Noise Pollution: What Effect Can It Have On Your Sleep?

4 min read

Last Modified 22 July 2022 First Added 16 March 2017

By Leigh Horan

We all have to put up with a bit of extra noise every now and again. Whether it’s building work just round the corner, our neighbour’s throwing a particularly loud party or even our family shouting and yelling. Whatever their cause, the fact remains that these noises are something we’d prefer to go without if we had the choice. But when a sound becomes persistent, such as always hearing cars passing and aeroplanes going by overhead, this becomes classified as noise pollution. The effects of this go far beyond just being irritating. To understand the ramifications of noise pollution we’re looking at what effect it can have on sleep, and thus psychosis and anxiety.

Noise pollution and sleep

It’s pretty evident that sound and sleep do not go well together, which is why sometimes using earplugs is recommended to people who wake easily. Sounds that seem trivial in the daytime can be particularly irritating at night. However, even low-level noises can rob you of crucial sleeping hours. This could result in a detrimental effect on your health. A research review published in Noise & Health Journal even showed a link between nighttime environmental noise disturbances and cardiovascular disease.

Woman suffering from noise pollution

Your body still responds to noise while you sleep. Repeated sleep disturbance is one suggested pathway to ill health. Some people are more sensitive than others. Young children, the elderly and ill individuals more likely to be affected by noises in the 30-40 decibel category. The majority of people will only be disturbed by noises in the group ranging upwards from 40 DB.

The effect of noise pollution

You don’t need a scientist to tell you that some sounds will annoy you while others won’t. Noises at nighttime are irritating and disruptive and can cause stress. What’s worse is this is likely to be compounded by the fact that a lack of sleep will result in irritability, a short temper and a decreased ability to handle stress. Combine these factors with a pre-existing medical condition,  and the situation is even more problematic.

Dr Lawrence Epstein, Medical Director of Sleep Health Centers, says that ‘there is a big relationship between psychiatric and psychological problems and sleep. So people who are depressed or have anxiety often have trouble with sleep as part of those disorders’. People who are constantly disturbed by noise can be said to suffer from ‘noise annoyance’. The Guardian describes this as ‘the negative feelings noise can create such as disturbance, irritation, dissatisfaction and nuisance, as well as a feeling of having one’s privacy invaded’. This can, therefore, exaggerate the symptoms of mental illness as well as contribute to it.

Woman in therapy session

However, it’s important to note that there is no evidence to say that noise pollution causes mental illness. But we can see a correlation between noise and a decline in mental health. An article by Life & Health stated, ‘While noise is not believed to be responsible for mental health issues, it is assumed to accelerate and intensify the development of latent mental disorders. Noise may cause or contribute to neurosis, hysteria, and psychosis. So, while living in a constantly noisy environment may not make you mentally ill, it will most likely amplify the symptoms should you develop a mental illness.

How to reduce noise pollution

If you suffer from noise pollution then taking steps to minimise the amount of noise you hear while sleeping is a crucial step to take both for your health now and in your future self. Studies have shown that living in a busy city can increase the risk of schizophrenia. People living in cities are almost twice as likely to develop the disease. To reduce these risks, you can control your environment to ensure a better night’s sleep if you carry out these changes.

Double glazed window

– Wear earplugs

This may seem obvious but earplugs are the best way to block the sound directly. For low-level noise pollution, the National Sleep Foundation suggests, ‘use a white noise machine, fan, or air purifier to create a background hum and block unwanted outside noise’. You can also download free apps that produce white noise.

– Upgrade your windows

Make sure your windows aren’t letting in drafts, otherwise they are probably letting in sound, too. If you don’t have double glazing, think about upgrading. Seal any window or door gaps with insulation or draught excluders to minimise the chance of noise getting in.

– Position your bed

Place your bed away from the window and outside walls if possible. This will reduce the likelihood of being disturbed by outside noise. Also placing bookshelves against outside walls can add as further insulation.

How do you reduce noise pollution in your home? Have your say in the comments.

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