A large percentage of Americans (seventy million of us!) have trouble sleeping; insomnia, apnea, and physical and emotional distress are wreaking havoc with our sleep. Allowing yourself to sleep better can be a challenge. Good quality sleep is an absolute necessity for overall health—a need that doesn’t change or vary among the population.
You can help yourself get the good sleep you need by first identifying what it is that is keeping you awake—is it the temperature in the room? An injured back? Stress? By knowing the problem, you can take steps required to fix it. Here are some simple ways to use sound to calm you and unwind to put you in the right state for sleep to find you.
1. White Noise
A variety of ambient noise, this is background sound that masks everything else—an electric fan, for instance. White noise combines together sounds of different frequencies; it is termed “white” because it is all sounds at once, like white light is all colors of the spectrum seen together. A constant, consistent hum can lull us to sleep (even if we don’t want it to—remember that teacher in high school who couldn’t manage to make anything interesting?).
2. Pink Noise
Similar to white noise, pink noise is all sounds together but its power remains constant throughout the frequencies. More simply put, no one sound is louder than another. Pink noise is less obtrusive to some people than white noise; you can download sounds of a babbling brook, falling rain, blowing wind, and the like. The masking works just as it does with white noise. It’s called “pink” because if you were to see the sound in a color spectrum, it would appear pink due to the long waves. Don’t listen through headphones, however, because regular (even pleasant) sound too close to the eardrum can damage your hearing.
3. Custom Noise
Your partner’s snore or the dripping faucet may be somewhat annoying or may be a comfort to help you sleep. Focus on whatever allows you to relax: a mantra, sweet memories, the rain or the rumble of a distant train.
4. Ambient Noise
Any kind of background sound that you find soothing can help you rest and fall asleep. The bubbling of a fish tank or gentle whirring of a ceiling fan can create a generic backdrop for your brain.
Death metal or a march by John Philip Sousa wouldn’t be your best choice but soothing music can help you de-stress. Classical, soft jazz, or new age genres can ease away your troubles and loosen your focus on daily life to transport you to a lighter place. The song “Weightless” was found in one study to be the most relaxing ever tested.
There is a biological reason that sounds of nature bring us peace. Not the growl of a bear, of course, but bird calls, a breeze through the trees, and ocean waves ground and center us, bringing us back to the place of our origin. Be careful of running water sounds, however—for some people, they induce a need to use the bathroom.
7. Animal Sounds
Similar to nature sounds, the purring of a cat, chirping of a cricket, or hoot of an owl can be calming and soothing. Best not to sleep with a pet in your bed, but the sounds can provide comfort. Recordings are available that you can play to surround you with restful critters.
Sometimes silence is deafening. And sometimes it is the blank slate you need for a restful sleep. For some, even the sound of the wind can be enough to disrupt rest. Heavy curtains on the window, a reinforced door, floorboards that don’t squeak, and ear plugs can all contribute to providing the peace and quiet you need to drift off.
With the critical importance of sleep, whatever it takes to get you there and keep you there is worth whatever method you need to employ. Don’t be shy—let sound be your sleepy-time friend.