Do you struggle to sleep at night? For a variety of different reasons, so do others, whether it be stress, what we’ve eaten, our surroundings, or just plain old noise. But not all noise is bad, there are sounds to help you sleep.
Most of us can remember a time when our mothers sent us to sleep by softly singing us a nursery rhyme or humming to us until we peacefully drifted off to sleep. Why can’t it still be that simple? Many sounds will help us to drift off to sleep, but what actually works is dependent on the individual.
Whether it’s waves lapping at the shore, the sound of the wind or the hum of the washing machine, some sounds will make us feel soothed and relaxed and help us drift off to sleep, while others can make us feel on edge and annoyed, keeping us awake at night.
Why do certain sounds help us get to sleep?
When the brain picks up on a sound, it assesses how threatening it is. The sound of waves lapping at the shore is predictable and rhythmic so the brain is unlikely to consider it a danger, whereas high pitched noises can be startling and trigger a threat. In general, our brains tend to feel more relaxed and at ease in response to lower frequencies of sound, as well as repetitive sounds. Incredibly popular are nature sounds for sleep. A study by researchers at BSMS and reported by Science Daily, identified how sounds of nature impact our brain and help us sleep:
“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.
“When listening to natural sounds, the brain connectivity reflected an outward-directed focus of attention; when listening to artificial sounds, the brain connectivity reflected an inward-directed focus of attention, similar to states observed in anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.”
What are the best sleep sounds?
In no particular order, here are some of the most popular and effective sleep sounds:
1. White noise
One of the most popular sounds for sleep is that of white noise, which is known for its calming effects, as it masks high and low-frequency noise pollution. Those who struggle to sleep purchase white noise machines to cut out the noise around them, especially the type of people who find that the slightest noises keep them awake at night; such as dogs barking, their spouse snoring or the sound of cars. The white noise devices work two ways: by blocking distracting noises, and by producing soothing sounds that are relaxing and help to induce sleep.
2. Waves and oceans
Whether it’s gentle waves lapping the shore or the sounds of sea birds and the crash of ocean storms, the seas are a great listen when we’re trying to sleep. Dreamy, ethereal, and ready to help us float away, they’re an ideal addition to any sleep playlist. Here’s what SeaChest.co.uk had to say about ocean sounds for sleep:
“Ocean sounds are the antithesis to the startling noises that trigger our threat responses – representing ‘non-threatening’ sounds that are typically quieter and only gradually vary in volume. The slow crashing and swelling of sea sounds are a naturally calming veil of noise that is soothing and relaxing to the brain. We, therefore, process these ocean sounds in a very different way to more abrupt noises, allowing us to relax and even sleep through these non-threatening types of audio.”
3. Rainforest & woodland
The gentle hum of insects, the calls of canopy birds, the slow drip of rain from last night’s torrents – the rainforest is a hotbed of noise and activity. But when recorded as a whole and taken as one, these noises become rhythmical and relaxing. And according to health.com, these fluctuations in sound are actually beneficial for sleep!
“Natural noises are less likely to annoy us than some other sounds because they usually include fluctuations in amplitude and frequency.”
4. Rainfall and storms
“According to studies when rain sounds enter our brain, our brain unconsciously relaxes and generates alpha waves, resulting in a state similar to sleep. The sound of rain helps us relax and we feel comfortable.”
5. Classical piano music
While the benefits of lullabies and relaxing music are widely known for babies, it’s less known how effective classical music can be for all age groups. One study identified how adding music to your sleep routine can cut the time it takes to fall asleep in half.
“Results indicated that the use of music decreased time to sleep onset and the number of nighttime awakenings. Consequently, it increased satisfaction with sleep. Nurses may wish to recommend the use of music at bedtime to older women with insomnia.”
What are the best sleep sound apps:
Aside from Spotify and Youtube, there are many apps on your phone that can act as a white noise machine or are full of relaxing sounds to help you to get to sleep. We’ve listed our 3 favourites below:
This app contains ambient sounds and allows you to create your own mixes, so you can choose the sounds that you find the most sleep inducing. The sounds create a relaxed environment and aim to help you drift into a cyclical sleep pattern. It also has a sleep timer with a slow fade out, and alarm clock with slow fade-in to wake you up gently. Best of all, it’s easy to use!
Helping you to unwind and reduce stress, this application has a large sound catalogue that will help you to drift off. If there is a particular sound that helps you to get to sleep, you can record and loop additional new sounds with ease. You can control the app from your lock screen or using headphones that have a remote control. Advanced Settings let you adjust sound volume, balance, pitch, mixing with iPod music, looping the playlist, custom alarm snooze times, and more.
Create a playlist with your favourite mix of sounds. You can choose from 40 high-quality relaxing sounds, including ocean waves, insects, train rides, thunderstorms and campfires. The sounds will be teamed with 40 retina images to help you really unwind and relax, to send you to sleep. The sound timer allows you to stop the audio at your discretion, so you can adjust the settings on the app to suit you.
Remember: what works for one person will not necessarily work for you. Some people will have better results with rhythmic and gentle sounds, while others will have better results from a melody.
There are some who will react better to a repetitive sound, while others may benefit better from random sounds. It’s a matter of trial and error to discover what’s best for you.