Are Noises Killing Your Sound Sleep?

How can you have a sound sleep with so many loud sounds? Turns out you probably can”t, particularly if it”s loud construction noises. A team of researchers at Hanyang University in South Korea learned just that after conducting a recent experiment on the effects of different types of noise exposure on sleep. The research went beyond other studies examining single sources of noise to examine how various noise combinations impact sleep quality and next-day performance. The cars that hiss by your window at night may not interrupt your sleep, but throw in booming construction noise or your neighbor”s loud television and the quality of your sleep and performance at work the next day may suffer.

The study relied on 20 adults between the ages of 23 and 32 who all had normal hearing and who mostly got at least six to seven hours of sleep per night. The experiment was conducted in the bedrooms of participants who lived far from a highway to minimize outside noise. They were exposed to recordings of traffic sounds combined with either construction noise or movie audio that was supplied via five-minute recordings through earphones hooked up to a Sony MP3 player. The traffic noise was recorded from a roadway with cars averaging about 37 miles per hour, while the construction noise was pulled from a construction site with large excavating machinery and the movie noise was stripped from an action flick.

A high number of participants, 90 percent, were able to fall asleep within one hour with just the traffic noise. As the construction and movie noise levels were added and ramped up, however, it became harder to fall asleep and some stayed awake even after switching off the noise. Traffic noise combined with construction noise had the most impact on participants, with 15 percent reporting that they could not go to sleep  even after turning off the noise.

To measure how much people were awakened by the noise, participants were asked to push a button on a device each time they woke up. Most slept through the traffic and movie noise, but the startling construction sounds awakened some participants more than once. The effects lingered the day after, with 24.5 percent saying the loud movie noise affected their next-day performance and 30 percent saying the construction noise made them less effective.

The findings suggest that people can cope with low levels of noise when falling asleep, but loud booms could prevent a good night”s sleep and hurt next day performance. If you”re having problems getting a good night”s sleep, and the cherry juice isn”t curing your insomnia, perhaps you need a white noise maker.  The noise you”re being exposed to when your head hits the pillow could be the culprit behind your sleepless nights.


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