7

votes

Is silence really unnatural?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created February 19, 2012 at 10:48 PM

I understand this question has been sort of posed in respect to sleeping habits, but i wish to rephrase it in relation to all-around daily activity AND sleep.

The theory that i have heard is this in a nutshell (a la Dan Benjamin at 5by5): Throughout the majority of mankind's existence we have actually evolved to be very aware of noises around us and contrary to popular belief, nature is actually very noisy. We have evolved to treat silence as an unnatural state because in environments such as a rainforest when a predator is spotted stalking, everything in the environment immediately shuts up.

He states some examples of anthropologists or people in tv shows going to spend time with modern day tribal communities in the rainforest and being completely unable to sleep because it is so loud, while the tribe members are sound asleep.

My Question is this: Do you buy this? While this theory may be correct, does it then make sense to say that listening to music frequently is a "natural" thing to do? I wonder because i find myself listening to music or some sort of white noise throughout my day at work and reading and etc. I have reached a point where i have become uncomfortable in the presence of silence and find that to be an unhealthy trait to have, or maybe that is conventional wisdom nonsense.

What are your experiences with this? Do you prefer silence or noise in your daily routine and sleep?

Also, and by "silence" i suppose i mean no added noise, as i understand that it is very rare that things are ever truly silent.

Thank you!

0d0842381492a41b2173a04014aae810

(4875)

on February 20, 2012
at 05:00 PM

Enjoying that UneXpect song, thanks!

246ebf68e35743f62e5e187891b9cba0

(21420)

on February 20, 2012
at 04:58 PM

Jen - my only problem growing up in similar circumstance was when a cricket found it's way into your room. GAH! MAKE.IT.STOP! :-)

0e2772604bdb3627525b42d77340538b

(953)

on February 20, 2012
at 03:40 PM

Ditto for me. Nature noises don't bother me.

76d70438d2442d21206b8e5528d23d23

(1098)

on February 20, 2012
at 01:58 PM

Ditto this. I grew up on a farm a quarter-mile from the old dirt road, and a little further than that from the nearest neighbors. Man-made noises, especially traffic and TV, bug the heck out of me. Love the sounds of crickets, frogs, and whippoorwills at night! Music sometimes helps and sometimes doesn't, but can't be an all-the-time thing.

E3267155f6962f293583fc6a0b98793e

(1085)

on February 20, 2012
at 11:19 AM

I am this way also. Man made noise is best kept to a minimum for me. I find it very stressful.

  • 3fb75985f0f5c67dff924ee66f315ad8

    asked by

    (35)
  • Views
    2.5K
  • Last Activity
    1282D AGO
Frontpage book

Get FREE instant access to our Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!

10 Answers

7
Ed983a42344945b1ff70fd9597a23493

on February 19, 2012
at 11:13 PM

My ideal in regards to noise in my sleeping or waking hours would be to create an environment in which human noise is minimized as much as possible and non-human noise is all or most of what is heard. When I'm camping, other than the humans I'm camped with, I hear the river, birds, and other wildlife, and occasionally an airplane. That is as natural as it gets for me, and I imagine that sounds of water, wind and wildlife are all that our ancestors heard the majority of their lives. I sleep incredibly well while camping, but at home, being unable to recreate the sounds of nature, I prefer music by day, silence by night.

76d70438d2442d21206b8e5528d23d23

(1098)

on February 20, 2012
at 01:58 PM

Ditto this. I grew up on a farm a quarter-mile from the old dirt road, and a little further than that from the nearest neighbors. Man-made noises, especially traffic and TV, bug the heck out of me. Love the sounds of crickets, frogs, and whippoorwills at night! Music sometimes helps and sometimes doesn't, but can't be an all-the-time thing.

246ebf68e35743f62e5e187891b9cba0

(21420)

on February 20, 2012
at 04:58 PM

Jen - my only problem growing up in similar circumstance was when a cricket found it's way into your room. GAH! MAKE.IT.STOP! :-)

3
778b36f4f699f202de135ef176fe9ab7

on February 20, 2012
at 02:54 AM

I don't know about everyone else, but noise freaks me out. I HATE loud man made noise. I don't know if I get over stimulated, or what, but I literally get agitated and have a hard time functioning. I want SILENCE. Noise drives me nuts...

E3267155f6962f293583fc6a0b98793e

(1085)

on February 20, 2012
at 11:19 AM

I am this way also. Man made noise is best kept to a minimum for me. I find it very stressful.

0e2772604bdb3627525b42d77340538b

(953)

on February 20, 2012
at 03:40 PM

Ditto for me. Nature noises don't bother me.

