In our last blog post we explored sound, specifically White Noise, that could help you sleep better.

Auditory experience plays an important role in the sleep process. You would think that lack of sound would help you sleep. However, it is a long held theory that certain sounds in our auditory spectrum can facilitate this process even more so than silence.

Why is sound important to sleep?

“The sound of neighbors laughing late into the night, music playing from across the hall, a buzzing phone on the bedside table, a television left on—there are an array of everyday noises that can disturb and diminish sleep. Perfect silence isn’t always necessary or even desirable. Some sounds at night can enhance sleep. Other sounds—a child crying, a smoke alarm ringing—are important to hear, even during sleep. The goal is to protect against unwanted and disruptive sounds, the intrusive noise that interferes with sleep’s regular routine.” (1)

We live in an audible world – and for some, creating a vacuum of silence out of the raucous world we live in and sleep to, can sometimes – ironically – be deafening.  Soothing sound can actually help the journey to sleep and contribute towards the sleep process every night.

Here are a few more reasons:

The Sound Itself

Water sounds:

Ocean waves, babbling brooks and waterfalls send a soothing signal to us. Maybe it’s because we began our life in water, or we spend most of our lives outside the womb somehow connected to it – or because our bodies are comprised of 65% water — or maybe, there’s a more scientific reason – in that the random patterns of sounds somehow fixate and signal “calm” to our brain.  “These slow, whooshing noises are the sounds of non-threats, which is why they work to calm people. It’s like they’re saying, ‘Don’t worry, don’t worry, don’t worry.’” (2)

Of course all that works unless it makes you have to go to the bathroom.

There are other sounds that signal relaxation and comfort that are not from water, like warm gentle nights on a meadow, or the hum of a sitar and flute. Ultimately, the sound that works for you is the sound that makes you feel most at rest.

Non-looping; non-repeating:

For example, sleep apps that claim to have sounds that put you to sleep, may not keep you sleeping. Phone apps have to have a looped sound track, so there is a beginning and an end. Leave the app on consistently and your brain will begin to anticipate the end – just like an “on” switch, your eyes will open.

“A sound track has a beginning and an end, said Brian Brockhouse, Sound Story Production Manager, Adaptive Sound Technologies.  “After listening to the sound track a few times, your brain begins to anticipate the end, which is also disruptive to the sleep process. That’s why a non-looping sound track is important to help you stay asleep.”

Adaptive Sound Technologies, Sound+Sleep, sound machines and white noise machines accomplish this objective by providing users with non-looping sounds, whether they are listening to the rainfall or ocean sound story preference on the Sound+Sleep or MINI sound machines, or if they are listening to the ‘LectroFan, white noise machine.

“It’s important to choose a sound machine that lulls you to sleep. Many sound machines boast a variety of soothing sounds, but as mentioned they are on a looped sound track, so you wake up when your brain begins to anticipate the end of the track. Even if the sounds are non-looped, other noises can out-sound the sound machine.” (3)

Where The Sound Comes From

Whether crashing waves and seagulls or the din of city streets relaxes you, where the sound is from can determine whether you are jarred and jostled awake or lulled to sleep.

Natural environments

The Sound Stories in the Sound+Sleep sound machines from Adaptive Sound Technologies, are recorded from natural settings so that you hear sounds taken directly from the world around us. Why that’s important? The random patterns of sound from just a sampling of the outdoors are layered with noise we have grown accustomed to in our waking hours. Much better to sleep to because it is what is familiar to us.

Non-artificial vs. synthesized

Sound+Sleep “Sound stories” are recordings taken from natural environments all over the U.S. The waterfall is from Uvas …. The ocean recording is from the Pacific Ocean at Santa Cruz.

However, synthesized sound is also useful and necessary when White Noise is your sound preference. Pure white noise is actually synthesized sound that helps our brain tune out noise disturbances and focus on the “hum” or buzz of white noise.  So it is “naturally, unnatural.”

White noise is created by generating random frequencies in equal proportions per octave, typically using a special mathematical computer program. (4)

This synthesized sound masks other noises by allowing your brain to tune in and focus on one select sound.

Sound Triggers Emotion

Transports us to places; Transcends time and space

Auditory often sparks thoughts, memories, and scenes. We’re not just hearing, we are immersed in the entire world that produces that sound. Think of how a song takes you back to a place in time. You don’t just hear the song, you experience the place, the people you’re with – the detail of your surroundings.

“Scientists have recently discovered why sounds trigger such strong emotional responses. The result of their study measuring brain responses in lab rats when exposed to noise paired with fearful situations, suggests that your brain stores sound that is tied to strong emotion, allowing the sound to acquire an emotional meaning, months and years later.” (5)

Has a calming effect

In a study conducted by the Dept. of Psychology of Stockholm University, to evaluate whether some sounds had more calming and soothing effects than others, the research confirmed that of all test sounds, “nature sound was perceived as more pleasant than any of the noises in the study.” Low noise and ambient sound were similar in perceived pleasantness whereas the high noise sound was perceived as more eventful than the other sounds. (6)

Conversely, loud, obtrusive sound can impact sleep to the point of it being interrupted entirely, with little hope of return – at least for the time being. Proactively minimizing disruptive noise – with sound machines featuring Adaptive Sound technology to mask disruptive noise can significantly decrease the chance of your sleep being disturbed.

All in all, what we hear seriously impacts how we sleep. It can influence how we go to sleep, stay asleep and perhaps, even how we dream.

For more information about our sound story library visit SoundofSleep.com.

Sources:

  1. S+ ResMed: http://sleep.mysplus.com/library/category2/article3.html
  2. Why Sound of Water Helps You Sleep: LiveScience: http://www.livescience.com/53403-why-sound-of-water-helps-you-sleep.html
  3. Sleep Apps, Trackers and Sound Machines (Oh My!)…: http://asticorp.com/sleep-apps-trackers-and-sound-machines-oh-my-what-you-need-to-know-before-you-buy/
  4. Can Noise Help You Sleep?: http://asticorp.com/cannoisehelpyousleep/
  5. The Emotions of Sound…: https://www.audicus.com/relationship-sound-hearing/
  6. Stress Recovery During Exposure to Nature Sound and Environmental Noise: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2872309/