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What’s the right level of noise for a good night’s sleep?

Sometimes it’s difficult to drift into the serenity of sleep when your thoughts are drowned out by the volume of background noise.

It might be your neighbours throwing an all-nighter; a phone buzzing against your bedside table; or perhaps the static humming of one of New Zealand’s 40 species of cicadas.

If you’re trying to sleep amongst a night-time symphony, you might find yourself staring at the ceiling more often than not – and chances are your sleep is so interrupted, you’re not clocking up enough hours of quality rest.

While everyone has different levels of noise that they’ll be comfortable with, there is a fine balance to ensure the background noise to your sleep isn’t disruptive, but rather rocks you into your rest period. On the other hand, sometimes an element of background noise is soothing and shut-eye might be unattainable in complete silence.

So how much of an impact can noise have on the quality of your sleep?

Turn down the volume

Have you ever tried to fall asleep, only to concentrate on a nearby car horn or a dog barking?

Unfortunately, sleep is not something we can control – however eliminating loud, overbearing noise is one of the first steps to creating an environment that is conducive to rest. 

Noise is usually most disruptive during the initial stages of sleep, particularly the first three hours of sleep which have the deepest stages of sleep, known as Slow Wave Sleep1.

Of course alarming noises also have the potential to wake you from a deep REM sleep – which isn’t an ideal alarm clock!

Studies have shown that during sleep, brain activity in the face of noise is controlled by specific brain waves. Researchers found that perception of the environment is not continuously reduced during sleep, but rather varies throughout sleep under the influence of particular brain waves2. Changes in the structure and function of the brain during development can have profound, if gradual, effects on sleep patterns3.

To get the best quality of sleep possible, you need to eliminate all unwanted noise before you try to sleep. Even noises that don’t wake you can still creep into your subconscious and have a detrimental impact on your sleep, because your brain will register and process the sound – even if the interruption isn’t enough to force your eyes open.

Is all noise bad when it comes to sleep?

Not necessarily!

While everyone tolerates different levels of noise, it’s not unusual for some people to need some type of soft sound to settle them to sleep.

That’s why there’s such things as white noise machines – they can help block variable noises and provide a constant, soothing sound that helps you to drift into sleep and stay in that comfort zone throughout the night.

There are also some noises which are non-negotiable to block out at night – consider a smoke alarm or a child crying, for example.

Are there proactive things I can do to help find the right soundtrack suitable to my sleep?

Noise can undermine sleep, but it doesn’t have to. Being aware of the noise-related disruptions to your sleep environment—and taking simple steps to reduce unwanted noise—will make your nightly rest more peaceful and rewarding.

Start by understanding that bed is of sleeping, not for entertainment. That means that smartphones, iPads and TV remote controls have no place in the bedroom when you’re trying to get some rest. You need to train your mind to recognise the habit of winding down and knowing that when you’re in bed, you’re there to sleep4.

Other areas of the house can generate noise too, so ensure you close windows to limit the noise from outside and train your pets so that they sleep through the night.

While you can take proactive steps to minimise the noise, remember that often you can’t control every peep which threatens your sleep, so consider sleeping with earplugs to help block out any unwanted sounds.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. For more information on how to set yourself up for a restful night’s sleep, we suggest reading our free eBook, ‘8 Ways to Sleep Better Tonight.

Download your free copy of our eBook today.

 

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References:

[1] https://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/public-information/fact-sheets-a-z/221-facts-about-sleep.html

[2] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110906121014.htm

[3] http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/science/how/external-factors

[4]http://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/files/pdfs/facts/Tips%20for%20a%20Good%20Night%27s%20Sleep.pdf

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