Is it time to toss the late-night texting and tweeting habits? According to a nationwide survey by the National Sleep Foundation in 2011, Generation Y has more difficulty falling asleep than any other population. In fact, people of all ages are having some problems in the bedroom: Over 70 million Americans suffer from sleep problems like insomnia
Please Don’t Stop the Music—The Need-To-Know
During sleep, we still perceive sounds and process them in a part of the brain called the auditory cortex
Sleep On It—Your Action Plan
Whether a sound is relaxing or disruptive depends a lot on the individual. Sometimes we find sounds pleasant because of positive emotional associations, so the sound of man’s best friend barking can be relaxing for a dog person. But there are lots of sounds out there, and it can take some time to figure out which ones work for you. Neuroscientist Hawley Montgomery-Downs of West Virginia University recommends we try specific sounds for at least a few nights to find out if it’s really helping us get a better night’s rest. Try some of the sounds below for a solid chunk of snooze time.
- Make Some (White) Noise.White noise combines all noise frequencies and can mask other sounds, and it sometimes helps treat insomnia
Evidence based complementary intervention for insomnia. López, H.H., Bracha, A.S. and Bracha, H.S. National Center for PTSD, Department of Veterans Affairs, Spark M. Matsunaga Medical and Regional Office Center, 1132 Bishop St., Suite 307, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA. Hawaii Medical Journal. 2002 Sep;61(9):192, 213.. But be wary of white noise apps that can cause auditory nerve damage, Montgomery-Downs warns, especially for those who use headphones or have sensitive hearing Preferred sound levels of portable music players and listening habits among adults: a field study. Kähäri, K.R., Aslund, T. and Olsson J. Department of Audiology, Institution for Neuroscience and Physiology, Sahlgrens’ Academy, Göteborg University, Box 452, SE- 40530 Göteborg, Sweden. Noise Health. 2011 Jan-Feb;13(50):9-15.. Instead she recommends using a white noise machine, similar to a fan stand, or sites like simplynoise.com Pink noise: Effect on complexity synchronization of brain activity and sleep consolidation. Zhou, J., Liu, D., Li, X., et al. Academy for Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies, Peking University, Beijing 100871, People’s Republic of China. Journal of Theoretical Biology. 2012 Aug 7;306:68-72..
- Embrace Nature. Ocean waves, rainforest animals, thunderstorms, and even the Chinese giant salamander can all be pleasant sounds to fall asleep to
Neural representations of complex temporal modulations in the human auditory cortex. Ding, N. and Simon, J.Z. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20815, USA. Journal of Neurophysiology. 2009 Nov;102(5):2731-43.. Natural noises are less likely to annoy us than some other sounds because they usually include fluctuations in amplitude and frequency. But those using rain and ocean sounds should make sure there’s a toilet nearby, since Buxton warns that the sound of water can trigger the need to use the bathroom.
- Play That Funky Music. When a head full of worries is keeping us awake, music can help us relax a little
Music’s unspoken messages. Briggs, T. Musical Reflections, Minneapolis, USA. Creative Nursing. 2011;17(4):184-6. Music-assisted relaxation to improve sleep quality: meta-analysis. de Niet, G., Tiemens, B., Lendemeijer, B., et al. Gelderse Roos Mental Health Care, Institute for Professionalization, Wolfheze, The Netherlands. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 2009 Jul;65(7):1356-64. Using alternative therapies in treating sleep disturbance. Hung, H.M. and Chen, C.H. Institute of Allied Health Science, College of Medicine, National Cheng Kung University, ROC. Hu Li Za Zhi. 2011 Feb;58(1):73-8. Mental health implications of music: insight from neuroscientific and clinical studies. Lin, S.T., Yang, P., Lai, C.Y., et al. Department of Psychiatry, Kaohsiung Kai-Suan Psychiatric Hospital, Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital, Taiwan. Harvard Review of Psychiatry. 2011 Jan-Feb;19(1):34-46. Music improves sleep quality in students. Harmat, L., Takács, J. and Bódizs, R. Semmelweis University, Institute of Behavioural Sciences, Budapest, Hungary. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 2008 May;62(3):327-35.. Avoid music with lyrics that may keep the mind active, and instead try classical, folk, or slow-paced contemporary styles. But if using the radio or TV for music, use a timer, since the noise may disrupt sleep as the night progresses, whether we realize it or not.
- Get personal. Sometimes there’s nothing quite as relaxing as another human voice. Try some of the fancy new apps out there like pzizz, which lulls listeners to sleep with soothing voices, or record a close friend reciting the instructions in a muscle relaxation demo that can guide us into sleep.
- Soak Up the Silence. Some people find no noise is good noise, since it doesn’t have any associations with stress or negative emotions, so give silence a shot
Interplay between spontaneous and induced brain activity during human non-rapid eye movement sleep. Dang-Vu, T.T., Bonjean, M., Schabus, M., et al. Cyclotron Research Centre, University of Liège, B-4000 Liège, Belgium. Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences U.S.A. 2011 Sep 13;108(37):15438-43..