Do the littlest of sounds seriously grind your gears and make your skin crawl every single time you try to sleep? Maybe it’s the innocuous-looking clock with a second hand that ticks obnoxiously right outside your bedroom. Or perhaps it’s your poor partner who tends to unconsciously smack his lips as he sleeps. Even their breathing gets on your nerves. But no one else around you appears to be just as annoyed by any of these noises — and you just don’t understand it! Why does it always seem like you’re the only one who ever notices these sounds? Well, maybe now you’d be a little relieved to hear that you’re not all that alone. Many others around the world can relate just as keenly to your possible predicament. One word: misophonia.
What Is Misophonia?
Misophonia is a recently discovered neurobiological disorder that makes sufferers more sensitive to certain sounds than the average individual, to a point where it enrages them or makes them feel anxious. The word itself means ‘hatred of sound’. This is quite different from the psychiatric condition known as phonophobia, where sufferers are fearful of loud noises. Instead, misophonia sufferers can’t seem to help but feel irrationally furious or panicked whenever they hear certain soft noises. The types of sounds that may trigger such reactions vary but a recent study found that breathing sounds and chewing or smacking noises are among the most common triggers.
When sufferers hear these noises, their skin feels as though it’s crawling and they exhibit clear physical signs of anger, including clenched jaws and fists. Research has found that at least 15% of the world population suffers from misophonia and women are in the vast majority of this figure. The anxiety and rage may, in turn, drive some of them to lash out at others.
Not much is fully understood about the way misophonia works, besides the physical effects that it may have on the sufferer. However, the lack of available research has led to derision in others. What these people fail to realise is that the reactions from misophonia sufferers differ from the average individual’s reactions to universally annoying sounds. People with misophonia seriously struggle with their daily lives as a result of their disorder, with stress levels that often skyrocket at the expense of their health. They are quite literally in fight or flight mode every single time they’re exposed to these sounds, exhibiting intense physiological signs of anxiety and stress, such as elevated heart rate and sweating.
But what happens when misophonia stops you from sleeping? Misophonia can affect your sleep quality in different ways. For sufferers who cohabitate with their partners, misophonia has gotten in the way of their relationships all too often. It’s not simply about snoring either. In many cases, those who suffer from misophonia may end up staying awake all night, feeling frustrated and angry when they share their bed with a partner who so much as breathes, just a decibel too loud. And they’ve got dark circles underneath their eyes to show for it. Worse is the guilt that may consume some of these sufferers, especially when they try to be honest about it. They know that their significant others can’t help it and they’re all too aware of the hurt that they may inflict on them. The problem is that they can’t help it either.
The Misophonia’s Guide To Better Sleep
Despite how little scientists know or understand about the finer inner workings of misophonia, research has been more optimistic when it comes to treatment and therapy. Experts found that the use of neutral auditory distraction may be able to alleviate the distressing physical effects of misophonia. Other sufferers have also been able to benefit from cognitive behavioural therapy and are now better able to manage their symptoms in their daily lives. Here are a couple of strategies that you could try if you suspect that you suffer from misophonia:
Listen To White Noise Whenever You Sleep
Consider plugging in your earphones and listening to some white noise. If you’re unfamiliar with this term, white noise simply refers to a combination of all the different frequencies of sound. This combination of different frequencies is the reason why white noise is so effective at masking other sounds. Misophonia sufferers find that they can, therefore, finally sleep in peace. A simple search online would yield numerous videos of white noise on YouTube alone. In fact, you would’ve probably heard white noise at least once in your life without even searching for it. One example of white noise is the sound of a whirring fan. This is probably why some people find that they’re unable to sleep without their fans switched on and, instead, become extremely sensitive to other anxiety-inducing noises.
Use A Pair Of Earplugs
Earplugs are an oldie but a goodie, especially if you’re not willing to sleep with a comparatively bulkier pair of earphones or headphones. They may not be quite as effective as white noise when it comes to masking sounds, but it’s better than having to fix those dark circles under your eyes all the time, right?