“My whole life has improved since I started sleeping with white noise.”

 

You know what? I’m a much nicer person than I was a month ago.

Last month, I was a grumpy bitch from Hell. Angry snakes with PMS had better tempers than me. But in my defense, it wasn’t my fault.

It was sleep. Or lack thereof. But the thing is, I didn’t even know I was missing it. I was in bed for the usual eight hours. I was not suffering from insomnia, or waking up constantly, or tossing and turning.

I was dreaming. Too much. Vivid, constant dreams, ranging from the mundane to the unusual, in hi-def colour. And then I’d wake up in the morning exhausted and grumpy, because I’d just spent the entire night helping my second grade teacher save the blue frogs before the bad men covered them in sticky tape, or whatever.

As it turns out, constant dreaming can be a sign of dysfunctional sleep (not getting enough deep sleep), and can be a symptom of depression, or lead to it. It can be a sign of too much stress and anxiety, and can be eventually harmful because of the proper sleep deprivation.

Constant dreaming can be a sign of dysfunctional sleep. Image: iStock. 

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No wonder I was feeling bitchy.

Fortunately, I was given a tip that really worked: white noise.

For those who aren't familiar with white noise, it's the 'chhhhhhhh' sound the television makes when it loses signal (does that even happen any more? Sigh. So many things today's children miss out on).

Soothing? No. But somehow, if you play it through the night, it just might give you some relief.

While you sleep, your brain still processes noises - door slams, trains, shouts, motorbikes - which can affect your rest without you realising. It may cause you to move, shift, change stages in sleep, or even affect your blood pressure and heart rate.

Watch: The funniest fails of sleep-deprived mums. (Post continues after video.)

The concept of sleeping with white noise (or another constant noise track, such as classical music or rainforest sounds) is that it will stop your body from waking up every time you hear a disturbance. That includes your snoring partner. Hopefully.

The noise, played at a very low level, provides your ears and brain with a constant background level, so that the peaks of disturbance coming from outside may not be loud enough for your brain to process them over the constant white noise.

This makes it especially useful for those living in inner suburbs or near main roads and train stations, as well as family homes with thin walls.

However, the noise is low enough that the ears can still rest from their busy day of hearing, and so that any loud 'danger' sounds, such as alarms or aliens landing on the rooftop, will still be heard.

"Last month, angry snakes with PMS had better tempers than me." 

I've been experimenting with the sleep noise over the past month, and I am convinced it has helped me get better, deeper sleep. There are a whole bunch of handy apps with sleep sound options, the best of which will also turn the background sound off when it sounds your morning alarm.

I tried a few different noises, but once or twice I woke up during the night and found they were driving me TOTALLY BLOODY CRAZY, and I got up and turned them off. 'Rain on a tin roof' will work for some people, but for some reason, I hated it.

Forest sounds and beach sounds are also nice (and there are plenty of 10-hour videos on YouTube you can experiment with), but the one my brain seems to like the most is called 'pink noise' in the Sleep Cycle app.

Pink noise is like white noise, just... pinker? I don't know, but the sound is a bit more subtle, and helps me to sleep like a log.

Listen: Robyn Bailey and Rebecca Sparrow discuss sleep on The Well podcast. (Post continues afterwards.)

It may take some getting used to, and the first few nights are a little bit strange before you drift off (remember, keep it low), but if you feel you are waking up in the morning like you've run a marathon in your sleep, then I highly recommend giving it a go.

Combined with other good sleeping habits — regular sleep times, no screens for an hour before sleep, a warm bath or shower before hopping in to bed, and maybe a bit of meditation to calm the mind before drifting off — it can make a great difference.

And if it stops you from being a grumpy pain-in-the-ass, BONUS.

Remember, if you have any concerns or need advice, talk to your GP about it. Happy sleeping, friends.

Have you ever tried listening to white noise at bedtime? Did it work for you?

Image: iStock.

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