Have a good rest (how to manage in today’s noisy environment)
Isn’t it the most annoying thing in the world to get woken up by a disruptive noise when you’re sound asleep? Or not being able to fall asleep in the first place because of a sound disturbance? Having a good rest isn’t always easy. If disruptive noises are rare, you’ll probably just shrug it off as a bummer and go back to neverland. However, if this happens on a regular basis, not to mention constantly, you might be in for real trouble.
In this article we’ll delve into the subject of noisy sleeping spaces. Especially, how to have a good rest regardless of the challenges caused by surrounding sounds. We’ll cover the following topics:
We are wired to wake up
Thanks to, or should we say ”thanks” to evolutionary safety mechanisms, animals – the ones that sleep anyway – have their brain on a sort of constant standby. This way even a sleeping brain remains aware of the surrounding sounds in case of an approaching danger.
Humans make no exception here. Our brain enables us to wake up to, for example, our beloved cat tipping over last night’s wine glass. Or our slightly less beloved neighbor revving up his midlife crisis on the next-door driveway and finally our very own smart phone alarm. Not to mention the situation when you sleep away from home.
We might sometimes wish it would be possible to switch of this built-in mechanism completely. At least for the duration of the night, just like a smart phone, and just push through an uninterrupted sleep tunnel like a train of zzzs. But what about our kids then?
As we can gather above, being able to wake up to a variety of noises is a very necessary feature to have. The real problem, especially in an urban environment is that the disruptive sounds might occur more often than its natural. Sometimes it means constantly.
What’s possibly even more disturbing, is that we don’t necessarily have to wake up completely to get our sleep quality disrupted. It’s possible to wake up restless even after a lengthy night of sleep and without ever remembering waking up. Lack of sleep and continuous disturbances to the deep sleep cycles have been documented to weaken the immune system. There’s also a link to memory diseases.
But how to tackle a noisy environment and have a good rest? Let’s consider our options.
You may want to read our other article about the comparison of complete silence and noise-masking.
Be your own Professor X
Superhuman mental powers are yet to be proven, I know. But even if one can’t reach the prowess of the superhero group X-Men’s father figure Professor Charles Xavier, doing one’s best might just be the simplest and most cost efficient way to fall asleep in a noisy environment. If not, you can always try out these 9 sleep hacks by Healthline.
You see, for some people using concentration is enough to do the trick. This can work in a couple of different ways:
- If the disrupting noise is regular and not too loud, try concentrating on the sound itself and using it in a manner of a metronome.
- If the noise doesn’t have a distinctive rhythm or cycle that you could use to focus on but is still not too loud, try concentrating on anything but the noise. You could even try putting up a source of sound that you can specifically concentrate on. For example, an old-fashioned table clock.
And when we talk about concentration, we are not talking about the kind that makes you pop a vein on your forehead and make it look like you just bit into a lemon. More like the kind that is based on mindfulness and relaxation methods. Besides the concentration techniques mentioned in the text, check out these relaxation techniques as well:
The downside of these concentration techniques is that even if you manage to fall asleep regardless of the disruptive sound, there’s no guarantee your sleep quality is any better.
Naturally you can forget anything we just said if the cause of the noise is something you can take to another room to begin with!
Re-organize to have a good rest
Now that we mentioned it, how about shifting things around a little bit anyway? Literally. Check out what the Forbes has to say about sleep décor.
Sometimes the cause of disruptive noises can be caused by the arrangement of the sleeping area. If your bedroom is big and pretty much features a bed and a nightstand, it’s possible for even small noise to cause disruptive echo’s. In this kind of circumstance, a solution could involve for example:
- more furniture
- interior decorations and art
- other wall pieces
- curtains of a thicker fabric
- plants (which also effect on the breathing air quality)
For some people, however, to be able to relax and have a good rest, a wide-open space is a necessity and for example a Japanese sleeping tube a claustrophobic nightmare. For an improved acoustic result without a clutter, there are different professional solutions such as sound-proof panels and insulation.
