How Noise Can Impact Your Sleep Cycle



As we all know, noise while sleeping – or while trying to fall asleep – can be an annoying problem. If it is a chronic issue, though, it can have deep-reaching consequences. According to a 2011 study, regular exposure to sleep-interrupting noise can extend the duration of light-stage sleep while reducing the duration and quality of deeper-stage, recuperative sleep. This can result in elevated heart rate and blood pressure, and higher levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin.

Short-Term Effects of Noise

A disturbed night’s sleep can lead to sleepiness and irritability in the short term, ultimately affecting your overall mental health.

Long-Term Effects of Noise

Prolonged exposure to too much noise during sleep can lead to:

  • Weight gain
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Certain types of cancer
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Decreased overall health
  • Increased use of sleep medicines

How to Avoid Noise When You Sleep

Exposure to traffic sounds, airplanes, sirens, neighbors, and animals is common, especially when you live in a city. However, the following tips can help you limit your exposure to such sounds while falling asleep.

  • Insulate Windows: If outside noises penetrate your bedroom and disturb your sleep, install soundproof windows, or seal gaps in your windows.
  • Turn Off Alerts: Put your electronic devices on silent mode so that notifications don’t wake you up at night.
  • Add Soft Surfaces: Sound reverberates on hard surfaces while being absorbed by soft ones. Consider adding cushioned furniture, rugs, or thick curtains to your bedroom to lessen or block outside and in-house noises.
  • Reduce Appliance Noise: If your air conditioner or refrigerator produces abnormal sounds, it may be worth having it repaired. If you are planning to replace the appliance, it often is possible to compare various models according to how much sound they produce, either by checking manufacturer’s websites or by viewing consumer review websites.
  • Wear Earplugs: If you cannot soundproof your bedroom, earplugs – either custom-made or over-the-counter – are available which can reduce perceived noise levels and help you sleep well.
  • Negotiate with Others: If other people in your home are disturbing your sleep, communicate with them about it. For example, you can request your roommate or partner not to talk on the phone in the room where you are sleeping. Cooking meals ahead of time and laying out the next day’s clothes before you sleep can also reduce disruptions. If your partner’s snoring is keeping you up, it may be worth investigating anti-snoring devices such as mouth pieces and chin straps. Loud snoring, gasping, or choking sounds at night could be the signs of obstructive sleep apnea. Such symptoms should be evaluated and treated by a medical doctor.

Sounds Can Be Used to Sleep Better at Night

Not all noise is the same, when it comes to sleeping. Certain sounds can be soothing, while also covering up or “masking” other more annoying sounds. The most effective sounds differ from person to person. However, make sure to use sounds that maintain an even tone and volume and yet are loud enough to cover other noises. Here are some sounds which may help:

  • White Noise: This is produced by layering multiple sound frequencies atop one another. White noise generators are available, as are downloadable mobile phone apps.
  • Music: Listening to soothing or calming music may help you fall asleep faster.
  • Turn on a Fan or AC: These devices produce constant ambient noise that may drown out environmental sounds.
  • Sounds of Nature: Sounds such as wind, rain, or ocean waves help some people fall asleep. You can buy sound machines that are programmed with such sounds or download sound files onto your device.

And as always, exposure to very loud sounds can – in addition to disturbing your sleep – contribute to hearing loss. We always recommend hearing protection any time significant noise exposure is possible.

Regular hearing tests will help detect and diagnose problems before they become worse. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Chris Hoffman to get your hearing checked.


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Chris Lin Hoffmann

Dr. Chris Hoffmann is an audiologist who has been involved in hearing sciences for over 20 years. Her passion for helping people with their hearing led her to establish Hoffmann Audiology hearing clinic. Dr. Hoffmann has more than 14 years of clinical knowledge in hearing testing, hearing aid fittings, and aural rehabilitation.