The Benefits of Having Background Noise to Help You Sleep

Last updated: September 8th, 2023

The Benefits of Having Background Noise to Help You Sleep

Many of us rely on background noise to assist us in falling and staying asleep. From a study of U.S. adults done by The Sleep Doctor in April 2023, it was found that 52% of surveyed adults said they rely on background noise to sleep. One of the most popular sources of noise used for sleep is music, with 40.4% of adults who rely on noise to sleep using it. Other noise sources include nature sounds (40.1%), white noise from an app or machine (38.1%), a fan or air conditioner (34.3%), and TV sounds (33.3%). With the number of people who need noise to help them sleep, it's important to understand what makes certain types of noise better than others.

One review of 38 different studies on sleep and noise found that noise doesn't have to meet a certain criteria in order to work best when it comes to helping us fall asleep. In the study, all types of noise were found to be conducive to sleep in different ways. It was found that nature sounds may be compiled into a calming and peaceful set of tones that encourage relaxation and drowsiness, while white noise was found to be the most effective at canceling out distressing environmental noises.

The Risks of Relying Too Heavily On Noise To Sleep

Dr. Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., cautions us about overestimating the power of background noise when it comes to sleeping better. While having some noises to help you fall asleep may be beneficial, you should first make sure you are addressing the root of the problem that is preventing you from sleeping well. You could be having trouble sleeping due to insomnia or other sleep problems, so consulting a sleep specialist or doctor could help you identify what the real contributing factor is and find a way to resolve it.

It can also be a problem if you start to rely too heavily on specific types of noise to sleep. If you can't sleep without it, it might become a sleep crutch and make it harder for you to fall asleep. By the same token, if you become too accustomed to a certain type of noise, you may find yourself struggling to fall asleep if you can’t replicate it one night.

Creating a Balanced Sleep Environment

Having some noise in the background as you are trying to sleep can be very productive, given you do it in a responsible way. It is best to establish a healthy sleep environment beforehand, and to make sure that your routine isn’t relying too heavily on some sort of noise. Such an environment may include sticking to a bedtime routine, limiting your exposure to blue light right before bedtime, blocking light and sound from your bedroom, and using black-out curtains or blinds.

If you are going to rely on noise, make sure you don’t make it an essential part of your sleep routine. If you do, you could end up stressing about not being able to recreate the same exact noise every night, which would make falling asleep more difficult. Moreover, keep in mind that some white noise machines feature a timer, so you can set it ahead of time so the machine will turn off by the time you fall asleep. You can also adjust the volume of the noise. A good rule of thumb is to keep the volume on its lowest setting that is still effective at blocking out disruptive environmental sounds.

The bottom line is that background noise can be a potentially effective tool when used correctly and responsibly for helping you fall asleep. However, if you are suffering from poor sleep, you should take a step back to think if there are any underlying issues that are causing it. Moreover, it's important not to over-rely on background noise, as this could lead to it becoming part of your sleep crutch and creating issues if you can't recreate it one night.

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