The Effects of Noise on Sleep, Eating, and Overall Health

Listening to music and drinking coffee while working. Image: Pexels - Andrea Piacquadio

Lack of sleep is a crucial component in maintaining not just physical health, but also mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Without adequate hours of sleep, the body is unable to repair, regenerate, or restore itself. Numerous factors can contribute to sleep problems, such as excessive consumption of sugar, caffeine, or alcohol, as well as health problems like hypoglycemia, hormonal imbalances, and chronic stress. Additionally, one often overlooked factor that can lead to poor quality sleep is noise pollution.

Noise and Nervous System

Noise has a direct impact on our nervous system. The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is the grand regulator of every metabolic process in the body. The two branches of the ANS are the parasympathetic branch which governs the bodily processes that conserve our energy and help regulate digestion, feelings of calm, relaxation, and sleep. This branch has often been referred to as “the rest and digest branch.” The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for energy utilization and governs the adrenals, thyroid, and pituitary glands, and is activated in times of stress. It is often referred to as “the flight or flight branch.”

The Negative Impact

Noise, especially loud and harsh sounds, directly impacts the nervous system and overstimulate the sympathetic nervous system. If you are someone who gets startled easily by noise, this is a clear sign that your sympathetic system is in overdrive. This has the most significant impact on sleep.

Excess noise and sympathetic overdrive during the day impact your ability to relax and achieve restful sleep at night.

When your sympathetic system is overly stressed and triggered, not only will you have trouble sleeping, but you will also experience frequent sleep disturbances, affecting your ability to achieve deep, healing, restorative sleep. This can lead to chronic sleep deprivation and various sleep disorders, impacting your overall health and well-being.

We are bombarded every day with environmental noise. From the moment we wake up to the time we go to bed, think about how much noise exposure we experience. From a beeping alarm to the background noise of the radio, television, podcasts, road traffic noise, honking, construction, arguing, excessive talking, buzzing notifications on cell phones, high pitches, barking dogs, sirens, unruly kids in a classroom or siblings fighting, loud motorcycles and car engines, air conditioning, fans, and the hum of a fridge or dishwasher — these all take up massive space in our environment. Noise infiltrates every aspect of our lives. In many ways, loud noise can be toxic and invasive. That chronic continuous noise exposure has an impact on our sympathetic nervous system and can contribute to irritability, anxiety, overwhelm, poor focus and concentration, and overstimulation, all of which directly impact our sleep.

The Positive Effects

Not all noise is bad, of course. Certain noises and sounds can have a calming effect and relax our nervous system, such as soothing music, singing sound bowls, wind chimes, and peaceful conversations. Nature also provides us with the most beautiful sounds, like chirping birds, natural water from a stream, ocean, or river, or a crackling fire. In fact, the majority of the sounds we naturally find in nature, including pink noise and brown noise, strengthen our parasympathetic nervous system and invite deep relaxation, ultimately preparing the body for better sleep. This helps improve sleep patterns, reduces sleep disturbances, and enhances the quality of sleep, allowing for more restorative and healthy sleep cycles.

Top 8 Practices to Decrease Noise Pollution

  1. Become conscious of all the noise levels that surround you and notice what sounds stress you out and what sounds calm you.
  2. Work on becoming comfortable with silence, as it is in silence that we meet ourselves and find inner peace and serenity. Practice sitting in silence for 15–20 minutes a day.
  3. Turn off the radio or loud noise in the car while you are driving to reduce noise pollution.
  4. Turn off the television if you use it just for background noise.
  5. Connect to your breath — just the sound of a deep inhale and exhale can help calm your mind and invite a synergy with silence, aiding in reducing sleep disturbance.
  6. Immerse yourself in nature daily. Sit by the water, listen to the birds or crickets chirping, and tune in to the sounds of nature’s music to counteract the effects of noise pollution.
  7. Choose your music carefully — what vibrations, sounds, and instruments calm your nervous system? Is it beautiful singing harmonies, acoustic guitar, or relaxing piano? What sounds stress your nervous system? Delete those from your playlists to improve your sleep routine.
  8. Create calm, quiet, and lower volumes in your home, especially in your bedroom, 1 hour before bed. Turn everything down to reduce nighttime noise. What can be quieter? What can be turned off to enhance the quality of your sleep cycle?

When you experience fewer hits on the sympathetic nervous system during the day and achieve deep, restorative sleep throughout the night, your food choices and intake will become more regulated, leading to fewer “off path” moments. You’ll crave less sugar and caffeine because you’ll naturally have more energy, drive, and focus to get through your day. With reduced stress on your nervous system, you’ll crave fewer salty snacks, and because you’ll feel calmer, you may also find yourself reaching for less comfort food. This balance positively impacts your mental health and reduces sleep issues, contributing to better overall health and a stronger immune system.

Be aware of the daily noise you experience. Consciously work on finding more peace and quiet in a busy noisy world and notice how it plays a role in your sleep, eating behaviors, and overall health.

Silence helps you explore the hidden treasures within yourself.

— Christina Feldman

Try Ate today to journal your daily experiences (including your sleep) and stay mindful, no matter where life takes you.

Amy Bondar, Nutritional Therapist, Certified Eating Psychology Coach, Speaker, and Author brings 2 decades of experience in the field of nutrition and mind-body coaching and believes that nourishing our body with the power of food, resolving stresses that are influencing our eating behaviors and living a life with purpose are the essential ingredients to optimizing our health. With an open heart and inquiring mind Amy will accompany you on a journey that will inspire you to transform your relationship with food, body, and self. To learn more and book a mind-body nutrition consultation with Amy, visit, or contact Amy,

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