What is the best sound to fall asleep to?

Falling asleep can be a challenge for many people. However, listening to soothing sounds has been shown to help promote sleepiness and improve sleep quality. The best sounds to fall asleep to are gentle, calming noises that help quiet your mind and relax your body. In this article, we will explore the top sounds that can help lull you into deep, restful sleep.

Why Listen to Sounds to Fall Asleep?

There are several reasons why listening to certain sounds can help you fall asleep faster and get better quality sleep:

  • Blocks disruptive noises – Playing relaxing sounds helps mask and muffle sudden noises from inside or outside your home that can jolt you out of sleep.
  • Lowers anxiety and racing thoughts – Soothing sounds give your brain something calming to focus on instead of the anxious thoughts that keep you up at night.
  • Induces relaxation response – Gentle, repetitive sounds like white noise slow down your heart rate and breathing to prep your body for sleep.
  • Drowns out tinnitus – For those with ringing ears or tinnitus, sounds like fans or music can help cover up these frustrating internal noises.

While individual preferences vary, experts agree that playing soft, familiar sounds can short-circuit the stressors and distractions that interfere with falling asleep.

Best Sounds for Improved Sleep

Here are some of the most recommended sounds and noises to help you doze off quickly and sleep through the night:

White Noise

White noise contains a blend of all sound wave frequencies. It produces a gentle, consistent background hum that helps dampen disruptive noises.

Studies show white noise improves sleep quality, increases sleep duration, and stabilizes sleep patterns. It also helps block out environmental noises like traffic, construction, or a snoring partner.

Try white noise machines, box fans, air conditioners, or noise-blocking apps with white noise, pink noise, and other ambient sounds.

Nature Sounds

Listening to relaxing nature sounds has a direct effect on the brain’s prefrontal cortex. This region controls things like problem-solving, emotion, and stress. Nature sounds decrease activity in this part of the brain, initiating a relaxation response.

Some restful nature sounds to try include:

  • Ocean waves
  • Rainfall
  • Water running from a stream or small river
  • Crickets and frogs chirping
  • Bird songs
  • Light wind rustling through trees

You can access recordings of these soothing nature noises through sound machines, mobile apps, and online videos.

White Noise Machine

White noise machines produce ambient sounds like fans, ocean waves, rainfall, and more to mask disruptive noises and create a calming environment. Models with adjustable tones and volumes allow you to customize the sounds to your liking.

Benefits of white noise machines include:

  • Blocks interruptions from inside and outside the home
  • Produces soothing sounds on loop for uninterrupted sleep
  • Portable for travel and small enough for bedside use
  • Helps neutralize noise differences between two sleepers
  • Some models have timer, volume, and tone settings

White noise machines can benefit anyone, but especially light sleepers or those sleeping with a restless partner. Just be sure the volume is not too loud, as this can actually disrupt sleep.

Box Fan or Ceiling Fan

The soft hum of a fan can serve as soothing white noise to promote better sleep. Box fans and ceiling fans alike create a steady background sound to mask unwanted noises throughout the night.

Benefits of fans as white noise:

  • Inexpensive option many people already own
  • Portable box fans are easy to set up in the bedroom
  • Consistent, unobtrusive sound helps dampen distractions
  • Air circulation from fan provides added comfort for some

Be sure to use the lowest fan speed setting. The objective is a light hum rather than strong bursts of air circulation which can actually disrupt sleep.


Humidifiers raise moisture levels in dry indoor air. The soft hum of the machine can also double as a source of white noise for better sleep. Models that allow adjusting the tone and intensity of the sound are especially useful.

Benefits of humidifiers for sleep:

  • Soothes breathing by preventing dry airways
  • Moisture output and hum blocks outside noises
  • Portable versions can be used in the bedroom
  • Some have built-in sounds and aromatherapy features

Avoid raising the humidity level too high, however, as excess moisture can encourage mold growth and aggravate allergies. Keep the bedroom humidity around 40-50% for optimal comfort.

Sound Conditioners

Specialized sound conditioner machines produce relaxing ambient sounds to aid sleep. Options include fan, ocean, rainfall, campfire, and white noise. Many sound conditioners also have speaker docks to stream music or nature sounds from a smartphone.

Benefits of sound conditioners:

  • Masks distracting sounds with soothing ambient noise
  • Sound options are engineered specifically for sleep
  • Custom programming like fading sounds or built-in timers
  • Some models screen for unwanted frequencies
  • Digital and app-controlled models available

Look for sound conditioners with high user reviews and multiple sound options to get the best white noise experience.

Air Purifier

Air purifiers clean indoor air by trapping dust, pollen, and other contaminants in filters. As a bonus feature, their constant low hum also provides soothing white noise. Units that allow adjusting the fan speed offer customizable sound levels.

