Using White Noise to Mask Sleep Interruptions
If you have difficulty getting to sleep and are easily disturbed, you may want to consider using white noise to help mask noise that seeps into your resting place. This type of sleep therapy is known to help people who are awakened by peripheral noise, such as traffic from the street or a noisy neighbor.
White noise can help mask these other noises so that you can sleep through them, ideally enabling you to achieve a more restful slumber and the benefits that come with it. White noise is also useful for those who have trouble sleeping when it’s “too quiet.”
What is white noise? It’s not simply soft ocean waves or the soothing sounds of the autumn wind blowing through the trees. Technically, it includes all sound frequencies within the range of human hearing combined.
It’s similar to the color white being produced from a combination of all other colors, which may be why they call it white noise. The “noise” is random, meaning it doesn’t have rhyme or reason unless it’s manipulated.
It doesn’t follow a pattern like a normal sound does. Rather, it’s mixed up and in constant transformation, creating the “swooshing” effect that our ears absorb. According to experts, the reason why white noise is so soothing is because the masking effect produced covers all other sounds – from high to low pitches.
If your sleep is being disturbed by a dog barking outside, white noise theoretically can help muffle, mask, or cancel-out that sound. On a whole, white noise sounds relatively high-pitched to us (though at a “hum”).
The reason why it doesn’t keep us awake is because the noise essentially overloads our auditory systems and for most of us, provides a distraction from competing sounds. It prevents us from zeroing in on any one sound, so we simply become “numb” to them all.
While we may think of white noise as being tranquil sounds from nature, it’s actually closer to the sound a fan makes. Pure white noise can be “tuned” to more closely resemble these soothing, familiar sounds.
An ocean wave gently rolling onto a shore or a light rain against the windowpane are sounds now easily found on white-noise CDs that are sold in stores, which also holds the advantage of volume control and repetition. Set your CD on repeat and let the white noise help you sleep through the night.
Other forms of white noise include a ceiling or box fan, static from a radio or a furnace or air conditioner with a low hum. There are also actual white-noise or sound-conditioning machines, which serve a specific purpose of helping you find the sleep you crave.
Some white noise CDs contain a number of different “scenes” to choose from. All are composed to create an oasis of relaxation and ultimately promote sleep. Find the one that best lulls you to sleep and end those days of feeling tired, drowsy, and irritable.
Sleep Disorder and Teenagers
There is a sleep disorder that affects between seven to ten percent of teenagers called Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder, also known as DNS. Most teenagers outgrow this disorder by the time they reach young adulthood. Less than one percent of adults are believed to have DSP. Often people mistake this sleep disorder for insomnia.
Left on their own, people with delayed sleep phase disorder would stay up until very late, sometimes until 4 or 5 a.m. They like to get up very late in the morning or early afternoon. Often they are referred to as night owls.
Many teenagers like to stay up late and sleep late in the morning. Sometimes this is because they want to socialize at that time of the day. However, it can also be due to the natural delay in the circadian sleep/wake rhythm at their age of development.
Teenagers with this sleep disorder often have a very hard time getting up in the morning for school. Even if they go to sleep at a regular time, such as at 11 p.m., they toss and turn for hours like someone with insomnia. The difference is, unlike an insomniac, people with delayed sleep phase disorder have no difficulty staying asleep. They do have a very difficult time getting up early in the morning. Teenagers with this sleep disorder are very tired during the day and may even fall asleep in the classroom. The exact cause of this sleep disorder is not known. It is known for certain that it is a circadian rhythm problem.
Treatment for this sleep disorder is available for people that need to get onto a more traditional sleep/wake schedule. The types of treatment include bright light, chronotherapy, melatonin, and over-the-counter prescribed sleeping pills.
Bright light treatment for delayed sleep phase disorder uses bright light to trick the brain’s circadian clock. Exposure to bright light shifts the circadian rhythm if it is administered within a few hours of the body’s lowest temperature at night.
Using chronotherapy as a treatment for someone with delayed sleep phase disorder requires a block of time one week long. Each day bedtime is delayed by three hours successively. For example, for someone that falls asleep at 2 a.m. but wants to fall asleep at 11. p.m., their bedtime would move to 5 a.m. on the first day. The next day it would move to 8 a.m. and continue this cycle for a week. A teenager suffering from delayed sleep phase disorder would need a week off from school in order to complete this therapy. Once the desired bedtime is reached it is very important to keep a consistent wake-up time.
There are several treatments involving various drugs that are used to treat delayed sleep phase disorder. Melatonin has been successful in changing the sleep cycle of people with this sleep disorder. Prescription medication such as Ramelteon, and other sleeping pills, have been successful in treating teenagers and adults with delayed sleep phase disorder.
