How To Block Out Noise In Bed

illustration of a house with different sources of noise from neighbors in each window

How 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.

Considerate family members and housemates will usually turn down the TV if you ask them politely. But it’s a different ball game trying to stop someone snoring, or sleeping through the roar of your neighbor’s all-night party.

Noise has long been my nemesis when it comes to sleep. It’s the main reason I’ve spent years testing earplugs, sound machines, and various other ways to create my own little oasis of silence.

In this article, I’ll be sharing the techniques that have worked best for me personally, and suggesting ways that might help you either cut down the noise at night or at least reduce it to a tolerable level.


1. Block the noise

Sometimes your best chance for peace is to stop the sound reaching your ears. And if that doesn’t work, it can help to replace it with a sound which you find more relaxing.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to 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.

I wear earplugs most nights, as they usually block out most noise where I live. But I’ll sometimes use headphones or a white noise machine if the noise changes.

Below, you’ll find my current recommendations for each of these. And I also create video reviews for some of them on my YouTube channel.

foam earplugs

2. Cope with a noisy bed partner

Some 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 if possible.

For example, if you sleep with a snorer, there are lifestyle changes and anti-snoring products they can try. Some can be bought online or in pharmacies, and a doctor or dentist can also recommend good ones. You might also find it helpful to read my article about sleeping with a loud snorer.

Other noise-generating sleep problems, like sleep talking or teeth grinding, can be addressed with self-help, lifestyle changes or with the support of a medical professional.

woman trying to block out noise with a pillow

3. Soundproof your home

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

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

Here are some tips for reducing the amount of external sound that gets through to 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 the walls to soak up some sound.
  • Roll up a towel or other material and place it at the bottom of the bedroom door. You can also hang towels on windows if you don’t have curtains at the time.
  • 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!

And for DIY enthusiasts, familyhandyman.com has an excellent article explaining exactly how to soundproof a room, with steps for creating walls that will greatly dampen the sound.

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

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

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.

This might sound silly or impractical, but I’ve actually done it myself – when I was the offending noise creator!

Many years ago, my downstairs neigbour told me they could hear my music in the evening and they were working shifts so would appreciate it if I could keep the volume down after 8pm.

So we just worked together to find the exact volume where the bass wasn’t reaching their ears in bed. And in fact, it wasn’t much lower than I enjoyed listening to anyway, so I was fine with it.


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, next to a room with a screaming toddler, teenage insomniac heavy metal fan, or barking puppy, it might be worth shuffling your rooms around.

And if you’re staying in a hotel for the night, ask in advance for a quiet room or even to change rooms if necessary. I find they are usually very accommodating if you ask nicely.

7. Create a room within a room

In the years since I first wrote this article, I’ve thought a lot about the comments readers have left below.

A problem that crops up repeatedly is not being able to simply move rooms, and having issues like noisy upstairs neigbours, who perhaps walk around late at night and don’t have carpets, rugs or anything else to dampen the noise.

I asked my cousin about this recently, who is a sound engineer and has his own recording studio. What, if anything, can people in this situation do to reduce the noise? Isn’t there a simple material they can plaster all over their walls to shut out all the sound, just like he has in his studio?

If you have the money, you could pay a professional soundproofing company to come and remodel your bedroom in a way that might help, he told me.

Otherwise, what about creating a room within a room? Again, it’s quite an endeavor that requires money and/or decent DIY skills. There may also be building regulations and fire hazard issues to consider.

But the concept is one I wanted to mention here, as he seemed to think it would be a lot better than simply using earplugs.

How to do it is beyond the scope of this article, but if it’s an idea that interests you, I recommend reading the advice on homestudioexpert.com.

My helpful cousin also had three other tips that I liked:

  • Put some squares of neoprene under the bed legs to reduce the noise vibrating its way to your brain.
  • If you have a very minimalist bedroom, consider adding more soft furnishings like pillows, rugs, carpets and any fabrics which will help absorb noise energy.
  • If the more high-level soundproofing steps seem too expensive, hard to achieve or just impractical, you could perhaps try yourself by using heavy curtains, or even the type used in theatres. We also discussed the idea of using a four poster bed frame to hang thick curtains. Just leave room for fresh air to enter!

