How to Sleep in Noisy Environments

FInd out how noise affects your sleep, and how to get a good night’s rest despite sleeping in noise environments.

Written by:


, Sleep Researcher
Last Updated: Thu, October 3, 2019
Fact checked by:

Marko Jevtic

, Sleep Specialist

Sound has a significant impact on your sleep. Sleeping is already hard for some, without any outside sounds interfering with it. While there are sounds that help with rest, others can wake us up and make it difficult to fall back to sleep. Sleep is vital because it is one of the processes in our body that contributes to the natural healing and restoration of our system. Many conditions and health diseases can be prevented by just getting the appropriate amount of sleep at night. Simply put, we need to take care of our sleep routine. So, what if something disrupts our sleep?. For people that live in cities getting sleep in a noise-free environment is very hard. Noise can lead to insomnia, which in the long-term increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and many other health problems.

Luckily, there are many things you can do to isolate yourself from unpleasant noise and sleep better. In this article, we will cover how noise affects your sleep, help you handle noisy environments and give you some helpful tips on how to fall asleep despite being in noisy environments.

How Noise Interferes with Sleep

Believe it or not, noise is a significant cause of sleep problems.  Even if you don’t wake up, sounds can affect your sleep cycles, and noisy surroundings are a big influence on sleep quality and quantity.

Noises in your surroundings can be so disruptive that they wake you up, but they can also interfere with your sleep even if they don’t disturb you. While you sleep, the brain is still active and aware of sounds around you. If there is much noise around you won’t be able to go from light sleep into a deep sleep or REM sleep, the two sleep cycles that have the most restorative functions. By staying in light sleep, you will end up feeling tired upon waking up. A research that was conducted has linked cardiovascular disease and noise exposure during the night. The study claimed that because of sleep disturbances, even low-level noises can interfere with your health.

Noises like cars, buses, trains, planes, constructions, or even wind turbines are one of the biggest causes of sleep problems. These noises surround us in our everyday lives, but we give no meaning to them. Even small sounds that are low as 30 decibels affect our sleep. Imagine what traffic with 70 decibels, trains, and subways with 90 decibels, and plains with 100 decibels can do.

Noise sensitivity varies from person to person, and some are more sensitive than others. The most sensitive periods are during light sleep, but if you are a light sleeper, noise can wake you up even from a deep sleep. Generally speaking, noise mostly affects us during the second stage of sleep, the lightest stage and a non-REM cycle. When talking about specific age groups, studies have shown that children and elderly people are the most vulnerable to noise disruptions. But, adults can also be susceptible to these problems. Most people think that they will get used to noise over time. However, one study showed that individuals sensitive to noise have increased cortisol levels and heart rate changes during the night.

Lastly, there are also emotional noises that impact our sleep cycles. Sounds of infants crying tend to wake up mothers easily from their sleep.

How to Deal With Noise

It might be difficult to deal with noise, but there are specific ways that will help you sleep at night, no matter what is going around you.

Ignore the noise

In most cases, if something is bothering us, we tend to focus on it which only increases the nuisance. We have probably done this many times, but this makes it worse. When we put focus on a single thing, we become more sensitive to the stimulus the sound gives. To prevent the sound from bothering you, you need to fortify your mind and switch your focus to something else. Even though it sounds difficult, you need to ignore the sound. The idea is to avoid making your brain active. When you focus on things, your brain is active and concentrating on those things, and that keeps you awake during the night, and causes sleep deprivation.

Distract Your Ears

If you cannot ignore the problem, it is best to switch your focus and distract yourself. One of the ways to drown out external noises is to create your own that will distract you. You need to create relaxing and soothing sounds that will switch your focus but also relax your still active brain. Avoid making any agitating noise, and the idea is to give yourself a pleasant sound to focus on, not just another sound that will keep you awake. You can create a bedtime playlist with relaxing songs, a playlist with classical music, a playlist with ambient sounds or a playlist with your favorite music.

