Ask a new mum and she’ll probably wish the world would be a little quieter when she puts her newborn down to sleep. Ask someone who considers themselves “a really good sleeper” and they’ll probably say it wouldn’t matter if a semi-trailer rattled past the window, they’d still snore on.

When it comes to the question of whether noise or silence is better for sleep, the answer is not a simple one. For some people, a lovely, quiet environment is the most conducive for slipping off into the land of nod whereas for others, gentle white noise is more helpful when drifting off. The sleep sound spectrum works differently for everyone.

Tinnitus sufferers often feel comforted by white noise or even music or a podcast, instead of having to focus on the high-pitched ringing in their ears. Sleepcasts, bedtime stories for grown-ups, a ceiling fan set to medium or even a white noise app are must-haves in their how-to-get-to-sleep arsenal.

Meanwhile, for other people, the sound of crickets outside the bedroom window, the TV on at low volume or the hum of city traffic outside their hotel room is enough to provide a soothing soundtrack. In fact, some people find the constant drone of aircraft engines to be mesmerising, and sleep for many hours on a long-haul flight!

For most people – babies included – the key to appropriate noise levels when trying to fall asleep is consistency. Sharp interruptions to noise levels can disturb sleep and cause the body to jolt. It could be a passing, noisy motorbike, cats screeching outside or a change in TV show from something fairly steady to something more rousing.

Often, having a ‘standby’ sound keep your brain company as you fall asleep is better than silence because silence is more easily and effectively broken with random sounds. When you have sounds playing, the interruption is less noticeable and may not interrupt your sleep at all.

Ideas for ‘white noise’ or standby sounds

For some of these ideas, you may need to wear ear buds for best results, or to avoid disturbing your bed partner.

  • Podcast – Topic of your choosing.
  • Music – You might prefer something you can’t sing along to like classical music or instrumental tracks.
  • White noise – You can purchase a white noise machine, use an app or simply switch on a fan or air conditioner or turn the radio to a location between stations.
  • TV – Try a channel that doesn’t have too much stark variation from program to program. Often, a news program in another language can be helpful. Best if you can cover or turn off the screen to avoid unnecessary light in your bedroom.
  • Open window – Welcome in the ambient sounds of your environment, whether it’s traffic, wildlife or weather.
  • Meditation apps – Many people find guided meditations incredibly helpful, not just for the meditation itself, but for the comforting sounds they provide.
  • YouTube videos – Again, try to disable the visual aspect. If you are a fan of ASMR, cue up videos of your favourite channel.
  • Ticking clock – A simple ticking clock can be very soothing thanks to its endless rhythm and unintrusive noise level.

All of these ideas can be used for any age, including infants. Experiment with what works for you. You might find that silence is golden, or you might discover that a little consistent background noise brings you deep, precious sleep. In any case, the quality and duration of your sleep can be helped with the use of all-natural sleep essential oils. Take a look at our Deep Sleep Pillow Spray for starters.

For more informative reading, check out: Audio instead of screen time helps with healthier sleep.