Can Sound Help Sleep

1. Sound and Sleep

What’s the relationship between sounds and sleep? From a traditional perspective, a completely soundproof room will be an optimal space for a sound sleep, which is, out of question, based on certain science. Based on the increased sensitivity to noise trauma at night compared to during the day, it is reasonable to believe that this sensitivity may apply to human circadian rhythm as well. And studies have already proven that exposure to sleep-disruptive sounds during sleep can immediately destruct your sleep action, which leads to poor sleep quality and short-term issues the next day. Moreover, over time it may result in long-term mental and physical consequences. It is recommended by the World Health Organization to keep environmental noise levels below 40 decibels at night. Unfortunately, as we are living in a world that is never willing to stop working, it may be impossible to ensure such a quiet bedroom environment. In this case, sounds can be somehow helpful when you are bothered by those inevitable noises.

2. How Sound Helps Sleep

There is a growing interest in using sounds like light music or white noise to mask or drown out the environmental noises so as to to counteract the harmful effects of noise exposure during sleep. It is apparently an easy and low-cost, and seemingly effective method.
A study in 2021 made a comprehensive summary of the broad spectrum of possibilities to acoustically influence sleep. Given all the previous studies in which subjects were tested by playing light music at the beginning of their sleep, the study confirmed the effectiveness of music as a non-pharmacological intervention for sleep, with no risks or side effects were reported in most studies. In another experiment, researchers investigated the effect of broadcasting white noise into the rooms of hospitalized patients and confirmed “the use of white noise is recommended as a method for masking environmental noises, improving sleep, and maintaining sleep in the coronary care unit”. A third study of patients who were having trouble sleeping showed that “white noise significantly reduced sleep onset latency by 38% compared to normal environmental noise.”
It can’t be denied that more studies and evidences are needed to support the effectiveness of sounds to sleep, but it does no harm to have try with certain sounds as it actually costs nothing.

3. Best Sounds for Sleep

The best night sounds for sleeping can vary from one to one because of the diversity in individuals’ preference and their sleep environment and sleep problem. The key is to maintain the sound at an even tone and volume because sudden sound changes could cause you to wake up. Below are some sleep sounds that are frequently used.
White Noise:
White noise is produced by layering multiple sound frequencies at the same time. It contains all frequencies across the spectrum of audible sound in equal measure. According to a 2021 research, white noise significantly improved sleep based on subjective and objective measurements in subjects complaining of difficulty sleeping due to high levels of environmental noise, which suggests that the application of white noise may be an effective tool in helping to improve sleep in those settings. If white noise sounds too harsh to you, then pink noise and brown noise can also be good choices.
Sounds from nature:
Hearing rain, ocean waves, wind, and other natural sounds have been proven to be able to induce relaxation before sleep. Researchers also believe that listening to nature sounds helps reduce nighttime awakenings, improves sleep quality, and reduces the time taken to fall asleep.As it’s impossible to be exposed to nature anytime, you can use certain sleep sound machines programmed with a selection of sounds to choose from, or you can search for a sleep app that can provide numerous choices of sounds and so solve problem for different groups.
“Listening to music and music-associated relaxation are probably the best options to consider in the application of music intervention.” concluded by a relative research. In another review, researchers claimed that integrating music into daily sleep habits and listening to it before sleep beyond 3 weeks may lead to more instances of healthy sleep. Most music recommended for sleep are light, slow and soothing. However, the standard is finally up to personal musical taste.
Meditation Soundtracks:
“Mindfulness meditation appears to be a viable treatment option for adults with chronic insomnia and could provide an alternative to traditional treatments for insomnia.” 
As the market of sleep economy is expanding, a number of relative apps containing meditation sound resources emerged. They may provide narrative storylines, relaxing soundscapes, or content intended to improve attitudes surrounding sleep.

Listening to sounds before sleep may not work for everybody. If your sleep space is completely quiet, then just ignore all the advice above. But if you are suffering annoying environment noises, why not have a little try with nothing costed at all?