There are many different factors that affect the quality of our sleep: light, pain, medications and our environment, etc., but did you know that sound can also have an impact – sometimes positive, sometimes negative? We’re going to take a look at both the good and the bad influences, so that we can try and understand how to use sound to our advantage when trying to get a good night’s sleep.
All sorts of sounds can impact negatively on our sleep whether it’s pet noises, dripping taps, our partner snoring or busy roads outside. Noise tends to affect us most during the light stages of sleep, which happen at the start of the night and then recurs throughout the nightly sleep cycle. Sounds can also stop us from falling asleep in the first place – and even those sounds which don’t wake us up can still impact on the quality of our sleep, making it harder to move from the light to the deeper sleep stages.
The decibel level of a sound – or how loud it is – can have an impact on sleep disturbance. Sounds of 25db or less – around the level of rustling leaves – will have little to no effect on the majority of us, while sounds of around 35db – think a quiet, rural area – have the potential to disturb sleep, wake us up and affect our movement.
Sounds of 45db (about the volume of bird calls) are likely to affect most people and can impact on health, while those of 55db and above (normal conversation level) are considered dangerous for public health and are linked with increased sleep disturbances and annoyance.
Why does this matter? Well, because noise can not only affect the quality and number of hours of sleep we enjoy, it can also, as a result, affect our cognitive performance and our mood. It even has the potential to have negative cardiometabolic effects.
Not all noise is detrimental to the quality of our sleep. Studies have shown that familiar noises may actually be a good thing and that the absence of these noises can have negative effects on our sleep. For example, those who live in a busy city and are used to light traffic noises from outside may find that a night spent in complete silence in the countryside may have a negative impact on how well they sleep.
It has also been suggested that white noise – such as the sound of gentle rainfall that can be achieved by using a sound machine – can actually help us to sleep better. Such machines create a background level of noise that is consistent, which can potentially make rest more peaceful.
How to control sound for better sleep
Some noises, such as those from outside the home, are sadly unavoidable but there’s plenty that can be done to minimise the noises that keep us awake. Ensure that appliances such as washing machines are switched off at night and set smartphones to silent. If your partner’s snoring is the problem, consider looking for treatments or even buying ear plugs so that your sleep remains undisturbed. Remember, white noise can sometimes help, whether it’s from a fan, an air purifier or a machine designed specifically to help you sleep.
While some noise can be positive, it’s often unwelcome! Sound Planning has over 35 years of experience in acoustic solutions – we design and supply noise control products and sound enclosures all over the UK. If you are looking for a quieter life, give us a call!