Sleep and the City: How White Noise Benefits Urban Sleepers


My little family lives in a noisy complex. Near a freeway. In the city.

Night after night, it’s not unusual to find bed-time accompanied by sirens, car horns, the sounds of drunk debauchery slowly making its way home and echoing televisions. Needless to say, getting to sleep and staying asleep is often a problem.

For about 9 out of 10 people, noise is not conclusive as to whether they are going to have a good night’s sleep or not. But for that 1 out of 10, falling asleep and remaining in a peaceful state with the noise of urban living is often times impossible. So why are some of us so unfortunate in a world where loud, urban living is so common?

According to a 2009 study performed by the Center of Disease control, whether an individual sleeps through noise or not is biological. More specifically, it has to do with what’s known as spindle rates in the brain. Essentially, spindles are big cells that move through large parts of the brain that have to do with communication; they are proposed to be responsible for, among many things, helping an individual disconnect from their external environment during sleep. During the study, it was found that those who were not affected by a noisy night’s sleep had a higher spindle rate than those who did not sleep well.

Some of us are simply just not wired to deal with loud nocturnal environments. And as a result, we greet the day ill rested and prone to being cranky.

Trying to avoid the use of medications, I started looking for natural sleep aids. There are many options out there, such as teas, meditation, ear plugs and herbal supplements. But if you, like me, are a busy person who wants something that can benefit everyone in your household, white noise is an easy and excellent medication-free sleep aid.

White noise, in a simple definition, is noise containing frequencies with equal intensities. Essentially white noise is a sound that is rhythmic, constant and lacking surprising peaks, like the slam of a car door or a loud bout of laughter. It is a magical vessel that helps us regulate and block out our external environment with unbroken lulling sounds.

Living with the convenience of technology, it is easy for us to access the joys of white noise. Here are a couple of options:

White noise machines can be found easily through an internet search or by going to a local home appliance store. There are two different versions of these machines: ones that create a general soothing noise and those with a limited variety of different noises. Having a fan flowing in your room is just as good as a white noise machine, but is an unfavorable option when you live in a place with cool autumns and even cooler winters.

The other option (and my personal favorite) is downloading a white noise application on your phone. There are many applications for both Android and IOS users. The benefits of this option are that it is portable, literally at your fingertips and comes with varying noises, allowing for both preference and variety. Best of all, most of these applications are free to download!

Both the adults and children in my home benefit from white noise. It’s both safe and effective, and has allowed us all to meet our bustling city days more rested and, most importantly, more happy.


Photo source: Pixabay


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