Can’t sleep? Maybe it’s your ears.

Sleep is a pretty mysterious thing. It’s something we all need every day and yet the more we strive to attain it, the more it can elude us.

And that’s a common experience – one 2017 study has shown that 39.8% of Australian adults experience inadequate sleep, with an estimated economic cost of approximately $66.3 billion every year. Chronically bad sleep can cause an array of health issues, from heart disease and obesity to depression.

With those kinds of scary facts around, it’s worth looking at what might be causing disrupted sleep for you and your family. One of the most common ones is noise. Because while we can close our eyes to block out disturbing or disruptive light, we can’t close our ears. Even – and especially - at 4am.

The good news is that noise-related sleep issues can often be resolved by using sleep aids that suit your particular sleeping environment and your individual preferences.

Too noisy?
Noisy sleeping environments are ones with a high degree of ambient noise. Think busy cities, with honking traffic, arguing neighbours, thumping music and blaring sirens sounding at potentially any hour of the day or night. These noises may arouse you from sleep even without you being consciously aware of the sound.

The first defence can be a simple one: earplugs, the saviour of many unhappy apartment residents. Alternatively, white noise machines or apps can drown out the disturbances. The result is improved sleep quality with fewer of the breaks in deep sleep that lead to groggy mornings and serious caffeine addictions.

Too quiet?
Of course, some of us find that more peaceful sleep environments are, ironically, too quiet for restful sleep. Think the cliché of the stressed-out sea-changer, lying awake missing the roar of the inner city.

If that’s you, you could also benefit from a white noise machine or app. The monotonous hum will prevent small sounds – creaking floorboards, or a ticking clock – from intruding into your slumber.

Just right?
The best solution, of course, is to know what kind of environment suits your ears best, and adjust your bedroom to suit.

And if that doesn’t work? Perhaps you should move to Melbourne. Data obtained from Jawbone’s UP, a wristband that tracks movement and sleeping patterns, shows that Melburnians enjoy an average of 6 hours 58 minutes of shut-eye every night – that’s more than any other city in the world.

This post forms part of our series exploring the relationship between sound and sleep.

For more information on how you can maximise your hearing at any time of day, please contact your local clinic. And if you’re worried about hearing loss, you can find out more here.

NHC blog is our place to explore ideas and themes of interest. For professional audiology advice, please contact your local clinic for a consultation.