August 03, 2016
AS ADULTS WITH hectic, modern lifestyles, we often find that sleep is low on the list of priorities. When we’re frantically juggling work life, home life, and family time, it’s easy to tell ourselves that we can get by on less sleep in order to fit more activities into the day. However, science has shown repeatedly that adequate, quality sleep is a crucial part of physical and emotional health.
Adults need seven to eight hours of shut-eye per night for optimum cognitive performance, yet more than 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders or insomnia. When we get into the habit of poor sleep hygiene, it can paradoxically both leave us exhausted and make it more difficult to fall asleep when we finally do get to bed.
If you’re trying to get your sleep schedule back on track, it may help to try some relaxing white noise or music for sleep.
White noise is a mix of sounds that vary in frequency, but not intensity. For example, a single-note sound, like someone holding down a number button on a telephone, is not white noise. Most people would find it hard to sleep through that type of racket.
The whirl of a box fan or the hum of an air conditioner are white noise: they contain a range of frequencies that maintain a consistent volume. This type of sound helps to mask disruptive noise, like street traffic or your roommate’s awful snoring.
White noise can help people sleep because it’s a low-volume, neutral sound that helps drown out background noises. It can also help silence your thoughts if you’re one of those people who can’t seem to “turn off your brain” when you lay down at night.
In 2005, researchers studied patients in Intensive Care Units (ICUs), where sleep is vitally important to the healing process yet hard to come by due to the non-stop beeps from machinery, alarms going off in other rooms, and chatter from medical personnel and other patients. The study found that patients exposed to mixed-frequency white noise were less likely to have their sleep disturbed by the normal sounds of the ICU around them.
Some people leave the TV on at night for “background noise,” but a television isn’t conducive to quality sleep. Sounds from the television change in tone and volume, which can disturb your sleep without you even realizing it. Even worse, the flickering, blue-toned light from the screen suppresses melatonin production. (Melatonin is a hormone that regulates sleep, so when you interfere with this process, your sleep quality suffers.)
Many types of motorized machines, like the aforementioned box fan, are a good source of white noise. You can also buy one of the many specialized sound machines on the market. These machines, along with white noise CDs or playlists, usually let you choose from several sounds like ocean waves, a rushing river, or falling rain. Typically, people run white noise all night to maintain consistency and achieve deeper sleep.
If you prefer a more melodic option, there are plenty of sleep music recordings on the market. Listening to certain types of music before bed can help you relax and empty your mind, preparing you for a good night’s rest.
There’s a reason lullabies are a staple for quieting a fussy baby, and these soothing tunes work on adults as well. If “Rock-a-Bye, Baby” isn’t quite what you had in mind, fear not. You have plenty of other options. Certain types of classical music are among the most relaxing music for sleep. Songs that are slower in tempo and are primarily string-instrument based, without a lot of brass or percussion, are a good choice. So Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” is a much better choice than Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King.” If you don’t like classical music, any soothing instrumental will do, especially New Age, light jazz, and Celtic music.