The Sound of Sleep
What does a good night’s sleep sound like to you? Perhaps it sounds like complete and utter silence, or maybe you like to fall asleep to the timbres of a familiar lullaby. Some people enjoy dozing off to the sound of pattering rain, while others can’t sleep unless the noise of the street traffic is drifting through the bedroom window.
Getting some quality sleep is no trivial issue. Chronic sleep deprivation is linked to cardiovascular disease, depression and poor mental health, impaired cognitive ability, and just not feeling great. Noise-induced sleep disturbances can negatively impact your sleep quality by interrupting your sleep cycles, even if you don’t wake completely. Disturbances can encompass anything from a crying baby to the neighbor’s dog howling at the moon to the screeching of a truck braking outside. But while noises can hinder sleep, they can also potentially help sleep. Though the best sounds that help you get some good shut-eye can be a very individual thing, science does have something to say about the matter.
Sounds of the Rainbow
You may have heard of white noise, which is usually the first sound that comes to mind when thinking about lulling yourself to sleep. White noise is a sound that plays all the audible frequencies at an equal distribution, resulting in a steady hum. You can produce white noise at home through playing static on the TV or radio or letting your fan whir away quietly. While the range of frequencies provided through white noise means that it can help to mask sudden background noises that would otherwise wake you up, studies have yielded conflicting results about how it contributes to sleep quality. This being said, if your main difficulty is falling asleep in the first place, white noise may do the trick in helping you get to sleep faster.
Pink noise is beginning to become a little more popular with sleep enthusiasts (which realistically would be all of us). Contrary to white noise where all frequencies are played in even amounts, pink noise emphasizes the lower frequencies, which creates a deeper sound and makes it feel gentler to the ear. Examples of pink noise include falling rain, the sound of a beating heart (memories of the womb, anyone?), rustling leaves, and gentle ocean waves. Doesn’t that list just make you feel calm already?
The interesting thing about pink noise is that studies have demonstrated that it has the ability to enhance your deep sleep. Deep sleep is the good stuff that helps you feel refreshed, as opposed to the lighter stages of sleep. In addition to this, playing pink noise while you slumber can potentially help you process memories. Because it is comprised of all audible frequencies, pink noise may also be useful for masking unwanted background noises, like the creaking floorboards as your teenage son returns past his curfew.
Brown or Red Noise
Another sound color that may be worth experiencing with is brown or red noise. This is a deeper sound than pink noise. It’s the sound you hear from thunder, a large waterfall, or strong ocean waves. There is limited evidence that brown noise might support you in sleep, but it could be worth a try.
These colorful noises can usually be found through sleep apps or just by playing a track online. Alternatively, you could sling up a hammock by the beach for some real-life pink noise of waves lapping at the shore.
Can Music Help You Get a Good Night’s Sleep?
We like to play lullabies for babies so could music work for grown-ups too? Music preferences can differ from individual to individual, especially when it comes to relaxation. While a jazz tune might help one person to nod off, the next person may find themselves too engrossed in all those jazzy chord progressions to switch off for the night.
Studies have shown that slow or classical music tends to be better for sleep. In fact, in one study, listening to classical music before bed was associated with improved sleep quality in young adults suffering from sleep disorders. Relaxing instrumentals can evoke a physiological response, including calming the heart and breathing rates, and lowering blood pressure, which all support your quest to slumber. In addition to this, music can help to calm your mind and settle all the whirring activity in your brain, easing your stress.
Ultimately, any music that you personally find relaxing can be useful in getting you through the gate to dreamland. For the best chances, you may want to choose slow, soothing tracks with a tempo between 60 and 80 beats per minute.
The great thing about using sound for sleep is that, unlike sleeping pills, it’s free, non-invasive, and doesn’t come with any risk of side effects or complications. And like sleeping pills, you can find them on the internet. Since getting a good night’s sleep is the trick to functioning well during the day, it’s too important to miss!