Well, it looks like science has confirmed what parents already know to be true: Living in constant noise means you’re more likely to be stressed out.
According to one of the most obvious studies ever, noisy environments are more likely to produce stress and tension in the body, while silence appears to have the opposite effect. A study published in the journal Heart found that two minutes of silence can be more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music.
No word yet on how parents are supposed to find these mystical moments of silence. Now, that’s a study I’d like to see.
My kids are 3 and 5. We are in the trenches, and it’s loud as fuck down here. They are constantly talking, screaming, or fighting. There’s always some sort of music, cartoons, or apps playing in the background. There are a variety of noisy toys that we’ve vowed to discretely destroy in the middle of the night.
There’s not a lot of silence going on in our house. And honestly, I think two minutes of silence when my kids are awake would be more alarming than relaxing to me. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way. My kids are at their quietest when they’re up to no good. Like that one time my daughter discovered a Sharpie and decided to decorate her room with it. Or the time my son wanted to see how many objects he could flush down the toilet at once.
So now, silence stresses me out. Thanks, kids.
Scientists have also confirmed that noise pollution can cause “decreased motivation and an increase in error-making.” That explains a lot, actually, because I can’t remember anything these days.
According the the American Psychological Association, cognitive functions such as reading attention, memory, and problem-solving are each affected by noise, which might help explain my constant mom brain.
To be clear, noise pollution in these studies refers to “households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways, or highways.” It’s a constant presence of loud noises, not specific to raising children.
But I’m assuming that people living in households constantly blaring Peppa Pig also have difficulty concentrating or even remembering what day it is. Although there aren’t any specific studies that I’m aware of that look at the correlation between British pigs and short-term memory. I think we can make some safe assumptions though.
So next time you feel guilty that you can’t recall one of your kid’s birthdays on demand, remember it’s not your fault. It’s the constant noise and lack of silence that’s slowly draining your brain power.
The good news is that when you are able to find some silence, the brain is able to recover some of its cognitive abilities. According to the Journal of Environmental Psychology, silence allows the brain to let down its sensory guard, and in doing so is able to restore some of what has been “lost” through excess noise.
So when your kids are in bed, and you don’t have the energy to do anything more than stare off into the distance in silence, don’t feel guilty about it. It turns out your brain needs, craves, and thrives from the occasional break from constant noise (AKA raising kids).
When those rare opportunities to enjoy silence do come around, treat yo’self. It’s good for you.