Noise Health Home 

[Download PDF]
Year : 2010  |  Volume : 12  |  Issue : 47  |  Page : 59--60

Brief on noise-induced sleep disturbance

Sanford Fidell 
 Fidell Associates Inc., Woodland Hills, California, USA

Correspondence Address:
Sanford Fidell
Fidell Associates Inc., Woodland Hills, California

How to cite this article:
Fidell S. Brief on noise-induced sleep disturbance.Noise Health 2010;12:59-60

How to cite this URL:
Fidell S. Brief on noise-induced sleep disturbance. Noise Health [serial online] 2010 [cited 2022 Sep 30 ];12:59-60
Available from:

Full Text

Self-reported, behavioral and physiological measurement of noise-induced sleep disturbance [1],[2] have been made in both laboratory and field settings. The practical implications of these measurements for aircraft noise regulation are uncertain for several reasons. For example, matters as basic as what constitutes sleep disturbance and the relative amounts of sleep disturbance attributable to noise and to other factors remain unsettled. Further, the findings of sleep disturbance studies are difficult to compare systematically and interpret in consistent ways. If, upon awakening, people declare they had a good night's sleep, can their reports be trusted if their brain wave and motility responses seem to indicate otherwise?

Sleep is a complex physiological process affected in both subtle and obvious ways not only by noise but by many other factors as well. Some effects of disturbed sleep remain noticeable the next day and seem linked to the degree of sleep disturbance during prior nights. Unfortunately, useful quantitative understanding of noise-induced sleep disturbance does not extend much beyond these generalities. In particular, although the acute health consequences of extreme sleep deprivation are clear, the meaningfulness of health effects of occasional intrusions of aircraft noise into sleeping quarters remains debatable.

At a non-conscious level, night-time noise may affect brainwave, cardiovascular, and endocrine activity. However, very short arousals occur routinely and frequently throughout the night, even in the absence of noise. These do not rise to the level of full waking consciousness, and are unlikely to be remembered the next morning. Further, shifts from one sleep stage to another, as well as slight, transient elevations in heart rate and blood pressure, may simply be signs of normal autonomic responses to ever-changing environmental conditions.

Noise in sleeping quarters can also create more readily observable effects such as bodily movements and behaviorally-confirmed awakenings. They occur much less often than shifts in sleep stages and short term physiological arousals, and not solely during or shortly after noise intrusions.

Recent reviews of the noise-induced sleep disturbance literature [3] conclude that findings about noise-induced sleep disturbance differ considerably both with respect to measures of sleep disturbance and by study. They also indicate that non-aircraft related awakenings are more common than aircraft noise-induced awakenings in airport neighborhoods and that only small percentages of habitually exposed people in familiar sleeping quarters are regularly awakened by aircraft noise intrusions.

Half a dozen relationships between indoor sound exposure levels of night-time noises and predicted awakening, such as that of ANSI, [4] have been derived in recent years. They account for little variance in the association between sleep disturbance and behaviorally-confirmed awakening, and have very shallow slopes. They are therefore not very reliable and offer little guidance for regulatory purposes. Attempts to predict the probability of at least one awakening per night from numbers, times of occurrence, and sound levels of intruding noises also account for very little variance, depend on questionable statistical assumptions, and are more sensitive to total time spent in bed and customary airport operating schedules than to the sound levels of aircraft overflights.

Additional laboratory and field studies of the usual sort [1],[2],[5],[6] are not likely to greatly improve understanding of the extent and meaning of aircraft noise impacts on health. Due, in part, to their expense, such studies tend to be of relatively small scale, short duration and simple design. New field studies and analytic approaches of greater sophistication must systematically account for non-acoustic influences on sleep (including factors such as the source and meaning of noise intrusions and sleepers' familiarity with them), and must provide a context for distinguishing between incidence rates of spontaneous (non-noise related) and prevalence rates of bona fide noise-induced sleep disturbance.


1Basner M, Samel A, Isermann U. Aircraft noise effects on sleep: Application of the results of a large polysomnogrpahic field study. J Acoust Soc Am 2006;119:2772-84.
2Fidell S, Pearsons K, Tabachnick BG, Howe R. Effects on sleep disturbance of changes in aircraft noise near three airports. J Acoust Soc Am 2000;107:2535-47.
3Michaud DS, Fidell S, Pearsons K, Campbell KC, Keith SE. Review of field studies of aircraft noise-induced sleep disturbance. J Acoust Soc Am 2007;121:32-41.
4American National Standards Institute (ANSI) (2008). Quantities and procedures for description and measurement of environmental sound-Part 6: Methods for estimation of awakenings associated with outdoor noise events heard in homes," ANSI S12.9-2000/Part 6. 2.
5Ollerhead JB, Jones CJ, Cadoux RE, Woodley A, Atkinson BJ, Horne JA, et al. Report of a field study of aircraft noise and sleep disturbance. London: Department of Safety, Environment and Engineering, Civil Aviation Authority; 1992.
6Pearsons K, Barber D, Tabachnick BG, Fidell S. Predicting noise-induced sleep disturbance. J Acoust Soc Am 1995;97:331-8.