A tranquil night of sleep is ideal for us all. However, countless individuals struggle to achieve that outcome on a nightly basis. To get a full, peaceful night of rest, numerous sleepers turn to various sounds to fall and stay asleep.
Many associate noise with sleep disturbances, which is certainly the case regarding most of life's intruding sounds. But certain kinds of sound have the potential to do the opposite and enhance sleep quality. These assorted options are often called sleep sounds.
Most people tend to fall asleep more easily by diminishing or drowning out disruptive sounds around them using one or more of the nine background sleep sounds listed below. Reducing disruptive noise creates a quieter environment for the person to increase their odds of having a positive night's sleep .
Sleep and Sound
The more peaceful the setting, the better our sleep quality will likely be. Keeping noise levels low and minimizing sound reverberation around the room leads to increased potential for deep sleep and fewer occurrences of waking up in the middle of your rest . Various types of sounds can reduce outside noise disturbances while you rest .
Clinical analysis supports the hypothesis that particular sounds and types of music can increase sleep quality. One study concluded that sedative music around bedtime improved sleep quality and deep sleep duration in young adults. But it's not so cut and dry, as analyses have revealed that sound preferences vary by person--what genre or sound works for one person may not be ideal for you .
Further clinical analysis has suggested that sounds may help more than those suffering from sleep disorders. A study of fibromyalgia patients included that delta-embedded music set between 0.25 to 4-hertz frequency band of brainwave activity had the potential to induce sleep and serve as an alternative therapy for the condition .
Additional research has found that music can help promote sleep and reduce stress in older dementia patients . Research also suggests that many individuals benefit from sleep sounds, including those living in harsh auditory conditions, including New York City .
How Many People Use Sleep Sounds at Night?
Sleep sounds are utilized by countless numbers of people around the world each night. Numbers vary from study to study, but no matter the case, it's clear that a significant portion of the world turns to sleep sounds when they need rest.
One study found that 52% of adults surveyed said they use background noise to aid their sleep. Among the group, roughly 40% reported using music, while another 40% preferred nature sounds. However, the study noted that individuals relying on sleep sounds were 144% more likely to experience poor sleep quality than those who didn't use noise to sleep .
An online survey of 651 subjects revealed that 62% (403 people) reported using sleep sounds at least once in their life and that 50% of sleep-disorder patients surveyed reported using sound as a sleep aid .
At this time, we don't have definitive numbers regarding how many people use sound as a sleep aid on a nightly basis or in their lifetime. However, what is certain is that millions, if not billions, worldwide are using sleep sounds to lessen the impact of disruptive sounds.
Popular Types of Sleep Sounds
Opinions vary depending on the clinical resource. However, numerous studies have suggested that music can benefit innumerable individuals.
As mentioned above, music has been reported to work as a sleep aid for various individuals and age groups, including young adults. However, music is exceptionally subjective, with one song or genre working for one person and doing the opposite, or nothing at all, for the next.
A study of students found that relaxing classical music was an effective intervention for individuals experiencing sleep problems. Researchers concluded that nurses could use classical music as a safe, affordable, and effective way to treat insomnia .
In 2017, researchers noted that nature sounds alter brain connections, reducing the body's fight-or-flight instincts  . Much like music, each person responds to nature sounds differently, forming their own preference in the process.
Some of the most commonly used nature sleep sounds include:
- Rainfall: Gentle, rhythmic falling and tapping
- Ocean Waves: Rhythmic, calming, crashing
- Forest Ambience: Various sounds, such as blowing or rustling leaves, birdsong, or a light wind
- Babbling Brook, Moving River, Stream, etc.: Soothing, running water at various intensities
- Thunderstorms: Often heavy rainfall combined with thunder
- Wind Chimes: Relaxing, hypnotic, possibly nostalgic
- Frogs, Crickets, etc. at Night: Calm, quiet evening of one or more animals calling out
- Whale Sounds: Calming deep, clicks, whistles and calls
White noise is sound at equal intensity across all frequencies. Resembling the sound of TV or radio static, most associate white noise with a hissing noise. Some of the most popular sources of white noise include:
- White Noise Machines
- Air Conditioners
- Air Purifiers
- Bathroom Fans
- Heating Systems
- Online Videos and Soundtracks
- Radio Static
- Smartphone Apps
- Sound Conditioners
- Vacuum Cleaners
- Washing Machines and Dryers
While numerous analyses of white noise have produced positive results, some continue to question their effectiveness on sleep . Despite some holding onto uncertainty, various white noise options and noise alternatives have gained in popularity. They include the following three choices.
