Most of us struggle to sleep in a noisy environment, but certain sounds have been proven to help us fall asleep faster and stay asleep for longer.
If you’ve ever spent the night in a tent listening to the gentle pitter-patter of rain on canvas or drifted off to the sound of crashing waves, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Sound has the power to induce brain states that leave us feeling calm, content, and relaxed, setting us up for a night of deep sleep. It’s a simple, inexpensive, yet often underrated tool that can change our nighttime routines for the better.
But of course, sound doesn’t work for everyone, and some people prefer to fall asleep in a completely silent room.
Yet even if that’s you, silence is often hard to come by, and you might find that some gentle background noise helps block out unwelcome disruptions that can wake you from your slumber.
Proven Relaxing Sounds to Help You Sleep
Research shows that certain types of sound are more effective than others at improving the quality of our sleep.
So, in this post, I’ll explore five of the very best science-backed sounds to play in your bedroom at night, so you can quickly drift off into the land of nod and stay there until your alarm clock rings.
432 Hz Music
Music has a broad spectrum of frequencies. While some are energizing and invigorating, others promote a deep sense of relaxation, perfect for drifting off into a restful sleep.
Most popular music you hear on the radio is tuned to 440 Hz, but research has shown that a small tweak to 432Hz can have some powerful results, including helping us sleep.
A recent study published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care looked at the positive effects of 432Hz music on patients’ sleep cycles, and apparently, it all comes down to alpha waves.
Alpha waves are brain waves that are activated when you’re in a deep state of relaxation. They’re particularly active when you’re laying down with your eyes closed in the moments just before you nod off.
So, by inducing alpha waves with gentle 432 Hz music, you’re likely to fall asleep faster.
There are countless free 432 Hz sleep tracks to explore on streaming sites like Spotify or YouTube; everything from ambient EDM to traditional meditation chants, so there’s something to suit everyone’s musical tastes.
White noise is a form of ‘broadband noise’ that emits all frequencies in an equal distribution. It’s often compared to the static-like sound you hear on an old-fashioned, untuned television set or when you’re searching between radio stations.
White noise can decrease our brain’s response to sudden bursts of sound, such as a door slamming or a dog barking, which can jolt us out of our slumber.
Many people find that playing white noise in their bedroom helps to block out many of these disruptive sounds, allowing for deep and uninterrupted sleep.
So, if you live in a busy urban environment, it’s a particularly useful tool. In a recent study published by SleepMed, New York City residents enjoyed significant improvements in sleep quality when listening to white noise, proving its ability to shut out unwelcome wake-up calls.
But white noise doesn’t just stop us from waking up during the night. Research has also shown that it helps newborn babies fall asleep faster, which explains why many parents today have a trusty white noise machine in their little one’s bedroom.
And it’s not just babies that benefit. Another study found that adults fall asleep up to 38% faster when listening to these static tones.
If you’d like to try incorporating white noise into your sleep routine, there are plenty of dedicated white noise machines on the market. But if you don’t want to invest in a machine, you can still enjoy the benefits of white noise by using one of the thousands of free tracks available online.
Then all you need to do is find a pair of headphones, get comfortable, and see how quickly you drift off into dreamland.
Pink noise is a lesser-known type of broadband noise, but just like white noise, it’s a powerful tool to help you get a good night’s sleep.
But what’s the difference between these two types of color noises?
While white noise uses every frequency in equal measure, pink noise decreases three decibels in frequency with each increasing octave, resulting in a lower overall pitch.
If you’re not musically inclined, this might sound pretty technical, but don’t worry; you don’t need to know the complex mechanisms of pink noise to reap the benefits it can bring. Our ears do the tricky bit for us, translating that jumbled pink noise into a balanced and pleasing sound that induces a relaxed state. Some people compare it to the crashing of ocean waves or leaves rustling underfoot. It’s more intense than white noise but offers a deeper pitch, so it’s incredibly effective at calming a busy brain and helping you fall asleep faster.