2
Cb8e3d1dc1aa687d6c3960fd477b81c2

on February 19, 2012
at 10:56 PM

What is natural for one person is against another one's nature. Be true to what you are, regardless of what others say is normal or natural. Even if you feel you want to change what you are to something different, acknowledging your nature at this very moment will save you a lot of trouble.

1
Bdf98e5a57befa6f0877f978ba09871c

on February 20, 2012
at 04:46 PM

The theory may be true with regard to people living in rural settings, or closer to the earth in general, sure. Silence on my parents farm is a noticeable event like you describe -- suddenly you don't hear other birds, squirrels, etc. Look up, and a hawk or owl is overhead. But that's very different from wishing for silence in a city. I live in New York, and I leave the city to have some relative peace and quiet. While the theory may be right that we evolved to have some noise, we aren't evolved for ceaseless urban noise.

1
319cdfcd8ec0467f34a3c5aeb2a5e045

on February 20, 2012
at 10:37 AM

I work in a noisy environment all day - usually music, and it could be two or 3 different kinds of music at any given time. It drives me NUTS! I cant wait to get home to: 1) a quiet apartment with the creaks, neighbor footsteps, and fridge buzzing that I'm used to or , curled up next to husband sleeping and a train whistle outside Best of all is if it's raining outside - HEAVEN!

As far as what wakes me up, the usual construction stuff, and neighbors arguing. The most annoying by far was when we had neighbors that played very loud mariachi music late at night. I'm not joking when I say it made me hungry. After growing up going to Mexican restaurants, it was almost a Pavlovian response to want chips and salsa!

1
C4134ed417dbc0a6b79ab2cee32632d3

(1801)

on February 20, 2012
at 08:38 AM

My kids sleep through lots of noise. Although, since being babies, they have always had a startle reflex with unexpected sounds.

I take my cues from them mainly as to what's normal iykwim!

People comment on our noisy letterbox and a neighbour (who had a hearing impairment) has complained about the wind noises in his house. I sleep through most weather, but was woken up once with a massive clap of thunder (to be expected I'd say).

I think that depending on each individual, we're adapted differently - some of us may be more sensitive than others to loud noises.

I don't think that silence is all that common or normal, but perhaps some people (perhaps someone with ASD?) may need a quieter sleeping environment than another?

1
2870a69b9c0c0a19a919e54cb3a62137

(1520)

on February 19, 2012
at 11:18 PM

Partaking in this kind of music is natural.

Listening this kind of music isn't natural, but it's awesome.

If you did it all day, there'd be something wrong. Low level sounds are natural, but there is a reason we react to loud sounds.

Music is as distracting as noise: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11964204

0d0842381492a41b2173a04014aae810

(4875)

on February 20, 2012
at 05:00 PM

Enjoying that UneXpect song, thanks!

0
B11d61f28c8fd0545dadb7a3b6b5e354

on February 21, 2012
at 02:40 AM

One of my favorite things in life is to experience the total silence of the desert. There are times I think I actually need to experience it every now and then. Conversely, I think that people feel overly entitled to make noise that others can hear. Loud mufflers, blasting music, and horn honking that has nothing to do with avoiding danger are all sonic forms of marking territory - no less brutish than marking one's turf with bodily fluids.

0
45e51fee7d295e523ff4134f76c3ba05

(923)

on February 20, 2012
at 12:56 PM

We live in the country where it is very quiet. On summer nights, you can hear the train going down the tracks 10 miles away and the Friday night car races, which are about 8 miles away. Visitors always remark on how quiet it is.

At night, we always use a "rain machine", just to drown out any sounds of cars, neighbors, etc.. since sound does travel so far out here. If we didn't use it, we'd be waking up every time a car goes down the road.

I tend to agree with that theory, especially because my dogs go on alert every time they hear an unusual noise. You become accustomed to the natural sounds and anything out of the ordinary really gets your attention.

0
51b472fa449ab0e5433f27dcd799fedd

(1091)

on February 20, 2012
at 05:58 AM

If I recall correctly, in that episode Dan wasn’t necessarily saying music was the antidote to silence, even though the context was that Marco was talking about listening to music while working. His theory was more towards noise in general, and in fact I think he mentioned that music could be distracting. Keep in mind that even in the “quietest” environment there is often some sort of background noise, such as an air conditioning vent or people chatting in the background etc.

Shortly after that episode I downloaded WhiteNoise, and holy crap has it made a difference in my ability to fall asleep. Before using that app, it would always take me at least half an hour to fall asleep; ever since using that app, I almost always fall asleep within a half hour. Probably helps that it kind of replicates my childhood, where during the summers it would be 120 degrees with no A/C so I would have to leave my windows open and listen to all the wind and wildlife while trying to fall asleep.

Answer Question


Get FREE instant access to our
Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!