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Noisy Neighbours and Your Mental Health

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In our last blog post, the ultimate guide to ‘Dealing with a Noisy Neighbour’, we pointed out that you might be required to keep a ‘noise diary’ prior to approaching a magistrate with a view to persuading them to issue a summons under Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. A crucial part of that diary is recording “how the noise affected you”. But precisely how does the noise made by an antisocial neighbour affect its victim.

There is, of course, absolutely no doubt that nuisance noise can lead to a decline in mental health. In fact, it’s a matter of public record. According to three years of research carried out by the Danish Building Research Institute at Aalborg University Copenhagen and the National Institute for Public Health at the University of Southern Denmark, people with noisy neighbours were nearly two-and-a-half times more likely to suffer with depression and anxiety and almost three times as likely to demonstrate high levels of stress [1].

Although this research makes for interesting reading, chances are it’s only telling you what you already know. It’s common sense. Lack of sleep and the inability to relax is bound to affect your wellbeing.

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Sleeplessness and Your Health

The occasional night without a good sleep will do you know harm. You might feel irritable and distracted but it won’t detrimentally affect your health.  If the problem persists, however, things become far more serious. Even after just two or three days of insufficient sleep, your concentration levels and decision making abilities deteriorate measurably. This makes driving hazardous and makes you more prone to accidents.

Persistent sleeplessness:

  • Compromises your immune system, making you prone to a whole raft of illnesses.
  • Increases your weight by reducing the levels of leptin (the protein that tells you you’re full) and increasing the levels of ghrelin (the hormone that tells you you’re hungry).
  • Increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by compromising the way your body process glucose.
  • Reduces libido which can lead to relationship problems.
  • Increases the risk of heart disease by driving up blood pressure and over-producing chemicals which can inflame the heart.
  • Reduces fertility by impeding the production of reproductive hormones

All of these physical symptoms of sleeplessness have their psychological counterpart. Being overweight and ill whilst weathering the storm of a rocky relationship is, inevitably going to result in stress and depression. The inability to carry out tasks competently at work may lead to reprimands and make employment precarious, an additional stress trigger.

But all of this is significantly exacerbated by the direct psychological impact of sleep deprivation. Is it any wonder it is used as an interrogation technique and is, arguably, a form of torture? Here’s a brief description of the effect of sleep deprivation on an interrogee:

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“In the head of the interrogated prisoner, a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep... Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger and thirst are comparable with it.”

So, that’s just the effect of sleeplessness. What about the direct stress inflicted by a noisy neighbour, which, remember, according to those Danish studies, is three times more likely to occur where a nuisance noise is a factor.

The Physical Effects of Stress

  • Headaches
  • Chest pains
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Abdominal discomfort and pain
  • Sleeplessness
  • Fatigue

The Mental Effects of Stress

  • Irritability or anger
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of concentration
  • Lack of motivation
  • Feeling overwhelmed

All of these manifestations of stress and sleeplessness can become part of a spiral. For example, headaches are liable to make you irritable. That irritability will create tension between you and your friends, family and work colleagues which can leave you feeling socially isolated, which can lead to (or exacerbate) depression…

So, getting back to your ‘noise diary’, when you’re describing how the noise from your neighbour has affected you, you won’t be saying “the noise from my neighbours incessant drumming woke me up. I was very tired the next day.” You’ll be describing the effects of that sleeplessness, the effects of the stress: the anxiety, the headaches. You’ll be describing how your relationships have suffered, how you worried about your performance at work, how you don’t like to drive anymore…”

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If you are suffering from stress as the result of the antisocial behaviour of a noisy neighbour (or for any reason), don’t suffer in silence. Here are some links to advice and services that can help:

 

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[1] Rasmussen, Birgit and Ekholm, Ola (2015). Neighbour and traffic noise annoyance at home - prevalence and trends among Danish adults. European Journal of Public Health, cky091, https://doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/cky091

 

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