The Question: Do deaf people sleep better at night than hearing people?

Posted on May 8, 2014

Do deaf people sleep more peacefully than hearing folk? This question occurred to me when we were buying our house last year.

Our house is next to a main road, but since my wife and I are deaf, we had no worries over the prospect of being disturbed by traffic noise. We just wouldn’t hear it. So we went ahead and bought the house.

Meanwhile, a (non-deaf) friend who lives up the road told me that when they were looking for a house, he and his wife never looked at any houses on main roads because he’s so sensitive to sound at night.

He would literally wake up if he heard any sound at all, whether it was a bird cheeping in the morning or a car door being shut down the road. For him, buying a house by a road meant he might face years of disturbed sleep.

I’ve also long known that being married to someone who is also deaf also means I’ve got away with being a chronic snorer.

I’ve always snored – I remember hearing friends complaining about it when I stayed over at their houses when I was a child. Yet my wife sleeps soundly, no matter how loudly my nasal passages vibrate. I guess this is a whole other question: would I be happily married if my wife was hearing? Discuss…

Of course being disturbed by sound isn’t the only reason people have trouble sleeping. Stress, medication, depression or jet lag can give people insomnia, whether you’re deaf or not. But I’d guess that being able to hear makes sleeping well much harder if you suffer from any of the above (or are lucky enough to have been abroad).

I doubt whether I could sleep soundly if I was suddenly able to hear. I’ve always slept without hearing aids on, but once or twice, as a student, I accidentally went to sleep with them still on (I confess, I’d had a few drinks) and found I had disturbed nights filled with vivid, unsettling dreams – influenced by the fact that I could hear sounds (including my own snoring!) while I was asleep.

I’m so used to sleeping in relative silence that curiously, relatively minor sounds can wake me up. A few weeks ago, a smoke alarm in our bedroom made a bleeping sound at night, because its battery had gone flat. I didn’t know what the sound was, but I could hear the beep (which occurred every minute or so) faintly and eventually I woke up, felt a bit confused for a while, then, after putting my hearing aids on, found out what it was.

When I mentioned this article to our Deputy Editor, Andy Palmer, he mentioned two things in relation to deafness and sleeping.

First, that his deaf son sleeps soundly even if Andy’s got people round at his house and music is on loudly. Second, he mentioned that his deaf mother can’t hear Andy’s dad snoring – but that she does get disturbed by the vibrations (!).

So deafness helps us deaf folk sleep – but hearing insomniacs who might be considering crossing over to the deaf side, be warned: it doesn’t solve everything.

So, do you think that since we can’t hear so much, deaf people sleep more soundly than hearing folk, or not? Tell us in the comments below!


By Charlie Swinbourne. Charlie is the editor of Limping Chicken, as well as being a journalist and award-winning scriptwriter. He broke the ‘fake’ interpreter story on this site, and writes for the Guardian and BBC Online. As a scriptwriter, he penned the films My SongDeparture Lounge and Coming Out, and has just written and directed short film The Kiss and the half-hour comedy Four Deaf Yorkshiremen go to Blackpool(which is out on the BSL Zone on the 19th May). 



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