I’m sure no one will argue the fact that sleep is essential to our survival. Not only that, sleep is crucial to enjoying wellness and a quality waking life. Whether your body is getting the sleep it needs or not would likely determine your productivity (or grumpy-level) the following day.
After a typical, long day, it’s tough to wind down our overworked minds and tired bodies. Worsened by street noise, partying neighbors, a snoring roommate, barking dogs (or fighting cats), it seems impossible to get a deep, peaceful sleep.
Noise pollution is one of the causes of insomnia, making it even harder to fall asleep and get a good, full 7-9 hours’ snooze. Long-term noise has also been linked to disturbed sleep, increased risk for heart-related diseases, and other health issues.
But luckily it is very possible to train ourselves to sleep in a noisy environment.
Here are helpful tips to sleep through the noise around us:
1) FORGET THE NOISE.
Thinking about (or being aware of) the nuisance and how it’s driving you crazy only increases it. The moment you focus on something, you become more sensitive to it and its effects. Instead, accept its presence and acknowledge that you have the power to overcome it. This is part of mindfulness practice where we intentionally recognize and accept anything that’s around us and then letting it go.
2) FOCUS ON OTHER THINGS.
- Deep breathing. Relax, focus on your breathing...in and out, in and out, starting with counts of 3 when you inhale and 3 when you exhale, then slowly repeat up to 5 or 6 counts.
- Meditation. This is good training of the mind where it focuses only on a single object (whether an image in your head or a meaningful word/mantra).
- Visualization. Imagining a quiet, peaceful place helps your mind get off the physical noise. Visualize a place that makes you relaxed and calm: focus on the smells, sounds, breeze, feel of the soil or grass, and the sights in that place. Transport yourself there to experience calmness.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation. This is an exercise often used in yoga to prep the body for relaxation by lessening physical stress. You start by making a part of your body tense and then relaxing it –starting at the head and down to the feet.
3) BE SURE TO GET YOUR BODY TIRED BEFORE BED.
Typically in the late afternoon, get into a habit of exercise or any physical activity that will make you exert effort. The more tired you are, the more you’re ready to sleep and stay asleep throughout the night.
4) MIND YOUR EARS.
- Ear plugs. Try this to drown out the noise around you and use an extra noise-defense by turning on a white noise machine or portable fan. Listening to the static, steady sound lulls you to sleep.
- Music. Put together a soft, ambient music playlist you can listen to with headphones and focus your attention on the music until you fall asleep.
5) SET A BEDTIME ROUTINE.
We are creatures of habit. Our bodies respond to environmental prompts and patterns. Despite the noise of your roommate, or from the streets outside, a routine signals your body it’s time for sleep. Read a book, take a warm bath, or other calming rituals every night to create a steady routine before bedtime.
6) MUSTER THE COURAGE TO TALK.
If none of the suggestions work for you so far, and if a particular person is the source of your torment, try having a conversation with them with a polite approach. You can even negotiate a solution for a quieter alternative when your bedtime comes.
7) SOME EXTREME TECHNIQUES.
- Rearrange furniture. Noise increases when reflecting or bouncing off of surfaces. Putting furniture between your bed and the source of sound helps reduce the noise level. You can also move a bookcase or couch against the noisy wall.
- Insulate walls, floor, and ceilings. Try installing thick carpets or placing thick area rugs and seal your windows (with sealant). You can also use thick, heavy blackout drapes. This not only blocks out the noise but the light as well –making sleep easier.
- Use blockers to reduce the noise. You can put towels or pillows against cracks in your door and hang a thick blanket/comforter against the wall. Soft surfaces absorb sound, while hard ones reflect and amplify noise. If you own the property, you can plant trees/bushes or place potted plants outside your bedroom window as a sound buffer when cars pass by your house.
Benefits of a good sleep
We know that when we get less than 6-7 hours of sleep a night, we’re more susceptible to diseases. Here are some practical and sound reasons* why we owe ourselves regular, proper sleep:
- It keeps the heart healthy. Lack of sleep can cause worsening of cholesterol and blood pressure –both risk factors for heart disease/stroke.
- It lessens stress. When we’re sleep-deprived, our body goes into a state of stress –putting its functions on high alert. This increases stress hormones and causes high blood pressure. The stress hormones in turn make it harder to fall asleep.
- It abates inflammation. Increase in stress hormones (which results from lack of sleep) also raises the level of our body’s inflammation which then increases the risk for diabetes, cancer, and heart-related conditions.***
- It reduces risk for cancer. People who work graveyard shifts are more susceptible to developing colon and breast cancer. Researchers** found that exposure to light restrain production of melatonin – a hormone regulating the sleep-wake cycle which is believed to protect from cancer as they suppress tumor growth. This finding should encourage us to keep our bedrooms dark and to stop using electronics before sleeping.
- It helps reduce the tendency for depression. Sleep boosts a number of our body’s chemicals – including serotonin. Those with serotonin deficiency are more susceptible to depression. Getting the right amount of sleep will surely help in preventing depression.
The founder of Nandina Organics (maker of eco-friendly organic bamboo towels) once attended a retreat in a Buddhist temple. There was construction going on around the vicinity and attendees complained about it to the monk, to which he calmly answered, “Don’t disturb the noise.”
How profound is inner peace that no external noise can agitate it.
Let’s enjoy a deep slumber in the midst of noise (or any clutter in our lives)!
** Gooley JJ, Chamberlain K, Smith KA, et al. Exposure to room light before bedtime suppresses melatonin onset and shortens melatonin duration in humans. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011;96(3):E463-72. doi:10.1210/jc.2010-2098
*** Mullington JM, Simpson NS, Meier-ewert HK, Haack M. Sleep loss and inflammation. Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2010;24(5):775-84. doi:10.1016/j.beem.2010.08.014
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