This paper evaluates the relative contribution of vibration and noise from railway on physiological sleep outcomes. Vibration from railway freight often accompanies airborne noise, yet is almost totally absent in the existing literature. In an experimental investigation, 23 participants, each sleeping for six nights in the laboratory, were exposed to 36 simulated railway freight pass-bys per night with vibration alone (aWd,max = 0.0204 ms−2), noise alone (LAF,max = 49.8 dB), or both vibration and noise simultaneously. A fourth exposure night involved 52 pass-bys with concurrent vibration and noise. Sleep was measured with polysomnography. Cardiac activity was measured with electrocardiography. The probability of cortical arousals or awakenings was greater following all exposures, including vibration alone, than spontaneous reaction probability (p < 0.05). The effects of vibration exposure and noise exposure on changes of sleep stage and arousals were directly additive. Vibration and noise exposure both induced heart rate acceleration above spontaneously expected fluctuations at baseline. The results indicate that vibration and noise are processed in the brain separately yet in parallel, with both contributing towards the likelihood of sleep disruption. The findings show that vibration is of importance when considering the impact of railway freight on sleep.

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