Why are sounds important to sleep?

As we sleep, our brains can process sounds. Our auditory complex functions almost in the same way when we are sleeping than it does when we are awake. This complex directs our attention to the novelty of noise and compares it to the noises we hear in our bedrooms. 

If sound is placed directly on our ears, we are able to tune out unnecessary noises and allow for our brains to process more pleasing noise. Without sleep, we may experience trouble focusing, shifting moods or irritability, blurred vision, memory problems or momentarily memory lapses.

Can music help me sleep?

According to research, there is an abstract reward to listening to music. Eating and sleeping both release dopamine. We often feel rewarded when listening to music because it provides us with a sense of happiness and relief. Pleasant sounds are often more pleasing because our brains can make positive associations. When we are sleeping, we should focus more on music that makes us feel happy, relaxed and at peace.

When are noises most likely to wake me up? 

Many individuals lack sleep because of constant changing noises in their environment. Learning how to control these changes could be the key to understanding it’s simply the unexpected changes in noise levels. The Sleep Foundation reports that noises are more likely to wake people from light sleep (stages 1 and 2) than deep sleep (stages 3 and 4).

“The intensity and severity at which noise impacts sleep is somewhat individual though, and some people are more sensitive than others. One study found that brain rhythms play a role in people’s ability to tolerate noise. Generally, noises are most likely to wake people during stage 2 sleep, the light, non-REM cycle we spend about half the night in. Age also factors in, with studies showing children and elderly people to be most vulnerable to sound disruptions.” [1]

How Can Sound Help Us Sleep? 

Even so, sleep is an individual process. Some people seem to find getting to sleep easier than others. As sleep patterns change throughout our life spans, it’s important to focus on what helps us sleep versus what may work against us while we sleep. As we channel our way through puberty and adulthood, the need for a deeper sleep becomes more apparent.

So how can we focus more on positive sleep and less on the distracting noise around us?

How Can I Minimize Sounds That Wake Me Up?

  • Run dishwashers and laundry machines well before bedtime.
  • Turn off kitchen appliances such as ice makers which periodically make noise and could startle you in the night.
  • Create a noise buffer between your bedroom and the rest of the house. If you can't control noises outside of your bedroom, place a rolled up towel under your door to dampen the sound.
  • Turn your television or electronics off well before bedtime. Let your ears and mind adjust to the quiet.
  • If a partner’s snoring is what’s keeping you up, check out noise-canceling earphones. Please note that excessive snoring may be the result of other, more critical sleep issues so it's well worth a trip to the doctor to rule that out.


Sound Sleep Tricks for a Better Night's Sleep


Use music or sounds to help you sleep better

If you are a music lover, music can be a great way to fall asleep. Just avoid music that may be full of distracting lyrics. Look for a rhythm of about 60 to 80 beats per minute (BPM). These songs are more likely to be jazz or folk sounding, but at least there is such a wide variety in these genres! Many streaming services offer specialized playlists. If you like having sounds but don't want the distraction of music, white noise can be used to mask background noises that are distracting you from sleep.

Try a guided meditations to let your mind relax

Sonima is a comprehensive website dedicated to guiding individuals through 10-minute meditations and sleep tapes. Each meditation is accompanied by a guide to help individuals alter their view on sleep and bring forth new ideas regarding how our sleep patterns affect our moods. Similarly, Pzizz is an app that helps listeners fall asleep to the sound of relaxing voices. If you enjoy listening to an individual speak rather than the sounds of nature, give Pzizz a try.

Muscle relaxation meditations are also known as sleep hypnosis meditations. According to research, a person undergoing hypnosis is actually in a hyper-attentive state. In simple terms, this means a person is highly open to suggestion. That means the individual can quietly guide themselves to sleep because they are highly focused inward. 

Experiment with Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR)

ASMR or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response is a more unusual way to guide yourself to sleep. It is a term used to describe the tingling sensation on the skin that begins with the upper scalp and moves down the neck into the spine.

  • Autonomous – spontaneous, self-governing, within or without control
  • Sensory – pertaining to the senses or sensation
  • Meridian – signifying a peak, climax, or point of highest development
  • Response – referring to an experience triggered by something external or internal [2]

It is a type of low-grade euphoria that can be experienced by listening to music and sounds specifically designed to alter your state of mind. Some refer to this method of relaxation as a means to trigger your sleep patterns. To check out The Best of ASMR videos for the ultimate tingling sensation while you sleep.

Silence can be the most relaxing sound of all

Some people prefer to sleep in silence. For those of us who enjoy sleeping in silence, it may be because we have positive associations with silence. If we have positive sleep associations, we much prefer sleeping in silence. If we find silence to be uncomfortable or distracting, sleeping in silence probably won’t benefit us. If you find pleasure in silence, do your best to eliminate noises in your environment so that you are able to.

Whether you like silence, noises or music filtered directly into your ear, finding a sleep routine can be difficult but manageable. Sometimes the best way to fall asleep is by simply focusing on your desire to sleep.