Save Your Sleep, Your Hearing, Your Productivity and Maybe Your Marriage

shutterstock_148414400A friend of mine who is training to be a flight attendant asked me this question last night: “Do you have any advice as to how to get good sleep in a hotel? My first answer was “stay home.”

As I thought about it I realized that the same things that can keep you awake in a hotel can also plague you at home, during your flight to the hotel, or while you are trying to be productive. Thankfully there is a simple solution that many people refuse to try.

Noise is a culprit that robs us of sleep, productivity and peace of mind.  Here is how you can keep it from destroying your night or your flight!

Take advantage of the benefits of ear protection!  The benefits are so worthwhile.

1. You can sleep.

I have spent my life in hotels. They contain more sleep disturbing noises than a haunted house.

Doors slamming at all hours of the night,
Control systems that roar to life every 15 minutes
Children playing soccer in the hall, and
Paper thin walls that force you listen to whatever drama is unfolding in the next room.

At home, my sweet wife snores. Not an ugly “bulldog with nasal congestion” snore like mine, hers is more like the sound of oatmeal cooking. Pffft, Pffft, Pffft. Just enough noise to keep me staring into the darkness until dawn. I no longer hear it.  Some people use “white noise” like a fan that runs all night.  For me noise is noise no matter what the color.

Whether I am in a hotel or at home I don’t lay down to sleep until my earplugs are snugly in place.

2. You can save your hearing.

Years of riding on airplanes has left me with some hearing loss and low grade tinnitus, a ringing sensation, in my ears. The Journal of Canadian Acoustical Association reports noise levels in a commercial airplane average between 75 and 88 decibels. The ears of Ken Davis report  occasional wild cabin noises, squealing pa systems or angry babies that have raised the level much higher.

The minute I am seated, I don earplugs or noise canceling headsets, sometimes both depending on the age and temperament of the child sitting near me.

3. You can be much more productive.

You may never consider the affect that noise has on your ability to concentrate until you experience the amazing benefits of hearing protection and the joy of working in relative silence.

I’m ADHD to start with. A noise makes me look. A look makes me “wonder.” A “wonder” makes my mind wander, and eventually without realizing it, I have forgotten what I was doing.

Another study has shown that the level of noise you can experience in an airport, an airplane, on a busy street or in noisy restaurant has the same affect on your cognitive skills as having an alcohol blood level of .10%. [1]   That will get you arrested if you are driving in some countries!

My experience with hearing protection has been so positive that I wanted to share it with you.

The cheapest and best way to start is with earplugs. They come in a variety of shapes and textures. Try different brands until you find something comfortable.  Experiment!  Give yourself a couple of days to get used to them and join me in the land of peace and productivity. If you are interested, here is what I use.

Noise canceling headsets can be pricey but the benefits can make it worth the investment.  I am convinced there will be noise cancelling headsets in heaven.

[reminder]What has been your experience? [/reminder]
[1] Molesworth BR, Burgess M, Gunnell B. (2013). Using the effect of alcohol as a comparison to illustrate the detrimental effects of noise on performance. Noise & Health, 15, 367-373.


  1. Hmmm, I should try the earplugs on my next flight. I fly from Germany to the US about once a year, and my ears always feel really sore after so many hours of all those things you described. Hopefully it isn’t frequent enough to damage my hearing. They might help me sleep, too, since our two cats have got to be least cat-like creatures ever to romp around our room all night.

  2. When I discovered that ringing in my ears was Tinnitus, I first bought a good Noise Canceling headset and some ear plugs, (look in the hardware section for ear protection) I wear the ear plugs every time I mow the lawn and to bed. For flying, I put the headset on the second I’m in the plane, but turn them on after we’re up. (The attendants used to make sure they were off) Both are addicting, once you realize what you’re missing, it is like being deaf, but with a switch for hearing. My wife won’t let me wear them at the dinner table, however.

  3. In trying a few different ear plugs, I’d mostly not been able to wear them: due to the scritching sounds as they rub against the pillow or other things. I now wear those poofy soft ones, and cut them nearly in half – garnering quadruple the amount for my money and no scritching sounds. 🙂

    I’m thinking I may not get as much noise reduction by doing that, but, sleep is priceless in any form.

  4. Even though I just now read this, sorry, I have to weigh in on the earplug subject. THEY’RE WONDERFUL!! Our neighbor’s front door is very close to our bedroom window, and up here in Montana the sun sets VERY late in the summer. If I want to go to bed early, I must use my earplugs. (Their daughter only has one volume; HIGH).
    I had always used the silicone ones. You warm them in your hand then shove them into your ears. Some sound still got through.
    After my older sister was admitted to ICU with 3 brain-bleed strokes, (May, 2012, and she’s mostly OK now), I discovered the silicone earplugs did not have the highest decibel-blocking rating. (I had to buy her the one that blocked noise the best). The Purple Foam ones do.
    So of course I bought some for myself as well. Now if I’m napping or go to bed before my husband, the purple earplugs go in.
    It makes me feel cozy and secure, like I’m wrapped in a cocoon. They’re the best!

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