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Sleep Health

The Top 6 Sounds That Will Help You Sleep And Where To Find Them

    Last Updated
    June 20, 2023
    min read

    Getting a good night’s sleep can sometimes feel like an elusive goal, especially when you live in a big city. Barking dogs, traffic, construction, your neighbors’ loud music – all of these noises can make it difficult to get the restful sleep you deserve. For some, putting on ambient music can help make it easier. But what kinds of sounds help people sleep better? 

    In a nutshell, flowing water, nature sounds, classical music, and even steady, consistent noise like white or pink noise are often cited as effective sleep aid sounds. These sounds not only drown out unpleasant noise, but they may also relax the minds of troubled sleepers.

    Want to learn more about using sounds to help you fall asleep faster? Read on to discover the different kinds of sounds and noises that can help you sleep and how they actually work. By the end of this blog, you should be able to find a soothing track or playlist that can lull you to sleep quicker than usual

    Where Can I Find Sounds To Fall Asleep To?

    You can find sounds to fall asleep to on YouTube and Spotify, as well as the App Store and Google Play. Below we list some free and paid sites and apps you can check out:

    • Rainscapes: A free app downloadable on both iOS and Android devices where users can choose from a variety of rain sounds. Whether you want to listen to a mild patter or a full-on thunderstorm, you can find it on the app. 
    • ASMRplanet: This YouTube channel has over 1 million subscribers and more than a thousand ASMR videos featuring makeup, whispering, toys, ear cleaning, haircuts… the list goes on and on.
    • Pink Noise on Spotify: Spotify has an eight-hour playlist dedicated to pink noise tracks from various users.
    • myNoise: This app, available in the App Store and Google Play, has plenty of unique sounds, from white noise to Gregorian chants to ambient sounds from a calm office, restaurant, old mansion, and Japanese garden.
    • Calm: If you want to listen to relaxing but familiar voices, check out Calm app’s Sleep Stories – bedtime stories read by celebrities like Stephen Fry and Matthew McConaughey. 

    Aside from these apps and sites, you can also purchase a white noise machine, a device dedicated to playing white noise. 

    What Are The Best Sounds To Sleep?

    The best sounds for sleep are up for debate, but your best bet for falling asleep is likely no sound at all. 

    In an unpublished white paper involving patients in neonatal ICUs, researchers found that higher noise levels not only elevated patients’ blood pressure and heart rates but also disrupted sleep patterns – possibly to the point of affecting development and contributing to hearing loss in premature infants. 

    Another study involving participants exposed to ICU noises and lights showed that those who wore earplugs and eye masks to sleep had more REM time and higher levels of melatonin (also known as the sleep hormone). 

    Aside from silence, however, what are the best sounds to sleep to? 

    Recent research shows that white noise and pink noise may help people fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply at night. “Natural sounds” like gently flowing water, bird calls, and the rustling of leaves are also believed to trigger a sense of relaxation in humans. 

    Below, we discuss what makes white noise, pink noise, natural sounds, and other types of sounds good sleep aids. 

    1. White Noise And Pink Noise

    White and pink noise are often cited as two of the best noises that help you sleep. 

    White noise is a constant noise with no discernible pattern that contains a mixture of all sound frequencies audible to the human ear. These frequencies are all played at the same intensity. White noise sounds like radio and TV static, the whirring of a fan, or the steady hum of an air conditioner.

    A study conducted by researchers at Brown University Medical School found that patients in the ICU slept better with white noise playing. According to the researchers, the presence of white noise helped dampen the perceived loudness of “peak noises” in the hospital. 

    Pink noise, on the other hand, consists of more low-frequency noises. This makes it sound “warmer” or “rounder” than white noise. It can be found throughout nature, such as in steady winds, the sound of raindrops, and rustling leaves. 

    One study showed that steady pink noise can reduce brain wave complexity, thus allowing sleepers to spend more time in deep sleep. Another study revealed that exposure to pink noise at night may improve memory

    In a nutshell, white and pink noise work as sleep aids because they are consistent and fill the bedroom with a sustained sound that is gentle enough for the brain to ignore while also muffling outside noises. 

    Want to learn more about pink noise? Check out our blog on pink noise here.

    2. Oceans And Waves

    The sound of waves crashing onto the shore is considered relaxing for several reasons. 

    For one, the rhythmic sound of waves breaking on the shore is consistent and predictable, which can create a calming and meditative effect on the brain. 

    Secondly, the sound of waves is a natural and soothing sound that is associated with peace and tranquility. Many people associate the beach and the ocean with positive memories, further enhancing the relaxing effect of the sound of waves. 

    The rhythmic crashing of waves is a popular image that mindfulness meditation practitioners use to relax the mind. Learn more about mindfulness and how it can impact sleep in our blog. 

