How Certain Sounds and Audio Can Help You Sleep

Keaton Robbins | March 22, 2023

Young hispanic woman listening to music sleeping on sofa at home

A good sleep is necessary for optimal working of the body. Sleep disorders are becoming prevalent nowadays, and evidence shows that approximately 10% of the adult population suffers from insomnia. Lack of sleep has a link to poor functioning of the body systems and an increased risk of developing chronic disorders. 

People having trouble sleeping at night use various techniques to help them sleep faster and for a long duration; including relaxation exercises and sleep aids. But did you know some specific sounds and audio can help you sleep too?

In this article

  1. Music for Sleep and the Science Behind It 
  2. Sounds That Help You Sleep 
  3. Relaxing Music
  4. White Noise 
  5. Pink Noise 
  6. Brown Noise
  7. Nature Sounds
  8. Meditation Soundtracks 
  9. ASMR 
  10. What Sounds Disrupt Sleep? 
  11. Myths About Sound and Sleep 
  12. Sleep Sounds Work for Everyone
  13. Nature Sounds Will Induce the Perfect Sleep

If you are interested in knowing about sounds to sleep to, continue reading!

Music for Sleep and the Science Behind It 

Music therapy is a potent, non-pharmacological intervention to improve generalized well-being. The use of music alleviates stress and pain and helps improve memory and cognition. 

Randomized studies reveal that music can assist in sleeping and is a cost-effective intervention for sleep disorders. 

Music therapy primarily works by reducing the cortisol levels of the body, which is the stress hormone often interfering with sleep. It triggers the release of dopamine, the feel-good hormone which can counteract bad feelings causing sleep troubles. Therefore, it can help sleep by flushing out stress and anxiety from the body. 

Music modulates the autonomic nervous system, and calming effects like those of sedative music reduce blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing rate.

The scientific evidence promotes using sounds and audio to treat sleep disorders.

Sounds That Help You Sleep 

Below is a list of the sounds to sleep to that block disturbances and relax the mind and body :

Relaxing Music

Music is a viable way to enhance your mood and inject energy into yourself. But if you are experiencing a hard time falling asleep, relaxation music can also be a convenient and effective method to induce sleep by reducing stress and anxiety. 

A pilot study reveals that relaxation music significantly improves sleep quality, and the time taken to fall asleep decreases as you listen to music. Therefore, sleep experts conclude that listening to music before sleep improves subjective and objective sleep parameters. 

This safe, non-pharmacological intervention seems to work for people from all walks of life. Relaxing classical music is a safe and cheap method to sleep quickly and could be used to treat disorders like insomnia. 

According to a 2020 study, music therapy increased sleep quality in students. Several studies also reveal the positive impact of music intervention in inducing sleep in critically ill and surgery patients

White Noise 

White noise refers to consistent sounds with low, high, and medium frequencies. That includes a humming air conditioner, whirring fan, vacuum, etc. This audio for sleep has been shown to enhance sleep quality. 

White noise improves various parameters of sleep, including sleep onset latency, sleep quality, and wake duration. It also has a positive impact on stress levels (especially for students). Thus, white noise meditation is effective for sleep.

According to studies, white noise helps induce sleep by mitigating the effects of environmental noise (which is a significant contributor to sleep disruption). Therefore, white noise during bedtime shows superior results in cities with a high-noise environment. 

The effect of white noise on environmental noise can also help increase sleep quality in cardiac care unit patients

Pink Noise 

Pink noise is similar to white noise but with low-frequency tones. Many nature sounds fall in the pink noise category, including raindrops, ocean waves, rustling leaves, etc. 

Individuals listening to pink noise experience noticeable improvements in the quality of sleep and memory. According to a detailed study, this noise reduces the brain wave complexity and induces more sleep time, increasing sleep quality. 

Scientists at the University of Texas even claim that pink noise is the best audio for sleep.

Brown Noise

Brown noise is deeper than pink noise and has low frequency but delivers more energy. Examples of brown noise include heavy rains, powerful waterfalls, and thunder sounds. 

There is no evidence to support its role in sleep enhancement, but many believe brown noise can reduce insomnia symptoms. 

Nature Sounds

Sounds from nature have been shown to slow down the heart rate and calm the body. These effects promote falling asleep. The sound of ocean waves, flowing water, and woods and wilderness flushes out your overwhelming thoughts. A relaxed mind sleeps better. 

Meditation Soundtracks 

Mindfulness meditation is a prevalent and effective way of calming the mind and body. Studies reveal that it has shown promising results in improving sleep quality. Audio meditation is now becoming common to impart mental peace and serenity.

Relaxing sounds and napping soundtracks can save you from sleep deficits and ensure general well-being. You can use smartphone apps for meditation soundtracks for this purpose.

Read our success story with The Art of Meditation App here.


Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) soundtracks are found to have beneficial effects on the body. Research shows ASMR soundtracks induce brain signals required for sleep. The modern procedure has been shown to improve sleep quality in medical students.

It also alleviates anxiety and stress while improving the sleep quality of university students.

Check out this ASMR-inspired social post from us on Twitter!

What Sounds Disrupt Sleep? 

Environmental noise is a major contributor to sleep disruption. It includes noise pollution from honking cars and other transportation means. Short-term effects of environmental noise include mood and sleep disturbances, while you may experience cardiometabolic complications in the long run. 

Sleep interruptions induced by environmental noise (especially nocturnal environmental noise) are similar to sleep disorders. People exposed to nocturnal environmental noise suffer from the following:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Tiredness 
  • Fatigue 
  • Mood disturbances 
  • Reduced cognitive performance

Environmental noise is linked to poor sleep quality and mental health in US adults. There are increased chances of developing heart diseases. 

Insufficient sleep as a consequence of environmental noise can lead to acute effects. You may experience impaired bodily function. Daytime sleepiness increases irritability, and poor mental health is a common manifestation of nighttime exposure to noise. 

You can also fall prey to chronic health conditions if continuously exposed to noise disturbances at night (as in big cities). Chronic sleep deprivation is linked to increased chances of hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. 

Myths About Sound and Sleep 

The following are some myths about sounds and audio that help sleep:

Sleep Sounds Work for Everyone

Various scientific evidence supports the use of audio for sleep but does not guarantee that you will feel the difference. There is still more research needed to confirm the sleep-inducing effects of these sounds, especially pink noise. 

Some research even suggests that white noise could prove to be counterproductive and cause more sleep disruptions.

Nature Sounds Will Induce the Perfect Sleep

Nature sounds have proven excellent in promoting sleep induction but listening to them on a sound machine can still create problems. An abrupt and unpredictable increase in the volume might be disturbing. 
Explore more than 4,000 voice actors that can deliver a ‘calm’ voice to help with your next project!

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