Americans need more sleep. Surveys show that the average American gets approximately 6.8 hours of sleep a night. That’s a far cry from the average nine hours of sleep that Americans got nightly back in 1910. The number of hours of sleep an individual needs ranges by age, but in general its recommended that adults sleep seven to nine hours each night. It just doesn’t take a toll on our general health, as you would expect, but can also lead to hearing loss.
Hearing and sleeping are connected. A study published in BMC Neuroscience stated that sleep deprivation impacted “what the brain does with what the ears hear,” also known as central auditory processing.
The study found that sleep deprivation impaired the hearing function of male and female participants’ in two tests that explore hearing levels in interesting ways:
- Staggered Spondaic Word Test defined as “A test of auditory processing abilities using equally stressed, two syllable words in which the first syllable of one word is presented to one ear and simultaneously the second syllable of another word is presented to the other ear.”
- Random Gap Detection Test defined as a test in which two stimuli, tones, clicks or a broad band of noise are played with some duration of varying lengths between them. The participant in the study is to identify when the gap between the two are heard as one sound or two.
Researchers concluded that a lack of sleep reduced both men and women’s ability to hear in both ears and perform well on both of these tests. “These findings confirm that sleep deprivation has central effects that may impair performance in other areas of life.” In other words, if sleep impairs one’s ability to hear, it follows that it will cause problems in all areas of life where hearing is essential to safety and personal performance, like driving and caring for young children.
The Hispanic Community Health Study found that sleep disruptions due to sleep apnea (pauses in breathing or shallow breathing during sleep ) could lead to hearing impairment. Researchers discovered that those with sleep apnea had a 30 percent higher chance of experiencing hearing problems.
If sleep is essential to protecting hearing, what are good sleep habits?
Six Tips for Healthy Sleeping
- Keep a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This helps to educate and train your body on the times of day it should awaken and lay down to sleep.
- Prepare your body and your brain for sleep. Turn off digital screens and avoid anxiety or energy-inducing stimulation an hour before bedtime. Practice relaxing habits right before bed that could include light reading, drinking decaffeinated tea, and/or practicing yoga.
- Prepare a sleep-inducing environment in your bedroom. Avoid having TV or other digital screens in the bedroom, keep the room a cool temperature between 60 and 67 degrees, and make sure the room is dark.
- Eat well for sleep. Avoid heavy meals, caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes before bed. They are all stimulants that can keep you awake. Even if alcohol makes you feel sleepy, as the body processes it you may wake up in the middle of the night.
- Update your mattress. A mattress is only good for nine or ten years. After that is needs to be replaced.
- The Sleep Foundation recommends using light to train your body to sleep. Stand in the sunlight in the morning and avoid bright light in the evening to signal wake and sleep times to your body.
For many, sleeping is something to do only when they have time. In reality, sleep is essential for high functioning of the mind and the body, as well as healthy hearing.