"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Is this buzz keeping you awake? Here's how you can sleep higher

December 27, 2023 – Sleep deficit is a world problem. Perhaps nowhere is that this more true than in Omagh, a small town in Northern Ireland where residents live were kept awake since September as a consequence of a persistent, persistent humming or humming sound at night, often accompanied by a vibration.

Reports of humming Sleep disorder aren’t a brand new phenomenon. Glen MacPherson, PhD, a former lecturer on the University of British Columbia and current highschool math teacher and ethnographer, says he has been following the so-called “Worldwide Hum” since he first encountered it in 2012 “Car stalls in neutral Your house,” he said. “Some people describe it as a quiet roar or a quiet rumble.”

But MacPherson – whose World sum map shows the hundreds of people that consider they’ve heard the sound – its research up to now suggests that only 2 to 4% of individuals can hear the true “global hum”. More importantly, he said what’s prone to disrupt the sleep of Omagh residents, and indeed a big percentage of individuals living in densely populated areas, is low frequency noise (LFN). Sources of LFN are largely man-made or industrial and include ventilation systems, traffic, aircraft and wind turbines.

“The human ear is only capable of hearing a small range of sounds,” starting from 20 cycles per second — generally known as 20 hertz, or 20 Hz — to twenty,000 Hz, said Jeff Ellenbogen, MD, neurologist, sleep specialist and Director of the Sound Sleep Project in Baltimore. “Low-frequency noise means sounds (in this case, unwanted noises) that occur below 250 Hz,” he said, adding that it is usually more noticeable at night, when there is usually less noise overall and individuals are attempting to avoid noise sleep.

The costly effects of sleep deficits

To be fully functional, adults need a median of approx a minimum of 7 hours Sleep per night, preferably uninterrupted, going through light and deep periods (which normally occurs about 4 to 6 times). Research has shown that environmental noise can disrupt sleep, resulting in increased levels of lighter stage 1 sleep and decreased deep sleep, in addition to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, when most of our dreams occur, said Michelle Drerup, PsyD, director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Cleveland Clinic.

Although low-frequency noise just isn’t fully understood by sleep researchers, it appears to have a big selection of consequences that construct on each other. “Chronic exposure to background noise (particularly road, rail and airplane traffic) leads to heart or heart changes and heart disease,” said Shannon Sullivan, MD, clinical professor of sleep medicine at Stanford University in San Francisco and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep medicine. Chronic noise exposure has also been linked to depression and anxiety, increases in stress hormones, and even structural changes within the brain.

In the short term, these noises, which are sometimes perceived as more disturbing than normal noise, can result in nervousness and tiredness. “When we get less deep sleep and less REM sleep, people feel less rested and memory is impaired. Over time, it can affect cognition,” Drerup said.

Unfamiliar surroundings, unfamiliar noises

There is little question that low frequency noise is becoming an issue worldwide. In 2022, the World Health Organization iissued instructions on the health effects of this sort of environmental noise in addition to really useful measures to boost awareness and ways to regulate the resulting diseases. However, in accordance with various sleep experts, even short-term or limited stress, akin to that which occurs when traveling to go to family or friends on vacation, can affect sleep quality.

“When you travel across time zones, it's not only a challenge to the environment, but also to your circadian rhythms,” Sullivan said. “For example, someone flying from the West Coast to the East Coast will challenge their normal circadian rhythms for three hours, which will impact sleep quality.”

She also points to traveling to go to family when “sleeping conditions may not be as comfortable as we are used to.” Sullivan said there are methods to cut back the impact of low-frequency noise and other issues on our sleep, whether it's sleeping in unfamiliar or uncomfortable beds or coping with noise in a hotel or rental apartment.

Admittedly, just as sleep preferences are as much as the person, the choices for ensuring a great night's sleep are also individual. In general, though, when traveling across time zones, Sullivan says it's essential to keep up a fairly stable wake-up time and expose yourself to some sun or light whenever you get up. When it's time to sleep, she recommends a dark sleeping environment. “Try an eye mask—especially if you cross time zones and the light comes at the wrong time for your brain.”

Drerup said if you will have time to regulate to a brand new time zone before traveling, she’s going to often recommend certainly one of the brand new ones Smartphone apps which offer an in depth plan of when to begin shift time, when to sleep within the air, when to hunt or avoid light, in addition to meal planning.

“Earplugs or masking noises are becoming increasingly important when you’re on the go,” said Ellenbogen. Although not everyone finds earplugs comfortable, for many who can tolerate them, he recommends the soft option with a noise reduction rating of a minimum of 30.

David Neubauer, MD, a sleep physician and associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins Medicine Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, said he personally prefers to mask noise with a bedroom fan or, when traveling, with a conveyable device to create a fan-like sound. And there are smartphone apps that play masking sounds and help divert the auditory focus from unwanted noises. “Find a sound that feels calming while you’re awake,” he said. “Play it at a volume that doesn’t disturb, but makes unwanted noises barely noticeable. And remember to turn off other alarms when you go to bed.”

“The way we sleep determines or influences how we feel during the day, especially during the holidays, when being together is a time of great joy and activity but can also be stressful,” Sullivan said. “Good quality sleep is one of the things that can help reduce stress and perform at our best.”