- Pink Noise: Unlike white noise, pink noise frequency decreases in power as it increases its octaves, creating a lower, consistent pitch. Popular sources of pink noise include sleep-specific noise devices and apps, ambient sound, and nature, such as moving leaves, light rain, running water, and wind.
- Brown Noise: Brown noise is defined by its deep, low, bass-focused pitches that decrease at twice the rate of pink noise. Some sources of Brownian noise come from more powerful natural sounds, including storms and waterfalls. Other sounds, like ambient noise and low tones of jet engines, have also been included in brown noise sleep playlists.
- Green Noise: Green noise amplifies mid-range frequencies, creating a sound some compare to a hissing. As such, many turn to TV and radio static for green noise. Nature sounds, like small babbling brooks and modest wind, are also used in addition to ambient noise.
Meditation is a mindfulness practice associated with numerous health benefits. Multiple studies have identified meditation for improving sleep quality by calming the mind through breathwork and awareness exercises  . There are numerous guided meditation apps to choose from. Or, you can go to your preferred music app or YouTube to find your ideal meditation from countless guided sessions.
Storytelling has persisted for ages. The age-old practice has been linked to improved sleep quality in various individuals, including hospitalized children . Additional studies have found positive results in adults who read at night compared to those who don't . Remember, though, some books and stories can keep you awake. Choose a different bedtime story if you find your heart racing or your excitement levels increasing.
Consider what worked as a child if you're stuck on which story to read or listen to. You don't need to read "Goodnight Moon," but choosing an adult equivalent featuring a positive, peaceful story that captivates the mind tends to work in most humans. And for those who find reading to be tedious, especially at night, consider a book on tape or some sleep-focused podcasts.
Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR)
ASMR covers a wide range of stimulating videos or sounds, producing pleasurable tingling sensations across the body linked to anxiety relief and improved sleeping. Popular ASMR sound sources include:
- Crisp Sounds
- Personal Attention Role-Plays
- Mouth Sounds
- Water Sounds
- Eating Sounds
- Keyboard Typing
- Page Turning
- Binaural Beats
YouTube, music players, and other online communities are a hotbed for ASMR options.
Setting Yourself Up for Sleep Success
Each sleep sound has the potential to provide individuals with rest and relaxation. While most people can find relief from one or more sounds, there is no uniform sleep sound solution.
Be prepared for some potential trial and error early on. Consider your own sleep and sound preferences, as well as the environment around you. By considering all the factors, you can decide the option that is most likely to be conducive to your sleep.
Sleep sounds are certainly helpful options for many seeking improved sleep. Additional options can be paired with sleep sounds or used in their place to create your ideal sleep setting. Some of the best ideas and practices include:
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule
- Rest in a comfortable sleep environment
- Eliminate or limit light exposure in the room
- Practice one or more relaxation techniques
- Avoid stimulants like caffeine in the late afternoon and evening hours
- Avoid sugar at night
- Avoid late-night eating
- Limit liquid intake before bed, especially alcohol
- Engage in physical activity but not too close to bed
- Switch to softer lights at night
- Limit midday and late-night naps
- Get adequate vitamin D exposure
- Consider the effects of any medications
By using one or more of these sounds and living practices, you may drastically improve your sleep quality and overall rest.
Still, not every sound works for every person. And in some rarer cases, none of the above will work. Seek the advice of a trusted medical professional if you continue to struggle with sleeping issues or disorders.