Sounds To Help You Sleep More Peacefully

7 Min Read | By Sam Atherton

Last Modified 20 December 2022   First Added 16 January 2015

This article was written and reviewed in line with our editorial policy.

Do you struggle to sleep at night? For a variety of different reasons, so do others, whether it be stress, what we’ve eaten, our surroundings, or just plain old noise. But not all noise is bad, there are sounds to help you sleep.

Most of us can remember when our mothers sent us to sleep by softly singing us a nursery rhyme or humming to us until we peacefully drifted off to sleep. Why can’t it still be that simple? Many sounds will help us to drift off to sleep, but what actually works is dependent on the individual.

Whether it’s waves lapping at the shore, the sound of the wind or the hum of the washing machine, some sounds will make us feel soothed and relaxed and help us drift off to sleep, while others can make us feel on edge and annoyed, keeping us awake at night.


Why do certain sounds help us get to sleep?

When the brain picks up on a sound, it assesses how threatening it is. The sound of waves lapping at the shore is predictable and rhythmic so the brain is unlikely to consider it a danger, whereas high-pitched noises can be startling and trigger a threat. In general, our brains tend to feel more relaxed and at ease in response to lower frequencies of sound, as well as repetitive sounds. Incredibly popular are nature sounds for sleep. A study by researchers at BSMS and reported by Science Daily identified how sounds of nature impact our brain and help us sleep:

“We are all familiar with the feeling of relaxation and ‘switching-off’ which comes from a walk in the countryside, and now we have evidence from the brain and the body which helps us understand this effect.

“When listening to natural sounds, the brain connectivity reflected an outward-directed focus of attention; when listening to artificial sounds, the brain connectivity reflected an inward-directed focus of attention, similar to states observed in anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.”

What are the best sleep sounds?

In no particular order, here are some of the most popular and effective sleep sounds:

image of white noise microphone for sleep sounds

1. White noise

One of the most popular sounds for sleep is that of white noise, which is known for its calming effects, as it masks high and low-frequency noise pollution. Those who struggle to sleep purchase white noise machines to cut out the noise around them, especially the type of people who find that the slightest noises keep them awake at night; such as dogs barking, their spouse snoring or the sound of cars. The white noise devices work two ways: by blocking distracting noises, and by producing soothing sounds that are relaxing and help to induce sleep.


image of ocean waves to show ocean as a sound for sleep

2. Waves and oceans

Whether it’s gentle waves lapping the shore or the sounds of sea birds and the crash of ocean storms, the seas are a great listen when we’re trying to sleep. Dreamy, ethereal, and ready to help us float away, they’re an ideal addition to any sleep playlist. Here’s what had to say about ocean sounds for sleep:

“Ocean sounds are the antithesis to the startling noises that trigger our threat responses – representing ‘non-threatening’ sounds that are typically quieter and only gradually vary in volume. The slow crashing and swelling of sea sounds are a naturally calming veil of noise that is soothing and relaxing to the brain. We, therefore, process these ocean sounds in a very different way to more abrupt noises, allowing us to relax and even sleep through these non-threatening types of audio.”


image of rainforest to show it as a sound for sleep

3. Rainforest & woodland

The gentle hum of insects, the calls of canopy birds, the slow drip of rain from last night’s torrents – the rainforest is a hotbed of noise and activity. But when recorded as a whole and taken as one, these noises become rhythmical and relaxing. And according to, these fluctuations in sound are actually beneficial for sleep!

“Natural noises are less likely to annoy us than some other sounds because they usually include fluctuations in amplitude and frequency.”


image of rain to show its use a sound for sleep

4. Rainfall and storms

Aside from the effect rain has on barometric pressure and increasing our melatonin production, the simple sound of rain is also great for helping us nod off. Topofy noted that:

“According to studies when rain sounds enter our brain, our brain unconsciously relaxes and generates alpha waves, resulting in a state similar to sleep. The sound of rain helps us relax and we feel comfortable.”


image of piano playing for to show it as a sleep sound

5. Classical piano music

While the benefits of lullabies and relaxing music are widely known for babies, it’s less known how effective classical music can be for all age groups. One study identified how adding music to your sleep routine can cut the time it takes to fall asleep in half.

“Results indicated that the use of music decreased time to sleep onset and the number of nighttime awakenings. Consequently, it increased satisfaction with sleep. Nurses may wish to recommend the use of music at bedtime to older women with insomnia.”


What are the best sleep sound apps:

Aside from Spotify and Youtube, many apps on your phone can act as a white noise machine or are full of relaxing sounds to help you get to sleep. We’ve listed our 3 favourites below:

Sleep Pillow Sounds: White Noise Machine Lite

This app contains ambient sounds and allows you to create your own mixes, so you can choose the sounds that you find the most sleep-inducing. The sounds create a relaxed environment and aim to help you drift into a cyclical sleep pattern. It also has a sleep timer with a slow fade-out, and an alarm clock with a slow fade-in to wake you up gently. Best of all, it’s easy to use!



White Noise Lite: Relax. Sleep. Better.

white_noise_liteHelping you to unwind and reduce stress, this application has a large sound catalogue that will help you to drift off. If there is a particular sound that allows you to get to sleep, you can record and loop in additional new sounds with ease. You can control the app from your lock screen or using headphones that have a remote control. Advanced Settings let you adjust sound volume, balance, and pitch, mix with iPod music, loop the playlist, custom alarm snooze times, and more.


White Noise Ambience Lite


Create a playlist with your favourite mix of sounds. You can choose from 40 high-quality relaxing sounds, including ocean waves, insects, train rides, thunderstorms and campfires. The sounds will be teamed with 40 retina images to help you really unwind and relax, to send you to sleep. The sound timer allows you to stop the audio at your discretion, so you can adjust the settings on the app to suit you.


Find out about other applications that can help you get a better night’s sleep.


Remember: what works for one person will not necessarily work for you. Some people will have better results with rhythmic and gentle sounds, while others will have better results from a melody.


There are some who will react better to a repetitive sound, while others may benefit better from random sounds. It’s a matter of trial and error to discover what’s best for you.

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