And since pink noise isn’t as high pitched as white noise, many people find it even more effective at helping them fall asleep.
So, if you’ve already experimented with white noise but it didn’t work for you, don’t rule out broadband noises altogether. Give pink noise a try, and see if you notice an improvement in your sleep quality.
These days, there are plenty of affordable pink noise machines on the market, and just like white noise, there are endless free audio tracks to choose from online too.
In our modern, hectic lives, we’re becoming increasingly disconnected from nature, which is bad news for our sleep patterns and our health and wellbeing as a whole.
Unfortunately, we’re not all lucky enough to be able to escape the city and head off into the great outdoors whenever we feel the urge, but we can still bring some of mother nature’s soothing sounds to us and reap the benefits in our sleep.
In 2018, a study from the School of Nursing and Midwifery looked at how exposure to natural sounds affected sleep quality in coronary care patients. Not only did patients in the test group fall asleep quicker, but they also remained asleep for longer periods of time, resulting in a more rested state and overall better outcomes.
It’s no surprise that nature sounds can have such a big impact on our sleep. Who doesn’t feel better after a brisk walk in the forest or a gentle stroll along the beach listening to the lapping of the waves?
And thanks to research conducted by Brighton and Sussex Medical Schools, we now know why that is.
Dr. Cassandra Gould van Praag, who led the study, explains. “We are all familiar with the feeling of relaxation and ‘switching-off’ which comes from a walk in the countryside, and now we have evidence from the brain and the body which helps us understand this effect.”
According to Gould van Praag and her team, when we listen to artificial sounds, our brains automatically enter an inward state of focus and attention, cultivating feelings of anxiety and depression.
But when we listen to sounds from the natural world, the opposite happens. Our brain patterns switch to an outward focus of attention, where we act as the observer rather than the observed.
This, in turn, leads to greater feelings of relaxation and contentment, which also leads to better sleep. Not only that, nature sounds were shown to improve things like digestion, memory, and productivity, too!
But when it comes to boosting our quality of sleep, which nature sounds work best? Well, that part is really up to you.
Some of the most popular sleep aids are the sound of water, such as the crashing of waves, the gentle lapping of a calm sea by the shore, a distant raging waterfall, a babbling brook, or a simple pitter-patter of rain in a puddle.
Others prefer the sound of the wind in the trees, a gentle birdsong, or a soft chorus of crickets.
So, no matter where you live, you can listen to the sound of nature each and every night and enjoy the benefits of better sleep as a result.
There’s a myriad of nature soundtracks available online for free; all you need to do is put on your headphones, close your eyes, and let yourself be transported to another world.
ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response, is a relatively new term that describes a euphoric, calming, tingling feeling in the head and neck brought on by certain sounds or other stimuli.
Research suggests that ASMR is similar to the ‘flow state,’ that magical and creative state where time seems to stand still, our brains quieten down, and we become so deeply engrossed in whatever we’re doing that the world seems to melt away.
But ASMR doesn’t just feel great; it can also help you sleep better, too.
A 2019 study demonstrated that ASMR triggering sounds helped induce the brain signals needed to fall asleep while keeping participants in a deeply calm and relaxed state.
But what exactly are these ASMR triggering sounds?
The answer is different for everyone, but the latest research suggests that lower pitches induce ASMR more than higher-pitched sounds.
Bizarrely, the sound of whispering seems to be the most common ASMR trigger. Other sounds include humming, scratching, tapping, blowing, and page-turning.
Sound is a powerful, natural tool to help you sleep better and wake up feeling refreshed. And best of all, it’s free!
If you’re struggling to sleep at night, why not give one of the research-backed suggestions above a try, and see how the secret weapon of sound can transform the way you sleep.
There’s still a lot we don’t know about why sounds like these send us into a pleasurable, sleep-inducing state, but everything we do know indicates that ASMR could be a hugely effective tool for battling insomnia.
If you’re new to ASMR, there are plenty of free playlists on the likes of YouTube and Spotify, where you can explore the sound triggers that work best for you.