Benefits of air purifiers for sleep:

  • Ambient hum blocks distracting noises
  • Cleans allergen and dust to promote healthy breathing
  • Some models have built-in sound conditioners
  • Portable versions can be used in the bedroom

Choose an air purifier with a large enough capacity for the room size so the fan won’t have to work too hard and create an excessive hum.

Apps and Websites

An abundance of apps and websites provide relaxing ambient sounds to help you sleep. Options include white noise, nature sounds, soundscapes, hypnotic tones, binaural beats, and more.

Benefits of ambient sound apps/websites:

  • Huge variety and libraries of high-quality sounds
  • Customizable timers, volumes, and sound mixing
  • Soothing background noise for traveling
  • Many specialized sleep and concentration sounds
  • Often free or inexpensive

Search app stores, YouTube, and Google for the best variety. Look for options with high user reviews specifically for sleep aid.

Brown Noise

Brown noise emits lower frequencies than white noise. It produces a soft, rumbling sound reminiscent of strong winds, waves, or being on an airplane. The deep, bassy tones help block out disruptive noises.

Benefits of brown noise:

  • Strong low frequencies mask annoying noises
  • Mimics soothing natural sounds like wind and thunder
  • Helps neutralize triggers like voices, snoring, traffic

Brown noise apps and videos are widely available online. Use headphones to maximize the bass tones if listening from your smartphone.

Pink Noise

Pink noise sits between white and brown noise in terms of tone. It consists of a mix of high and low frequencies with emphasis on the lows. The result is a steady, soothing waterfall-like sound.

Benefits of pink noise:

  • Consistent, calming tone aids relaxation
  • Low frequencies mask interruptions effectively
  • Some compare it to a mother’s heartbeat soothing a baby

Pink noise is available in recordings and apps to stream in your bedroom for better sleep.

Using Sound to Your Advantage

Listening to soothing sounds is an easy, inexpensive way to banish sleep issues. Pay attention to how you respond to different sounds so you can choose the ones that work best for you.

Here are some tips for using sound to improve your sleep:

  • Make it consistent – Choose a sound you like and listen to it consistently. Your body and brain will associate it with sleep.
  • Use headphones – If listening with a smartphone, use headphones to keep the sound close without disturbing your partner.
  • Time it right – Turn the sound on a half hour before bedtime to start relaxing.
  • Limit volume – Play sounds loud enough to mask distractions, but not so loud they’ll wake you.
  • Try combinations – Mix different sounds like white noise with rain to create unique audio.
  • Consider timers – If the sound disturbs you in the morning, set it to turn off automatically after a certain time.

With consistent use, the right sleep sounds can train your body to naturally power down and drift off with ease.

Choosing the Best Options for You

Everyone sleeps differently, so preferences for the perfect sleep sounds vary. Take some time to experiment with different sounds at varying volumes to see what works best for you.

As you test potential sleep sounds, ask yourself:

  • Does the sound help block disruptions without being too intrusive?
  • Do you feel your body and mind relaxing as you listen?
  • Does the sound become soothing background noise you can sleep through?
  • Or does the sound become annoying and disruptive itself?

Finding the right sleep sounds may take some trial and error. But sticking with a sound you find calming and masking will pay off with better sleep in the long run.

Best Sleep Sounds Based on Type of Sleeper

You can also choose sounds tailored to your particular sleep needs:

Type of Sleeper Best Sound Options
Light sleepers White noise, fan sounds
Those with tinnitus or ringing ears White noise, brown noise, fan sounds
People with anxiety Nature sounds, calm music
Couples with different preferences White noise, sound conditioners
Travelers White noise apps, nature sounds
Side sleepers White noise, rainfall, ocean waves

Think about what keeps you up at night and look for sounds that specifically address those issues, whether it’s noisy neighbors, tinnitus, or an anxious brain.

Sound Precautions

Sound therapy can improve sleep, but beware of excessive volume or disturbing noises that prevent good rest.

  • Avoid random or changing sounds – Stick to consistent, predictable sounds versus playlists with varying music or effects.
  • Watch volume – Loud sounds can actually impair sleep. Find the sweet spot that blocks noise but doesn’t blast your ears.
  • Skip disruptive tones – Certain frequencies or pitches, like high-pitched beeping, can disrupt sleep.
  • Don’t use headphones all night – Comfortable sleep headphones are fine, but take regular headphones off after you fall asleep.
  • Consider a timer – If the sound disturbs you in the morning, set it to stop automatically after 6-8 hours.

Pay attention to how you feel as you sleep with sound therapy. Avoid anything that leaves you feeling unrested.


Listening to soothing sounds at bedtime trains your body for faster, deeper sleep. Experiment with different sounds and volumes to find the sweet spot that masks disruptions without disturbing you. Choices like white noise, nature sounds, fans, and apps offer customizable options that address the exact issues preventing good sleep.

Using sound therapy consistently at bedtime helps cue your body for sleep. Over time, your mind associates the sound with powering down for slumber. Before you know it, resting peacefully through the night becomes an effortless habit.

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