June 10, 2010
Noise During Sleep Impairs Morning Performance

If you live near a highway, train tracks, or an airport consider moving.

WESTCHESTER, IL Nighttime noise from nearby road traffic, passing trains and overhead planes disturbs sleep and impairs morning performance, according to a research abstract that will be presented Tuesday, June 8, 2010, in San Antonio, Texas, at SLEEP 2010, the 24th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC.

Results indicate that mean reaction time on a morning psychomotor vigilance task slowed significantly by 3.6 ms after exposure to recorded traffic noise during sleep, and the slowing of reaction times was directly and significantly related to increases in both the frequency and sound-pressure level of the nightly noise events. The sound of passing trains caused the highest awakening and arousal probabilities followed by automobile traffic and airplane noise. However, this ranking was not reflected in the measures of morning neurobehavioral performance, as each mode of noise caused a similar level of impairment. Furthermore, exposure to more than one of the three modes of traffic noise did not lead to stronger performance impairments than exposure to only one noise source.

If moving isn't practical then consider sound-deadening curtains, double pane windows, acoustic insulation, and other materials (e.g. cork) that will cut your sound exposure. You can even get paint that contains ceramic hollow microspheres to cut noise.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 June 10 09:48 PM  Brain Sleep

Mthson said at June 10, 2010 11:17 PM:

I like to wear earplugs while using a noise machine. Hard for any noise to get through those two methods combined. I like the rainfall noise on this device: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0001W01L0/

Nick G said at June 11, 2010 9:04 AM:

This study doesn't answer my question: how does noise affect people after they have a long time to habituate to it?

I've known city dwellers who had trouble sleeping in the country - it was way too quiet!


That said, I've never chosen to habituate to noise: I keep it out with quadruple paned glass (thermopane combined with laminated glass), heavy drapes and honeycomb shades.

I haven't tried insulating paint. Here's an article: http://articles.latimes.com/1997-05-04/realestate/re-55285_1_wall-paint
Here's data on how well one company's coatings reduce noise (decibels, etc): http://www.mascoat.com/db.php?PHPSESSID=bbcee93908aa19c8b0153a5d2ee3cfbd

Has anyone tried insulating paint?

Nick G said at June 11, 2010 10:23 AM:

I called Mascoat, and they said that paints are unlikely to help in a residential sound transmission application (their product is for industrial/marine applications, where you can control resonance at the source). They pointed me to http://www.controlnoise.com

This looked promising: http://www.controlnoise.com/dbbloc.html

Mary in LA said at June 11, 2010 12:39 PM:

I live under a flight path, and my bedroom has a skylight. Earplugs and a folded towel over my eyes (I've never found a sleep mask I liked) are my bestest best friends!

billcat said at June 13, 2010 11:28 AM:

I'm an extremely light sleeper and will wake up at the slightest disturbance, often not knowing what it was. Some outside noise, the other person in the bed making a sound or moving, I dunno. I can not recall ever sleeping through a night without waking up at lest once, usually multiple times.
But after we started using a noisy fan in the bedroom I sleep way better. A steady, loud white noise really works for me. :-D
Still wake up at lest once though, just the way I work I guess.

Dangerous Dan said at June 13, 2010 11:29 AM:

Noise? Earplugs or a wave machine. The real challenge for me is the cat that insists it's time for all to rise at the smallest bit of daylight. And no, the wife dearly loves him so arranging his disappearance is not an option. But, it does mean I'm allowed an afternoon nap so maybe that's a fair tradeoff! (=' w '=)

M. Report said at June 13, 2010 12:34 PM:

Your cat waits until daylight ? :)

As the economy falls, and
the number of hours people work rises,
what was an annoyance becomes a commuting hazard;
Time to find some soundproofing, and some cat-calming medication.

Chuck Pelto said at June 13, 2010 12:58 PM:

TO: Randell Parker
RE: What About....

....a pillow speaker playing soft, soothing sounds or music?


[Music hath charms....]

Doug Payton said at June 14, 2010 9:18 AM:

Since college, I've always slept with a fan running in the room, typically pointed right at me. Can't be too loud (once they start buzzing, they're gone) but it has drowned out loud outside noises. So my question for researchers would be if there's a *constant* noise, rather than (like passing planes, trains and automobiles) sounds that are *intermittent*, is that better?

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