Having trouble drifting off to dreamland? Your sleep environment might be too quiet. Seriously! Studies have shown that perfect silence keeps some people from falling asleep and getting a truly restful snooze. Turns out, some background noise might actually be beneficial.
While a fire truck rolling down the street or the bar next door blaring music might not be the recipe for a peaceful slumber, ambient sounds might soothe you right to sleep. Ambient sounds, also known as background noise, are sounds such as rain falling softly on the roof, waves crashing in the distance, or even your air conditioning unit running. But what makes these noises different from the traffic outside your window?
Ambient sounds create a level of steady, consistent background noise that blocks out any disruptive noises that might disturb your sleep. In some instances, “some sounds are actually said to put the brain into a more relaxed and sleep-ready state” (Premier Health). So what are some of the sounds that can improve your quality of sleep?
Natural sounds like a light rain storm, rolling surf in the distance, or wind are obviously not available on demand, so using a ceiling fan, air conditioning unit, or white noise can do the trick too. All of these sounds are highly ranked as the most soothing sounds to fall asleep too. Many people invest in a sound machine or download an app on their phone that offers a variety of these calming sounds.
What have studies shown about the effects of noise and sleep satisfaction? Most research focuses on the effects of white or pink noise on sleep. White noise, “is noise that contains equal energy per frequency. Every point on the frequency spectrum is delivered with equal volume” (Premier Health). On the other hand, pink noise “contains equal energy per octave, which has the effect of emphasizing lower-pitched frequencies and more closely matching the makeup of natural sounds” (Premier Health). In one study, “researchers investigated the effect of broadcasting white noise into the rooms of hospitalized patients and found that white noise improved sleep quality over the course of three nights. A study of patients who were having trouble sleeping showed that white noise helped them fall asleep 38% more quickly” (Sleep Foundation). In addition to these studies, people have said that the use of background noise helps to distract them from anxious or intrusive thoughts and prepares the mind for sleep.
If you’re having trouble falling asleep at night, it might be worth adding some background noise to your nighttime routine. Try out the steps below to see if you notice a difference in your sleep satisfaction!