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A large percentage of the urban population suffers from sleep disorders. The growing disorders of sleep have led the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to give it epidemic status. In various surveys, it has been found that almost one-third of adults in the US suffer from lack of sleep. While hectic schedules and unhealthy lifestyles are to blame for less the adequate sleep in many people, it is far from healthy. People get used to getting less than eight hours of sleep, but it impacts health and well-being in the long run.
The CDC giving sleep disorders epidemic status only reflects how fast sleeplessness is growing today. Sleep disorders are myriad. Fragmented sleep is perhaps the most common sleep disorder, where the individual wakes up several times at night, leading to insufficient rest. Insomnia is another leading sleep problem, where the individual is unable to fall asleep. Nightmares, night sweats, and snoring are all sleep disorders. Most people who suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness actually have some kind of sleep disorder. Fatigue and daytime sleepiness results in difficult to concentrate and loss of productivity. Sleep impacts overall health, and so does the lack of it.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Restless Sleep?
The reasons behind sleep disorders may vary from one person to another. Without proper diagnosis, sleep disorders go unrecognized and keep causing problems. Most people who suffer from daytime sleepiness or fatigue can go years without knowing they actually have a sleep disorder. Most people also never get treated for snoring.
Some of the most common causes of sleep disorders are:
Physical Factors: Several physical problems could lead to unsound sleep, but they are usually temporary. Having a fever, an infection, indigestion, or chronic pains and inflammation can lead to unsound sleep. Medicines for certain illnesses can also interfere with the sleep cycle. Menopausal women often get hot flashes and night sweats that keep them from getting proper sleep. Eating rich food before bedtime can slow down digestion and cause discomfort, leading to unsound sleep. All these problems are temporary. Once the physical symptoms disappear, normal sleep should return.
Medical Causes: Various underlying medical causes could be interfering with the normal sleep cycle. Sleep apnea is one of the biggest medical causes of unsound sleep. When a person has sleep apnea, the throat muscles relax and block the airway, obstructing the airflow. This results in snoring, dry mouth, and frequent awakenings. People with sleep apnea often go about the day feeling tired and sleepy, and even though they fall asleep easily, they don’t get the sufficient amount.
There are various other medical causes for unsound sleep. Asthma could be a reason, where the person doesn’t get proper sleep because of breathlessness. Restless Legs Syndrome is another potential cause, where the person constantly kicks his legs in sleep. Nightmares and night terrors are also reasons why sleep may be hampered.
Environmental Reasons: Although mostly overlooked, environmental factors are often the culprit for unsound sleep. Living beside a busy street with loud traffic could cause unsound sleep. Living in a crowded neighborhood does the same. Living with roommates means having to bear with late-night conversations and other noises. Even a loud TV or music somewhere close, or the neighbor’s dog barking can keep up the person through the night. These factors are usually disregarded, but a change in living conditions has been found to improve sleep quality.
Psychiatric Causes: Anxiety, depression, and other mental conditions often cause sleep disorders. Even stress and emotional disturbances can lead to unsound sleep.
How to Eliminate Environmental Sounds from Your Bedroom for Sound Sleep
It is amazing just how much environmental noises are all around us. From the low hum of the refrigerator to the tick-tock of the clock, to the doorbell to the TV to the neighbors talking next doors. If you take a moment to stay quiet and concentrate on the sounds, it seems pretty overwhelming. When these noises get loud, they can affect our sleep quality.
Whether the noises originate inside or outside the house, they must be eliminated to go get proper sleep. A few ways to reduce ambient noises are:
Covering The Floor with Rugs: If you have hardwood flooring, it has a tendency of reflecting noise. If there are people living on the floors underneath yours, they will also be bombarded by every noise coming from your apartment. The best solution to both of these problems is to cover the floors with rugs or carpets. Wall to wall carpeting is the most effective at dampening noises, even rugs and carpet tiles can achieve the same noise cancelation.
Covering Windows with Drapes: Unless your windows are soundproof, they will let in ambient noises. Thick curtains are the solution for preventing street noises from filtering in through thin windows. Drapes that work best are lined curtains made from heavy materials like velvet or satin, or special noise-absorbing curtains with a thick wool core sandwiched between the outer fabrics. You might also try getting sound proof glasses for the windows or foam insulation for the walls (like the ones used in music studios).
Line Outer Walls with Shelves: Insulating the walls from both inside and outside will reduce noises to the most. Line your outside walls with wooden bookshelves or cabinets for noise absorption. Filling the shelf with linens, towels or books is even better because they are all natural noise insulators.
What is A White Noise Machine for Sleep?
For urban and suburban dwellers, total silence is never an option. There is always some noise or the other. Even if you are able to quieten the insides of your house, the ambient noise from neighbors, traffic, barking dogs, and garbage truck cannot be quieted. If you live in an apartment, you may hear footsteps above your head. If you live in a dorm, you may have to bear with others talking and laughing late into the night.
If you are in the countryside, chances are you will have total silence. But what if you are someone who needs some sort of background noise to be able to fall asleep?
This is the reason why white noise or sound machines have become so popular. Whether you want to drown out unpleasant noises or create a pleasing sound barrier, white noise machines achieve both. These acoustic sleep machines have become the go-to option for several sleepers because they reduce and screen ambient noises, and create a static sound barrier from auditory interruptions from outside.
White noise machines are of various types, from simple and inexpensive to feature-laden and pricey, the choices are endless. The basic sound machines can create only one or two noises, like the low buzz of a fan or a soft hum. These sounds can be made louder or softer. More expensive sound machines are usually designed and clinically tested to function like a sleep aid and come fitted with a variety of assorted acoustic sounds.
Some of the sounds that a white noise machine usually comes with are:
- River or stream
- Nighttime sounds like crickets
How does the White Noise Machine help in Sound Sleep?
The white noise machine helps with sleep in various ways. Some of them are:
Building A Bedtime Ritual: When you use a sound machine along with your other bedtime habits (brushing, showering, etc.) your body realizes that it’s time for bed. This helps create a bedtime ritual and helps you fall asleep more easily.
Keeping The Room Quiet: The primary purpose of the sound machine is to drown out ambient noises and make falling asleep easier. White noise keeps away disturbing sounds and creates a quiet haven for optimal sleep.
Shutting Down the Brain: Besides shutting out ambient noise, the sound machine also helps shut out the constant chatter in the brain. If you’re someone who cannot fall asleep because your mind won’t keep quiet, white noise can be of great help. This is also the reason why it is used for meditation.
White Noise On the Go: If you are a frequent traveler, falling asleep in strange places can be difficult. A portable white noise machine will drown out ambient noise and help you get sound sleep.
Is White Noise Machine Safe for Babies too?
Many parents swear by a white noise machine to help their babies fall asleep. While it does help reduce ambient noises, it also has a number of pitfalls. The constant noise near the babies’ ears can lead to hearing problems or even permanent damage. The machine also makes babies dependent on the white noise. This is a problem when the baby has to sleep without the machine. Occasional use of the white noise machine could still be all right, but not regular use.
While a sound machine is beneficial in bringing sleep, it must be used regularly in order to be effective. At the same time, make sure you aren’t dependent on the machine. This could be a problem when you have to sleep without a white noise machine. To get the most out of a white noise machine, build it into your bedtime routine and use it at home even when there isn’t any noise to mask.
My favorite white noise machine is the Marpac Dohm. It is an analog sound which means there are no speakers, it is a natural sound that surrounds the room and is very comforting. Check out my full Marpac Dohm review here.