How To Block Out Noise In Bed

illustration of a house with different sources of noise from neighbors in each windowHow much sleep have you lost recently because of inconsiderate neighbors or a snoring partner?

For sensitive sleepers, noise can be one of the biggest obstacles to a good night’s sleep.

It’s one thing to ask a housemate to turn their television down. But it’s not so easy to stop someone snoring or put an end to a party in full swing.

Fortunately, there are ways to block out both external and internal noise – or at least reduce it to a tolerable level.

1. If you can’t stop the noise, block the noise

Sometimes your best chance for peace is to stop the sound reaching your ears. Or perhaps replace it with a sound which you find more relaxing.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t try and stop the noise at its source when possible. But it may be a case of focusing your efforts on reducing how much noise reaches you.

My top three suggestions for blocking noise are:

foam earplugs

2. Coping with a noisy bed partner

Many sleep disorders involve making noise while sleeping. While you shouldn’t blame your partner for having a sleep disorder, it’s reasonable to expect them to consider treatment.

For example, if you sleep with a snorer, there are plenty of good snoring devices they can try. And you might find it helpful to read the longer article about sleeping with a loud snorer.

Even sleep talking can be tackled with some lifestyle changes.

woman trying to block out noise with a pillow

3. Soundproofing your home

Sound has an astonishing ability to find its way through the smallest of gaps. Add since sound waves can transmit through most solid walls, it takes some effort to fully soundproof a room.

Installing proper soundproofing can also be expensive, or a complex DIY task which your landlord might not allow.

So here are some basic tips for soundproofing your bedroom:

  • Make sure all gaps and cracks are sealed. Check your window frames, door frames, floorboards and skirting boards. Use an appropriate sealant if necessary.
  • Hang heavy curtains or drapes on windows and even walls to soak up some sound.
  • Buy a blackout blind which has inbuilt extra soundproofing.
  • Create a solid mass at the offending wall. For example, put bookshelves, cupboards or wardrobes on the wall which is next to your partying neighbor or noisy housemate.
  • Make sure the room above you has a thick carpet.

For more information on soundproofing, there’s a useful article on howstuffworks.com. It also explains in more detail why it’s hard to soundproof rooms!

sound proofing diagram

The sound from a television can easily find its way to other rooms.

4. The art of communication

If the troublesome noise is coming from someone you live with, it shouldn’t be too difficult to ask them nicely to be quieter – in theory.

In reality, we all have different perspectives on what’s unacceptably noisy, what time is considered late at night, and how well others should tolerate our choice of activity.

But really it boils down to the art of negotiation – or control if you’re a parent. It’s important to ask someone diplomatically to understand the fact that the noise is affecting your sleep, daily life, and well-being.

That, in my experience, usually gets a better result than accusing someone of being unreasonable. By calmly asking for help and understanding, you’re more likely to get it than if you confront them angrily.

Don’t start a sound war

If it’s a neighbor disturbing you, resist the temptation to start a sound war. Again, start with a polite request and continue to ask politely. If you blast your music back at them, nobody wins.

If someone is willing to work with you, then you can do some experiments to find the maximum volume they can put a television of stereo at without you hearing it. They could even use a little sticker to mark the maximum volume point.

photo of a man trying to sleep in one room with a noisy neighbor in the room next to him

5. Call the noise-busters

It’s a dramatic course of action, and won’t earn you any friends. But if your neighbors are continually noisy in a disrespectful way, there may be a local government noise pollution department you can call.

This varies from country to country, but might be the only way to deal with building work on a Sunday morning or constant late night parties.

Looking up the law where you live can help prepare your case. Check online what time builders can use power tools, what time fireworks can go on to, how late music can be played in the street.

6. Move your bedroom

Again, this would be a dramatic course of action and not everyone will have the option to simply move bedroom.

But if your bedroom is on the main road, or next to a room with a screaming toddler, it might be worth shuffling your rooms around.

7. Mind over noise

Sleep problems often end up in a vicious circle, and noise is no exception. The stress of being kept awake by noise can itself turn into a worry that you won’t sleep. And that worry then becomes the reason you can’t sleep.

How do you fix this? Well, the goal is to reduce how much you allow yourself to be upset by noise at night. How you go about doing that though can come down to several factors.

If you’re a sensitive person, prone to stress and anxiety, then it can be difficult to let go. Trying to adopt a new attitude that you forgive whoever or whatever is making the noise, and that you can learn to sleep with it can take time.

But it’s not impossible. And in most cases, people do eventually become accustomed to noise like traffic and learn to sleep with it.

Your views

Does noise keep you awake at night? Feel free to share your story or vent your frustration in the comments below.

And if you have any useful techniques for coping with noise at night, I’d love to hear them.

116 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I live next to a school, at 3:30 am the snow clearing crews show up to start working, it is extremely loud, wakes me up and I can’t fall back asleep. I have contacted bylaw hoping that they could push back their start time to 5 am but because it is a school and a priority, nothing can be done. I am nervous about earplugs because I have a child at home who may wake up and need me (my husband works out of town). I am a very sensitive sleeper, the slightest noise keeps me up, even in the summer when we need a fan on, I have an awful time getting and staying asleep. What do you suggest?

    • Hi Jessica
      Sorry to hear you have this issue. It seems like maybe you need to stop the noise getting into the house as much as possible. Could you move bedrooms to the other side of the house? If not, can you do something to add another layer of sound proofing to the window?
      Regards
      Ethan

    • Hi there
      I agree, for noise that isn’t too loud, headphones and music are a simple and effective solution.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Hi,

    I live in a student home where there are parties every single night till 8 A.M. I have a lot of noise because of the music and screaming (I sleep 5 meters away from the party, it comes from my window). Is a noise cancelling headphone the right way to go? White noise and earplugs barely work so far.

    • Hi Linda
      Thanks for your comment. To be honest, if you live right next to extremely loud noise, there might be nothing you can do to completely block it out. Sorry!
      Noise cancelling headphones might help a little, but they probably won’t do much better than earplugs or white noise. You could perhaps try listening to white noise through those headphones if you can tolerate it.
      It might take some experimenting, but I wouldn’t spend big on headphones unless you can definitely get a refund if they don’t work well enough for you.
      Regards
      Ethan

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