Some people can sleep like a log in the midst of a rock concert. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t blessed with this ability, and loud neighbors, crying babies and noise from traffic and construction can interrupt our sleep or prevent us from falling asleep at all.
The problem is more serious than one may think, as an adequate amount of restorative sleep is essential for our health and well-being.
Different levels of sensitivity to noise
As stated above, we all react differently to noise. While a leaky bathroom faucet can rob some of hours of sleep, others can slumber through the work of a construction crew’s jackhammer.
From an evolutionary perspective, it’s completely logical that loud noises awake us or impede us from falling asleep, as the body is immediately made alert when we hear certain noises. Certain stress hormones, which increase vigilance and the readiness to flee, are then released. Our blood pressure rises, our heart beat quickens, and our body gets ready for action.
Our wonderful brain also has a practical defense mechanism against noise, though. It can remember sounds that it deems harmless and one can sleep despite them, as they have been relegated to background noise and aren’t consciously perceived.
General rules for noise
Notwithstanding the individual differences in noise sensitivity, there are some general guidelines we can follow to protect ourselves from excessive noise pollution, for example:
- There are set periods the day in which loud noises are prohibited in private houses and apartment buildings, for example between 10 PM and 7 AM
- Certain types of construction, gardening and the practice of certain handcrafts cannot take place at certain hours of the day and only in the case of an emergency on Sundays
- There are limits with regards to the noise that restaurants and bars may produce
- Cars and motorcycles must be equipped with an exhaust pipe with a muffler
The consequences of noise and sleep disturbances on our health
The consequences are considerable! Even noise which we’re not even consciously aware of can damage our heath. Among the consequences are:
- Difficulties with concentration
- Decreased productivity
- General feelings of unwellness
- Greater risk of household accidents
- Reduced regenerative capability of the organs
- Greater risk of depression, thyroid disfunction, asthma, gastritis, and irritable bowel syndrome
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disorders, such as blocked arteries, stroke or heart attacks doubled risk of migraines
- Increased risk of hearing disorders, such as tinnitus
- higher instance of hyperactivity and concentration difficulties amongst children
Practical tips: what can we do about it?
It has thus been established that noise – especially at night – can prevent us from falling asleep, thereby harming our health and well-being. So, we should take a look at the possibilities available to, if not solve the problem, then at least reduce its severity.
Tip #1: Find the source of the noise and remove it. Get the leaky sink fixed, move the ticking clock to another room, etc.
Tip #2: Select the quietest room in your home as your bedroom. If possible, your bedroom should be on the side of your home not facing the street.
Tip #3: Improve the acoustics of your home. Carpets, curtains or even noise-reducing wallpaper can reduce the effects of outside noise pollution.
Tip #4: If you are dealing with very loud street noises and you own your own home, soundproof windows might be a sensible investment.
Tip #5: In the case of one-off events, like neighbors celebrating a birthday or when emergency repairs are being done on your street, earplugs can are a good choice.
Tip #6: If your problem is a noisy neighbor, then address the problem with him or her calmly. If you do not become aggressive or reproach him excessively, he is likely to understand your position and might not even be aware that he is making a great deal of noise and that this noise prevents you from sleeping.
As you can see, there are many ways to fight or at least reduce noise pollution, so that your sleep doesn’t have to suffer because of it.