposure and sleep health measures in U.S. adults.


We analyzed serum concentration data of four PFAS [perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), and perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA)] reported for 8913 adults in NHANES 2005-2014. Sleep outcomes, including trouble sleeping, having a diagnosis of sleep disorder, and recent daily sleep duration classified as insufficient or excessive sleep (<6 or >9 h/day) were examined. Weighted logistic regression was used to estimate the association between the sleep outcomes and each PFAS modeled continuously (log2) or in exposure tertiles. We applied quantile g-computation to estimate the effect of the four PFAS as a mixture on the sleep outcomes. We conducted a quantitative bias analysis to assess the potential influence of self-selection and uncontrolled confounding.


We observed some inverse associations between serum PFAS and trouble sleeping or sleep disorder, which were more consistent for PFOS (e.g., per log2-PFOS (ng/ml) and trouble sleeping OR = 0.93, 95%CI: 0.89, 0.98; sleep disorder OR = 0.89, 95%CI: 0.83, 0.95). Per quartile increase of the PFAS mixture was inversely associated with trouble sleeping and sleep disorder. No consistent associations were found for sleep duration across analyses. Our bias analysis suggests that the finding on sleep disorder could be explained by a moderate level of self-selection and negative confounding effects.


We found no evidence to suggest exposure to four legacy PFAS worsened self-reported sleep health among U.S. adults. While some inverse associations between specific PFAS and sleep disorder were observed, self-selection and uncontrolled confounding biases may play a role in these findings.

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