Most people imagine that a good night’s sleep is all about being in a silent room without any noise. While some noises like neighbors conversing late into the night, a ringing cellphone, or a movie playing in the background may be distracting, there are certain noises that will actually make your sleeping experience better. Knowing the true impact of ambient noise on your sleep patterns will help you eliminate detrimental noises and reinforce helpful noise sources that will help you get a good night’s sleep.
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According to the World Health Organization’s night noise guideline, the ability for a noise to impact your sleep depends on how loud it is. Generally, anything below 30 decibels is deemed safe. Things like a soft whisper, a ticking clock, or the ambient noises of a calm rural area, fall under this category and will have almost no effect on most people. Anything above this level has the potential of waking you up, causing body movements, and sometimes can have adverse health effects on certain people. The limit is above 55 decibels, which could be normal conversation, a washing machine or background music. This is dangerous to public health and causes sleep disturbances that have a connection to some diseases.
The Brain Can Always Adapt
Research has shown that the brain has the power to filter out some noises that don’t offer any meaning to the sleeping individual. People living next to a highway or railway track, are known to sleep through the rumbling noise of a passing train, but will wake up when their infant moves in the cot or when someone calls their name.
Even though the cortical arousal (brain response) can get used to these noises, the cardiac arousal (heart beat rate) still reacts to the noise, meaning that noise above this threshold could potentially be harmful to you.
Benefiting from Ambient Noise at Night
White noise, or pink noise, can act as a backdrop that washes out the effect of uncontrollable noises in your environment. If you cannot control the noises, a white noise machine will help you stay well rested and give your body a chance to recuperate overnight.
The noise could be from a sound conditioner, a fan, air purifier or a stereo system playing a white noise or soothing music. Be mindful of the volume though, try keeping it low to avoid disturbance.