    3. Woodland And Rainforest

    As mentioned, studies have shown that nature sounds can be relaxing for some people. One study conducted at Brighton and Sussex Medical School revealed that natural sounds affected systems in the body that control the fight-or-flight response and the rest-digest system, a.k.a. functions that trigger alertness and relaxation.

    That includes woodland and rainforest sounds such as:

    • Bird songs
    • Crunching and rustling leaves and twigs
    • Squirrels chattering
    • Crickets chirping
    • Water trickling from a stream
    • Frogs croaking in a pond

    Researchers found that when participants listened to recordings of natural sounds, their brain activity showed more “outward-focused attention” in the brain. This is in contrast to inward-focused attention, which is associated with stress and anxiety. 

    4. Storms And Rainfall

    While the sound of heavy rains and thunder can be anxiety-inducing for some, the sound of a gentle, steady shower could induce relaxation. After all, pink noise, which resembles steady rain and wind, can dampen sudden noises and keep people from startling awake. 

    5. Classical Piano Music

    One study conducted at a Hungarian university found that those who listened to classical music prior to sleep reported better sleep quality. 

    Another study found that listening to slow music can decrease blood pressure and lower one’s heart rate, as well as improve one’s mood. Decreased blood pressure and heart rate induce a calm, relaxed state – the perfect condition for falling asleep.

    Make sure to tune into songs with a slower tempo and a consistent volume, as abrupt sonic changes can be jarring and wake you up.

    6. Soothing Voices

    Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) refers to a warm and tingling feeling that some people get when they hear certain sounds, such as crinkling wrappers, turning the pages of a book, tapping fingernails, and whispering. It’s a wildly popular genre on YouTube and TikTok where many ASMR fans go to relax and fall asleep at night.

    But what is the science behind ASMR? Scientists at Dartmouth College found that those who experience ASMR showed activation in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain associated with self-awareness and social behaviors like grooming in primates. The researchers theorized that ASMR produces the same kind of pleasure people get from bonding and socializing. 

    Can’t seem to catch any zzz’s at all? Check out our blog on what to do when you can’t fall asleep

    Ways To Optimize Your Bedroom Setting For Better Sleep

    Choosing the right ambient sound is just one way to make your bedroom more conducive to sleep. Other ways you can optimize your bedroom for better sleep include:

    • Keeping your bedroom cool: Humans sleep better in cool rooms – keep the thermostat somewhere between 60 to 67° F. 
    • Keeping your bedroom dark: Your circadian rhythm, or your internal body clock, is influenced by light. Sunlight and blue light (emitted by our devices) induce wakefulness, while warm light and darkness can signal bedtime. 
    • Using calming colors: Your paint color of your bedroom’s can impact how you feel. Colors like blue, green, and gray can promote relaxation while red, yellow, and orange can make you feel alert and even anxious.
    • Staying off your phone an hour before bedtime: Not only does your phone emit blue light, but it’s also a gateway to sleep-fighting stimulation with anxiety-inducing content and activities like games, social media, and the news.
    • Reducing clutter: Clutter has been linked to high levels of stress and anxiety. The more anxious you are, the harder it is to fall asleep. 

    If you’re looking for other ways to get your mind to wind down so you can fall asleep right away, consider checking out our blog on how to fall asleep faster. If you want to keep track of what’s affecting your sleep, check out our list of the best sleep trackers available today. 

    Upgrade Your Sleep With Purple

    Another way to optimize your bedroom for quality sleep is by investing in a comfortable mattress. At Purple, we offer three unique collections  of mattresses for every type of sleeper, plus adjustable bed bases so you can truly optimize your bed to fit your sleeping preferences. 

    Every Purple mattress comes with our proprietary GelFlex® Grid, an instantly adaptive and supportive comfort layer made of Hyper-Elastic Polymer. It cradles your body in whatever position you take and provides enough support to keep everything in alignment. And with over 1,400 individual air channels, it dissipates body heat so you don't sleep hot!

    Upgrade your sleep with a Purple mattress today.

    Sounds For Sleep FAQs

    What should I listen to for sound sleep?

    For sound sleep, you should listen to white or pink noise, nature sounds, or relaxing music. These sounds not only dampen loud, disruptive noises but also relax the mind.

    What sound helps you sleep faster?

    The sounds that can help people fall asleep faster are relaxing sounds like white noise, pink noise, nature sounds, classical music, and soothing voices.

    Do sounds actually help you sleep?

    Certain sounds have been proven to lower blood pressure and heart rate, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve sleep quality. 


    About the authors

    Cecilia Gillen

    Cecilia brings over five years of writing experience primarily centered around lifestyle and health topics. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Media and Journalism from the University of South Dakota. She’s both an advocate for sleep and a night owl at heart.