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  • Counting Sheep Won't Help
    Posted by Graham Warwick 6:22 PM on Jan 19, 2011

    It's official, aircraft keep you awake at night. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) has published the results of a study into how air, road and rail traffic noise affects sleep - and concluded aircraft noise is the biggest nuisance.

    At a sleep laboratory in Cologne, a total of 72 men and women aged between 18 and 71 were exposed to recordings of traffic noise for 11 consecutive nights. The studies included the influence of noise on  waking response time, brain signals and heart rate.

    blog post photo
    Credit: iStock

    Objectively the study showed that, in addition to maximum noise level, the rate at which the noise increases has a significant influence on the degree of sleep disturbance. Road or railway traffic, which occur suddenly and quickly reach the highest volume, disturb sleep considerably more than slowly increasing aircraft noises, DLR says.

    But, subjectively, the perception of those tested was that aircraft noise was the biggest nuisance. One explanation could be the duration of the noise. "As aircraft take longer to approach, reach their highest volume level overhead and then slowly disappear, the noise is still there after the sleeper has woken up and is consciously registered. There is also the disturbing influence these longer-lasting sources of noise have on going back to sleep," says DLR.

    And there is no getting used to the noise, the study concludes from data on the noise-related increase in heart rate. "Even after the volunteers had spent several nights in a row being subjected to the traffic noise, the individual noises still caused their hearts to beat faster," says DLR. The center says findings from the study can be used for further research into active and passive noise control.

    Tags: tw99, noise, environment

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