What Are the Best Sounds for Sleep?

Stellar Sleep discusses how sound can help improve your sleeping environment, the best sounds for sleep, and the benefits of each sound type.

Most people have heard that white noise can help people sleep, but did you know researchers have identified other “colors” of sound that can be beneficial? 

The spectrum of sound is vast, and each color has unique benefits — not just for sleep but also in other areas of your life. Let’s explore the best sounds to ensure a good night’s rest.

How Can Sound Support Sleep?

Even though we may not always be aware of it, we’re constantly taking in what’s happening around us — it’s part of how our body subconsciously keeps us safe from harm, and the sounds around you can also significantly impact your sleep quality. 

Choosing supportive sleep sounds to surround you when falling asleep can help you drift seamlessly off into dreamland. For example, ambient noise or the sound of birds chirping might help put you at ease, making it easier to wind down and relax. 

What Are the Best Sounds for Sleep?

There are many different “colors” of noise, including white, pink, brown, green, blue, and brown. In addition, other forms of sound can also help support quality sleep. 

So, how can you tell what the best sounds for sleep are? We’ve highlighted a few of the most popular types of noise, and how they may be able to help.

White Noise

White noise is easily the most well-known of the sound color spectrum. Like white light, white noise is a combination of many frequencies. Each operates at the same intensity, producing a sound similar to a whirring fan, a humming air conditioner, or a static radio or television. 

White noise is most helpful for masking environmental sounds, like traffic, downstairs neighbors, or pets. However, white noise can also help improve concentration.

That said, while there is plenty of research behind white noise, it’s not necessarily the most beneficial of the available options in every case. 

Brown Noise

Brown noise (sometimes called red noise) is a “deeper” sound than white noise, as the lower frequencies have more intensity than the higher ones. 

Instead of the higher-pitched static of white noise, brown noise is closer to the sound of thunder or a powerful waterfall. Brown noise may provide a slightly calmer sleeping environment for people who find white noise distracting. 

Nature Sounds

Nature sounds, like the sound of the wind rustling through the trees or a gentle rainstorm, have been relaxing people for ages — far longer than the technology to mimic these sounds has been around.

Researchers have discovered that these sounds help bring peoples’ attention outward into their environment, relaxing the nervous system and naturally reducing stress and anxiety. 

Relaxing Music

Although the idea of relaxing music is highly personalized and preferential, music in general can also help soothe you to sleep. In fact, we tend to make use of this theory from the moment we’re born — think about music boxes and baby mobiles on cribs to help children fall asleep.

Music doesn’t have to sound a specific way to be relaxing, it just has to make you feel at ease. If you use music instead of white or brown noise, keep the volume low and opt for softer songs that won’t distract you. 

ASMR

Thanks to social media, ASMR (short for autonomous sensory meridian response) continues to increase in popularity — and it may have a wide range of potential benefits. 

ASMR is different from the other sounds we’ve discussed. The goal of ASMR isn’t always to help you fall asleep, but instead to decrease stress and anxiety. ASMR might give you a “tingling” feeling that travels down your spine, and if you find the right sound, it can relax you enough to help you sleep more soundly. 

How Else Can You Get High-Quality Sleep?

In addition to using sounds for sleep, there are other ways that you can work to get longer, higher-quality nights of sleep. The quality of sleep you get involves physical factors (like pre-existing health conditions and sleeping environment) and psychological factors (like stress level and routine) — addressing sleep issues requires both of these factors to be involved in order to make long-lasting changes. 

Working with a coach knowledgeable in cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) can be a great place to start. These professionals can help you look honestly at what is and isn’t working for you and recommend ways to change your routine for the best quality sleep.

In addition, they’ll work alongside you to improve your sleep hygiene or the set of habits surrounding your sleep. Sleep hygiene includes your bedroom temperature, how supportive your mattress is, how dark you keep your room, when and how you exercise, and what you choose to eat and drink during the day.

However, sleep hygiene can’t always “fix” issues on its own. The real key is looking at the psychological factors impacting your sleep, which you shouldn’t have to do alone. Overcoming sleep disturbances like insomnia can feel challenging, so it’s best to reach out for help to understand the factors stopping you from getting the best sleep possible. 

The Bottom Line

While everyone has their own opinions on the best sounds for sleep, everyone is unique, and it’s important to find the right one to get your best quality of sleep.

Work with a CBT-I coach to customize your routine and address any issues stopping your rest from being as restorative and supportive as you deserve. You can also take our free sleep quiz to better understand your sleeping habits and how to address them.

Sources:

How Researchers Are Beginning to Gently Probe the Science Behind ASMR | Smithsonian

Differential effects of white noise in cognitive and perceptual tasks | PMC

It’s true: The sound of nature helps us relax | ScienceDaily

Noise as a sleep aid: A systematic review | PubMed

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