The best sounds for a blissful night’s sleep
Whether you live in a noisy environment, feel stressed or anxious, there’s a variety of reasons why you may sometimes struggle to sleep. If you’re looking for a way to get a good night’s sleep and not quite sure what to do to help you achieve this, then you could give certain sounds a try. Sounds such as white noise and ocean waves enhance a sense of calm and relaxation, helping you to drift off into a peaceful slumber.
Our response to sound is truly unique and individual and it can stimulate negative and positive emotions. When trying out different sounds for the first time to help you sleep, pay close attention to what really relaxes you and see how you respond. You may find you have a better reaction to gentle, rhythmic sleep sounds or you might prefer something melodic. There are many free sleep sounds available that you can try so you can figure out what works best for you.
Read on to discover the best sleep sounds and how they can help you to fall asleep.
White noise is effective at masking other noises that can lead to disrupted sleep and is a mixture of all sound frequencies at once, at the same level of intensity.
Just like a whirring fan, white noise provides a stream of sound that is steady and even. This even distribution of noise is thought to help reduce the brain’s reactivity to spikes in volume, so environmental noises such as the slamming of doors and car horns are less likely to disrupt your sleep. You can get white noise through an app or you can buy a dedicated white noise machine, which may offer better sound quality.
Most people are familiar with white noise, but emerging research shows that pink noise may also be beneficial for sleep. So what is pink noise? Pink noise contains a range of all audible frequencies, with more power in the lower frequencies, and is often considered more relaxing than white noise, as it’s not as high pitched. This type of sound closely mimics noises found in nature, such as rain, wind, waterfalls and ocean waves.
Pink noise has shown to have a positive impact on sleep, in that it can help you to fall asleep faster and improve deep, slow-wave sleep (1). Furthermore, a study has shown that exposure to pink noise at night can lead to better memory recall (2).
Ocean waves are a popular sleep sound and the rhythmic crashing of water onto the sand or rocks can provide a calming and soothing feel. The sound of ocean waves creates a sense of relaxation, happiness and gentle focus, making it deeply relaxing. In fact, it’s not just the sound of the ocean waves that are good for relaxation and sleep, other water noises can have the same effect.
You may also want to try listening to the sound of the rain or a stream to help you drift into a peaceful slumber. The main thing with water sounds is that they need to have gentle and gradual variations in the intensity of the moving water - this will help to counteract any sudden and abrupt noises that usually wake you up.
Nature sounds, such as the noise of a forest or the wilderness, can help you to wind down before bed. Listening to nature sounds also reduces awakenings during the night and improves sleep quality too. Research carried out by scientists at the University of Sussex has shown that nature sounds lead to an increase in outward-focused attention, rather than inward-focused. Attention that is inward-focused is linked to stress, anxiety and depression, all of which can have a negative impact on sleep.
Lower blood pressure, a slower heart rate and reduced anxiety are all benefits of listening to relaxing music, which in turn leads to a better night’s sleep. Music can decrease the time it takes to fall asleep and improves sleep quality But how exactly does music affect sleep? Music promotes better sleep by helping to reduce levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, and so you feel more relaxed and at ease. It also triggers the release of dopamine, boosting good feelings at bedtime and lowering pain levels too. Try to keep your music on the calm-side though as dopamine is a wake promoting neurotransmitter, and too much can make you stay awake.
When choosing music for sleep, one thing to take into consideration is the tempo. Studies have shown that music with a slow rhythm, between 60-80 beats per minute, is ideal as the normal resting heart rate is within this range and so the body may sync up with slower, more soothing sounds (3).
Meditation and mindfulness promote a relaxed state of mind, which is beneficial when it comes to falling asleep. There are various meditation soundtrack apps that are specifically created to help you sleep. These meditation apps can include narrative storylines, breathing programs and soundscapes, all designed to help with sleep. A study has shown that these types of apps may contribute to better sleep quality, as well as reduced daytime sleepiness and fatigue (4).
the best sleep environment
In addition to making use of sleep sounds, you should also make sure to create the best sleep environment to ensure a perfect night’s rest. Some ways to improve your bedroom space include:
Ensure your bedroom is cool and comfortable for sleep
Make sure the room is as dark as possible
Avoid watching TV or working in your bedroom
Choose comfortable bedding
Replace your mattress if it’s more than 8 years old
Clear out clutter to enhance a sense of calm and relaxation
Reference 1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22726808/, Reference 2. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00109/full, Reference 3. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/noise-and-sleep/music, Reference 4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33411779/