Ask SleepBetter: Traffic Noise, Smartphones and Overactive Brains

Have you wondered about something related to sleep, but just can’t find the answer? Lots of people do, and that’s why we created Ask SleepBetter. You can ask your own question on the SleepBetter Facebook Page, or by using our Ask SleepBetter contact form. We will try to answer as many questions as possible, but we are not able to answer queries about physical issues or medicinal issues. Those should be addressed face-to-face with a physician.

Today’s question is about noise and too many thoughts:

“ I can never seem to get a decent night sleep anymore.  Thing is, where I live, traffic goes by all night. I try to ignore it, but then there’s my mobile.  It’s more I’m overthinking at night than traffic outside.”
-Francesca (via Facebook)

You mention several problems, but they are all fixable.

First off, you mentioned traffic noise.  It’s definitely a problem for people who live in highly populated areas.  Some individuals are able to get used to it, but it keeps others awake all night.  For the latter group, a white noise machine can be invaluable.  White noise machines make noises like a babbling brook, ocean waves, or even a noise that sounds like a vacuum cleaner.  The sounds the machine makes can be soothing and will also block out traffic and neighbor noise.  White noise machines can be purchased in a number of stores. has a good selection.

You also mentioned your mobile phone.  This is something that’s easily fixed.  As we’ve mentioned multiple times, while you’re sleeping smartphones should be outside your room or at minimum all the way across the room with the sounds turned off.  The alerts made by smartphones can disrupt your sleep and can tempt you to check them to see what’s going on.  Additionally, the light emitted by the screen when an alert comes across can also be a problem.  While we understand that many people use their smartphone as an alarm clock, you’re better off buying a cheap clock and putting your phone away at night.

Finally, you mentioned overthinking at night.  This is a very common problem.  Before going to bed, make a list of all of the things that are concerning you or that you need to do the last day.  It’s a way of “offloading” your concerns onto paper, and may keep you from worrying so much about them while trying to sleep.  A white noise machine may also be helpful in keeping your concerns from keeping you awake.  By focusing on the noise coming from the machine, you may find that you’re not focusing on your worries.