Some people on the other hand need their sleeping spot as a cradle-like nook but it’s possible to have ended up sleeping in one without realizing it. Too crammed a space can create an effect of walls coming down on you and the accompanying noise environment, or more like the lack of it, plays a big part. Maybe a bit more elbow room wouldn’t be a bad idea?
The key thing here is to consider whether your resting area is the way you would choose it to be, and if not, do something about it. Not too keen on risking a back injury or a lousier feng shui in favor of a different ambiance? Read along.
Put a plug on it and sleep tight?
Ever had someone first try his or her best to prevent you from getting some well-earned shut-eye, and after you’ve politely let them know about your obvious discomfort, told you to get earplugs? Whether the situation involves a minor social conflict or not, this solution simply doesn’t help everyone.
It’s true that earplugs can be extremely effective in noise reduction and while for some they are the best thing since sliced bread, this is just it for the rest.
In addition to the fact that for many people common earplugs cause soreness to the ear canals when used on a regular night basis, there are some for whom earplugs block out too much noise. Even though it has a great ambient quality, the lull of one’s own blood circulation is not for everyone.
There is also the possibly not so minor hindrance of blocking out your own alarm clock with regular foam earplugs!
P. S. Check our related blog post about anti-snoring devices.
Wall of sound
While this time we are not referring to the great music producer Phil Spector’s creation, these two inventions are closely related. We are in fact talking about the colors of noise: white noise.. or pink noise.. or even brown noise. Seems like the scientists behind this are fans of Reservoir Dogs.
However this is a technique based on the idea of producing sound to drown out sound. Still not with us? Hold on. Ever tried sleeping in a room with a constant electrical buzz, an air conditioning unit resonating or other such nagging sound you can’t do anything about? With a specific machine or nowadays even a smart phone app a wall of ambient sound called white noise can be emitted to lessen the effect of the sound source that was originally bothering you.
In the exact same sense pink noises create ambiance of for example rainfall and brown noises whitewater rapids. Okay, okay we might as well admit being fans of Tarantino too, but to be honest the color code in this instance has to do with the frequencies matching the power spectrums of visible light.
As you might have noticed the effect achieved with the different color noises is similar to the concentrate-on-a-clock-instead-of-the-disruptive-noise method that was mentioned before. Even though you can probably get closer using a table fan or some or the before-mentioned air-con (if only it works properly), the distinctive difference between household appliances and specifically manufactured machines and apps is in practicality.
After a careful consideration we decided not to strip down the office air-con unit and take it to the holidays. But that is mainly because there is a pocket-sized solution as you will read further on.
Have a good rest with active noise cancelling
In the case of active noise-cancelling, however, no additional audible sound is added to block the original noise. Active noise cancelling earplugs use a microphone to sample the sound, and a speaker to create a phase-shifted sound that cancels the original sound.
When you think about snoring for example, ANC is on its way to become a “killer” in saving marriages! Just kidding, but not about cancelling snoring. Check out for more on this in our last article.
Anyway, as we are now talking about cancelling disruptive sounds with a solution you don’t even have to hold in your hands, it’s easy to imagine how much more can be achieved with it than making it easier to fall asleep at night.
You probably realize already that during the day a lot of different noises interfere with your ability to concentrate. But did you know that these disruptive noises can accumulate stress even if you’re not paying conscious attention to them, and that stress hormones in turn affect the quality of your sleep? In today’s lifestyle we are constantly bombarded with different sensory stimulus. Learn more about different types of stress and how they affect our health and how stress is related to sleep.
With ANC, you can cancel the noise disturbance emanating into your bedroom and a lot of other things. The constant low frequency hum and murmur inside of a train, airplane and a balcony of a city apartment. It provides a way of lowering your stress levels and enables you to rest even during the day. If you are interested how environmental noise affects, check out this post.
So, what would you prefer as your way of cancelling noises?