If your teenager has trouble falling asleep and always wants to stay up late, be aware of the possibility that a sleep disorder may be present.
Nightmares and Night Terrors – A Frightening Sleep Disorder
At some time in their childhood, almost all children experience the sleep disorder of having a nightmare. They are common in children and can begin as early as two years old. They are most common in children between three and twelve years old and are considered part of the normal developmental process. However, only about 3 percent, experience night terrors, also called sleep terrors. Both of these sleep disorders can be very frightening to a child.
Nightmares are dreams that are so frightening that they wake the person up. Everyone has had nightmares occasionally throughout their life and they usually are not something to worry about.
Nightmares occur several hours after going to sleep during the REM stage of sleep when there are general body paralysis and active dreaming.
A child can remember the nightmare once they awake and they still remember it in the morning. Sometimes this nightmare sleep disorder can become a problem if the child has nightmares very often and becomes afraid to go to sleep or becomes sleep deprived. When a nightmare occurs it is important that the parent remains calm and reassuring.
There are several things that a parent can do to prevent nightmares. Discuss calm and comforting things with your child just before putting them to bed. Reading to them, or telling them a story can also be very comforting. Don’t let a child watch violent or scary shows on television, especially just before going to bed. Maintaining a relaxing bedtime routine is also important. Sometimes, nightmares indicate a more severe emotional problem within your child.
Night terrors usually occur during the first few hours of sleep, during deep non-REM sleep. They often occur at the same time each night. Night terrors are characterized by screaming, crying or moaning. It is not unusual for a child experiencing a night terror to sit straight up in bed and scream. Their heart rate is increased and they experience rapid breathing. An episode of this sleep disorder can last from 10 minutes to over an hour. Although the child’s eyes are open, they are actually still asleep and when they wake up in the morning there is no memory of what happened during the night.
Although night terrors can be frightening, they are not dangerous. They usually are not a sign of any type of mental distress. A parent should not try to wake the child or comfort them, during a night terror. The best thing for a parent to do when their child is experiencing a night terror is to make sure they are safe. Generally, most children outgrow this sleep disorder after a few months or years.
Several of the factors that can contribute to night terrors include being overly tired, staying up extremely late, eating a heavy meal just before going to bed and taking certain medications.
Although nightmares and night terrors can seem like a very scary type of sleep disorder to both the parents and the children involved, they are generally harmless.
Your Teen Is Sleep Deprived, Not Lazy
How many parents dread trying to get their teenager out of bed each morning for school? Neither alarm clock, music nor clanging of spoons on metal pots seems to make them move an inch. You have to wonder whether your teen is just trying to avoid going to school or really is that tired.
Even though teens may look like adults, be as tall as the adults and desperately want to act like an adult, their bodies are still developing. As a result, teens need much more sleep than most get.
Long after you go to bed, your teen is watching a video, talking on the phone and instant messaging several friends at once. Unless a parent pulls the plug on late-night amusements, many teens are awake well past midnight even though they have to catch the 7:45 AM school bus. That’s going full tilt for 14-18 hours a day and trying to get by on six hours or less of sleep!
No wonder high school teachers hate the first period because so many students are barely awake. It’s tough to teach over the snoring. Or teens show up at school with high caffeine drinks to stay awake. The fact is, there’s no substitute for sleep and repeating this sleep deprivation pattern over time is dangerous.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that over 100,000 auto accidents are caused by inattention due to fatigue. More than half of those tiredness related accidents involve teen drivers. You can deny that staying up late is a problem, but poor concentration and slower reflexes prove that you’re wrong.
If your teen doesn’t get enough sleep, don’t be surprised when grades fall. It’s not possible to study and retain information when your mind is tired and stressed out. And here’s another concern, sleep loss is associated with depression.
Whether your teen isn’t sleeping because of staying awake to worry or if the sleep deprivation is altering their self-image, the fact is that teens need eight to nine hours of sleep to be healthy, active and alert.
What can you do to make sure your teen gets a good night’s sleep? Set rules and keep them. If necessary, take the television and computer out of the teen’s room until the balance is restored.
Make it a household rule to turn off the television, video games and other electronic stimuli at least thirty minutes before bedtime. Ask your teen to turn off the cell phone at bedtime. If that does not work, take the phone overnight. Nothing is going to happen that can’t be left in a voice mail and heard the next morning.
Use two clocks without a snooze alarm. If your teen fails to get moving before the second alarm rings, then you do the wake-up call. Waking up ten minutes before the bus is no way to start the day.
Teens need to have at least half-hour to get up, shower and have a snack, power bar and juice to start the day. Be stubborn in requiring that your teen gets more sleep. If you do, you’ll see an improvement in your teen’s mood, attitude, grades, and alertness.