When researchers question people about their sleep habits, issues regarding noise oftentimes are front and center with respondents. The impact noise has on sleep runs across a broad spectrum. At one extreme, there are people who suggest they cannot sleep unless a room is a silent as a tomb. On the other end of the spectrum are individuals who suggest they can only fall asleep with the television on.
Despite the wide ranging responses from research study respondents, the reality is that noise of different types does impact sleep patterns. A number of factors need to be borne in mind regarding noise and sleep.
The Human Brain, Sleep and Sound
When it comes to noise and sleep, the most important factor isthat the brain processes sound on at least an elementary level while a person sleeps. A noise may startle a person awake. A sound of some sort might jostle a person aware for so brief a moment that it is not even recalled the following morning. Lesser sounds can have less noticeable, but significant affects, like a change in a person’s blood pressure or heart rate.
Every human brain ultimately processes different types of sounds in a unique manner. For example, a sleeping mother’s brain translates the sound of her baby crying differently than the sound of her partner snoring while asleep. The noise of the crying baby is more apt to quickly awaken the mother than is the case of the snoring bed partner.
The Four Stages of Sleep and Disruptive Sound
Although there exists some debate as to how many stages of sleep exist, some consensus exists that there are four stages of sleep. The first three stages are considered non-REM sleep while the last stage is REM sleep.
Sounds of different types are more likely to wake a person during the initial two stages, during which a person experiences light sleep. Sounds during the final two stages, including the REM phase, usually need to be more significant to result in a sleep interruption. Disruption of the REM stage is more disruptive to a person’s overall sleep cycle, because the REM stage is restorative. It is the stage that allows for certain bodily repairs and enhances the immune system.
A person with a persistent problem enjoying restful sleep will want to consider the impact of noise on falling and staying asleep. Additionally, seeking professional assistance is always recommended if a person is not able to address restless nights on his or her own.