How the other half sleeps

Is access to peace and quiet a luxury?

International Noise Awareness Day 2016 | If you're like me, and interested in everything related to sleep, you know that Arianna Huffington is on a "sleep tour" to promote sleep health to college students while she promotes her book The Sleep Revolution. There is substantial evidence in scholarly literature about the negative impact of sleep debt on health, but I love it when this issue is covered in popular culture. Unfortunately, a lot of people can't benefit from mainstream sleep health advice because they can't escape noise pollution. Some forms of environmental noise can be mitigated by use of ear plugs, white noise, and acoustic window fittings - but not all can.

I would never downplay the negative impact of noise pollution on everyday life, whether it affects work, studying, or relaxation. But my greatest concern has always been the effects of noise on sleep, and what that does to our health and wellbeing. 1 2 3 4 5

Equally troubling is evidence that the effects of noise on sleep and related health outcomes are especially prevalent - but underreported - among those who are economically disadvantaged. 6 7 8 9 10

As a health educator and public health student, I'm well aware of the foundations of good health. I believe that without enough sleep, it doesn't matter what else you do. The healthiest eating habits in the world and the greatest dedication to exercise won't counter the effects sleep deprivation. And yes, I know that a lot of sleep debt occurs by choice. But not mine. Since horn-based lock feedback began to interfere with my sleep, it has not been the same, except when I've been able to sleep in a rear-facing room. Before, I'd never been aware that we actually initiate sleep - who knew? I'm aware of it now because it's a struggle.

It never ceases to amaze me that design engineers would elect to use a technology that has the potential to interrupt people's sleep. Sleep is so precious. It should be available to everyone, and it shouldn't come to pass that some people have access to better sleep because they can afford to live in a quieter district, or their windows face the "quiet side" or their neighbors are considerate, while others have bedrooms facing parking, they can't afford to move, and their neighbors use horn sounds to signal car locking. More and more, sleep and access to sufficient peace in one's home are becoming luxuries.

Automotive product developers created horn-based lock feedback technology with the potential to wake people up multiple times each night. Many people are awakened hours before they need to get up, and can't get back to sleep, accumulating sleep debt day after day. Replacing horn-based technology with quieter or silent options would reduce community noise and - over time - result in less sleep interruption and better quality of sleep. Many environmental problems are complex, difficult, and clostly to address. This environmental problem is easy to address, and fully preventable. Automotive decision makers have the power to take action that would reduce noise pollution, allowing for better sleep quality, reduced stress, and better quality of life. Access to a reasonable level of peace and quiet should be available to everyone.

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