4 Ways Modern City Life Affects Your Sleep
Living in a big city is great. Every day is an adventure. Exhilarating and exhausting in equal measures. Modern city life affects your sleep, because if I’m so tired, why can’t I sleep?
City Life Affects Your Sleep
Well, maybe it’s because modern cities almost seem designed to keep us awake. They are loud, busy, bright and well, frankly, just too stimulating. While the majority of us now calls the city our home, our brains and bodies have still not evolved to catch up with the way we live now. This of course has major repercussions for our health, one of them being our ability to get a good night’s sleep.
Here are just some of the many ways in which living in a modern city affects our bodies’ ability to sleep.
1. Noise Pollution
Noise is probably the single biggest factor in city-related insomnia.
Whether it’s the screech of traffic from the highway outside your door, the rumble of a subway train under your feet or hearing your unhappily married neighbours Mike and Sharon having another slagging match, all contribute to the inescapable cacophony of the city.
Ear plugs, headphones and white-noise generators can all help to a certain extent. But when it comes to competing with the drone of an landing aircraft, the incessant wail of a siren at 3am, or a pack of rats fighting in the alley, even the most sophisticated of sleep aids will struggle.
Meditation helps, I hear. So does moving to a farm in Montana.
2. Light Pollution
Street lights, billboards, neon shop signs – with so much illumination it’s often hard to tell when the day ends and the night begins in the city.
Our bodies have evolved to associate sunlight with being awake, which is handy because the daytime is when we do most things. Yay!
Unfortunately, our monkey minds aren’t quite clever enough to distinguish between daylight and bright artificial lights. Boo!
This isn’t much of a problem in the countryside, where light pollution is at a minimum, but it certainly is in the big city. The sun may have set hours before but our bodies and minds are wide awake and still think it’s time to go hunting and gathering.
And, while there are many smart ways in which, as a society, we can turn down the brightness of our cities, there isn’t much you can do as an individual outside of your own home to avoid the lights. Unless, of course, you’re willing to be ‘that’ person who wears sunglasses at night!
Fortunately, however, equipping your bedroom – or better yet, your entire apartment – with low-wattage bulbs, motion sensors, better curtains or even blackout blinds can do wonders in preventing bright lights and light leakage ruining your sleep.
3. Long commutes
If you’re ‘lucky’ enough to live and work in one of the world’s great mega-cities – Tokyo, London or New York for example – the chances are that your commute to and from work is going to hit at least a couple of hours each day.
This means rising early and returning late.
The hours spent in work or travelling to and from work eat into the available hours to do other things. Things such as eating, seeing friends, playing with the kids, etc.
And, because there’s only a finite number of hours in the day, more often than not the thing that gets sacrificed is sleep.
True, flexi-time and remote working are becoming more fashionable. But we’re still a long way away from an evolved attitude to work that will see rush hours and long commutes as a thing of the past. Shame!
4. Stress in the city
Whether it’s due to the pressure of the job, the daily grind of the commute, or simply living so closely to so much humanity, the average person living in a city is more likely to be stressed than their counterparts in the countryside.
People who suffer from high levels of stress and anxiety are more likely to suffer from sleep problems, too.
It therefore stands to reason that, thanks to stress, city dwellers are losing more sleep than country folk. And unfortunately for these poor souls, thus begins an unfortunate cycle; with those who are stressed being unable to sleep and those who are unable to sleep becoming more stressed. Yikes!
Get out of town if you can.
Humans are immensely adaptable – we cope under all manner of stresses and strains, and what may be unbearable for one can be essential for another. But when it comes to living in cities, and all the many benefits that brings, it seems the sacrifice we all must pay is a sound slumber.
Until we start to design our cities smarter, taking into account the impact of noise and light pollution on our health, it seems unlikely that we’ll be getting much shut-eye anytime soon.
Sleepless in Seattle? More like sleepless everywhere! For now, at least.