For further investment, you can also buy noise-canceling headphones that will address and cancel any cacophonous and loud external noises. Getting used to them can be difficult, which is why it would be best to practice using them. You can try training yourself on sleeping with the headphones, and soon enough you won’t have any problems wearing them. Alternatively, you can try earplugs to keep those sounds away or add a defense from external noise to the bedroom. You can purchase a white noise machine that emits sounds that mask noises or disturbances from the surroundings. Additionally, you can try using a portable fan or an air purifier that is especially good for sleepers with allergies.

You can also try some of the many white noises and guided meditation applications that are made to help you sleep. If you are trying to block snoring from your partner or roommate, you should buy nasal strips and nasal spray. These products are the best way to cancel annoying snoring sounds. You can also try snoring mouthpieces or anti-snoring devices.


Imagining and visualizing a peaceful and quiet environment will help distract your mind so that it won’t focus on the disruption. You need to visualize a place that makes you feel relaxed, focus on the smell, sight, and sound on that place, and transfer yourself there. It will help you avoid paying attention to anything that currently surrounds you.

Deep Breathing

Breathing exercises are also excellent as a distraction from the noise and a sleep technique that will help you go to sleep comfortably. These exercises give a simple and effective solution for those who have troubles sleeping at night. Because breathing is something that we can control and regulate, they are a useful tool for relaxing and clearing the mind. Deep breathing is best for individuals who are struggling with blocking clamor without external help, like earplugs or headphones. Doing these exercises helps oxygen circulate through the body and during the process helps calm the mind and body. It has also been shown that they are useful in lowering blood pressure. All you need to do is to inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth in rhythmic cycles. It is best to start the exercises with counts of three for every inhale and exhale. After that, you can begin to increase the count up to five or even six slowly. Make sure to count each repetition.

Proper implementation of breathing exercises can help you defend yourself from all kinds of noises. They are one of the most effective meditation techniques to implement in your life. Once you master this, you will be able to strengthen your mind, improve your focus, and relax in situations that escalate your temper. You just need to take slow and deep breaths.


Meditation is a great way to relax and shift your focus. This calming method has been proven to help slow down heart rate and lower blood pressure. Calming the mind with meditation leads to a more relaxed state that will reflect positively on your sleep, and you will be able to fall asleep even in noisy places.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

This technique is often used in yoga to help reduce stress. The method of progressive muscle relaxation relaxes the body and relieves you of physical stress. You need to tense and relax each of your body’s areas. You start with your head, work your way down to the feet.

Keep Yourself Exhausted

A good way not to pay attention to any sounds is to keep yourself too tired. Exercise is an excellent way to increase the amount of deep sleep you get, and it also contributes to a restful and more sound sleep. Any physical activity can reduce stress and make you spend energy. At the end of the day, you will feel tired, and neither you nor your brain will pay attention to anything around you. The more physically tired you are, the more you won’t be able to stay awake during the night.

Follow A Bedtime Routine

Our bodies respond to any change in the environmental or in our habits. Because of that, you need to have a constant routine for all your daily activities and stick to it, as it will help your body know when to do certain things. Your body will get a signal when it is time to sleep, and the routine will shorten the time you need to fall asleep. You can add certain relaxing activities into your schedule before bed, such as reading a book, having a warm bath, exercising or any activity that calms you down. It is vital to create a stable routine that your body will get used to and maintain it.

Make Your Bedroom Comfortable

Apart from activities you can do, you also need to have a comfortable sleep environment that will suit your preferences. Adjust the temperature, put calming colors and decorations, minimize noise as much as possible, and try to take care of distractions. The same thing goes for your bed. You need to create a comfortable sleep surface by choosing the right mattress model, sheets, pillow, and any additional sleep products you need.

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Iva is an art historian and an art lover who always had a passion for writing and sleep! When she is not researching and testing new mattresses on the market, you can find her binge-watching TV shows, eating tons of junk food or playing with her dog Bart.

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