A Good Night’s Sleep: The Impact of Noise
When you’re trying to get a good night’s sleep, noise can impact severely on your efforts. In fact, some people need 100% quiet before they are able to drift off to sleep – proving silence really is golden when it comes to bedtime.
If you sleep in a noisy environment, it ruins the quality of your slumber and leaves you feeling tired and dissatisfied, according to the National Sleep Foundation. While you may not remember waking up during the night, noises may have disturbed and interrupted your sleep countless times.
How does noise affect your sleeping satisfaction?
A survey by the NSF revealed 74% of respondents cited a quiet room as being important for getting a good night’s sleep. Noise affects your sleeping satisfaction because even when you’re asleep, your brain continues to register sounds, processing them on a basic level.
When noise disturbs your slumber, it can make you wake up briefly, move around and become restless in bed, shift between the different stages of sleep, or even experience a momentary change in heart rate. You’re unlikely to remember it the next morning, but you will wake up feeling tired and sluggish. You may think you have slept all night, whereas in reality, you may have been waking briefly and shifting position in bed for much of the night, due to noise disturbances.
Around 30% of UK residents are sleep deprived, according to research by the Mental Health Foundation, who interviewed more than 6,700 people on their sleeping habits. This increases their risk of emotional and physical health problems. Only 38% of respondents classed themselves as being “good sleepers”.
The report recommended that the importance of good sleep for our health should be highlighted in public health campaigns.
Do people get restless if they hear noises while sleeping?
How much a sound disturbs your sleep depends on the stage of sleep you’re in and the time of night. Research has shown that noises are more likely to wake people from a light sleep (known as stages one and two), than they are from a deep stage three or four sleep.
The general consensus is that noises are most likely to wake us during stage two sleep. This is the light, non-REM sleep cycle that most of us spend about half the night in. Elderly people and children are most vulnerable to disrupted sleep.
The type of sound also influences whether it makes you restless or not. Scientists say that each sound is likely to have a personal meaning for an individual. This is why a parent might sleep soundly if their partner is snoring all night, but may wake instantly if their baby cries, for example.
What are the common disturbing noises?
It’s possible to become accustomed to the background noise of urban life. However, a sudden noise that signals danger, such as the screech of brakes or the honk of a car horn, can cause you to awaken and will have a negative impact on your health, as it induces stress and reduces your ability to sleep.
If you live on a main road where heavy traffic is passing by late at night, or in the early hours of the morning, this can disturb you. Similarly, if you live near railway tracks, or near an airport, the noise can disrupt your night. The World Health Organisation says environmental noise from trains, road traffic, planes and wind turbines can cause significant issues.
Can this have an impact on what you are dreaming?
Noises at night can even impact on your dreams. Research has revealed that external factors such as noise, lightning and even smells can affect dreams to a certain extent. The interesting findings reveal that not all people experience the same dreams, even if they hear the same noises.
For example, two sleeping people who are subject to the sound of a barking dog may suffer sleep disturbance, but have different dreams. While one may dream about a dog, the other may experience a sleep disturbance, but have a dream that seems totally unrelated to the noise.
Researchers say the external environment affects our dreams in different ways, depending on our state of mind. In the case of the barking dog disturbing our sleep, someone who’s feeling relaxed in general may dream about a happy, playful dog.
However, a person who is stressed and anxious may subconsciously interpret this noise in their dream as some kind of predator chasing them, turning it into a nightmare. Either way, all of the research points to the fact that the impact of noise on having a good night’s sleep is significant.
What is the solution?
Sound Planning specialises in the design and installation of sound enclosures and noise control products to reduce noise nuisance – products such as acoustic enclosures, floors, louvres, screens, walls and attenuators can help. Acoustic walls will enhance existing walls and provide a solution to noisy neighbours or other external noise.