8. 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 that? 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.

9. Body over noise

My personal experience is that I sleep better in any conditions when I’m mentally and physically tired.

Sure, if I’m mentally worn out by my noisy neigbours, it doesn’t quite work the same!

But I know from spending years observing my own sleep, and how different factors impact it, that when I go to bed feeling ready to sleep, I’m much more likely to sleep through noise than when I go to sleep with excess energy I haven’t managed to burn off.

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.

212 thoughts on “How To Block Out Noise In Bed”

  1. I am the loud one in my apartment building because I have insomnia. My upstairs, underneath, and side by side neighbors all can hear me. I try to be as quiet as possible at 3am but my couch is really squeaky and the wood floors are loud whenever I walk on them or simply switch positions on my couch. I’ve tried to just watch tv and be still as possible but my bed is almost just as squeaky as my couch and they can hear my tv when it’s at a very low volume. I don’t want to just sit there in a dark room while my insomnia is in full on effect. I don’t have the funds to replace my couch or bed otherwise I would take this route and I can’t move to a different location because my lease doesn’t end for another 5 months. I have a new white noise machine but that doesn’t seem to help at all because I can hear my neighbors talk about how loud I am through the wall but they are too shy or nice to come say anything to me. Any suggestions on what I can do before I end up either getting the cops called on me or end up with my neighbors absolutely hating me. At this point I’m uncomfortable moving around or making any subtle noise in my apartment and that doesn’t feel like a healthy way to live and is making my insomnia and anxiety worse.

    1. Hi Spencer
      First of all, it’s a positive thing that you care enough about your neighbours to be worried about this. Not everyone would think this way! However, it’s obviously affecting your quality of life too, not just theirs.
      I imagine the ultimate goal would be to tackle your insomnia so you be asleep at 3am, not watching TV. What have you tried to improve your insomnia? Do you know what it is that causes it, if there is something more specific?
      As for practical steps, could you get a Bluetooth adaptor and headphones for your TV? That could solve that particular problem. Headphones could also help stop you hearing your neighbours too. Perhaps you could try putting a couple of layers of carpet patches under the feet of the couch and bed. That might help a tiny bit too.
      Regards
      Ethan

  2. Hi Ethan,

    Thank you for the article. Do you have any tips about ear plugs or similar that reduce noise from noisy, upstairs neighbors who like to watch TV in the middle of the night? My parents who live in an apartment building have very inconsiderate upstairs neighbors who like to do just that. Reasoning and pleading with them has not helped and my parents have exhausted all other options, including getting building management involved and even calling the police a few times. (My parents are not the only ones complaining, but they are the ones immediately below so get to hear the bulk of the noise). They cannot soundproof their apartment or build a room within a room unfortunately. They already have heavy curtains and I’ll mention the neoprene trick to them, but I doubt that it would have a significant effect.

    Their bedroom is directly below the TV room of the upstairs neighbors and it would be extremely inconvenient to move it (they would basically have to move their bedroom into the living room and they do not want to do that). Moving to another place is also not an option as this has been their home for over 20 years.

    Do you have any advice/articles on ear plugs, specifically ones that can reduce TV noise or voices from upstairs/next door neighbors? I understand that it is not possible to completely get rid of the noise, but I am really hoping that reducing it would allow my parents to get some rest.

    Thanks,

    Elena

    1. Hi Elena

      Thanks for your comment. I’m actually working on a large earplug review update at the moment, and hope to do a video some time before the end of the year.
      As it goes, one of the main reasons I wanted to do a video was to talk about the fact that I believe earplugs are very much a personal thing, as it really depends on your ear canal size and the way you fit them almost as much as the quality of the earplugs themselves.
      So really, the best thing is to try different packs, and unless a store sells a good brand, to avoid generic store brands and buy them online. Most of the worst earplugs Ive tried over the years were bought in supermarkets, pharmacies or airports. All of the best ones, I bought online – though I have also found some of them in stores in the US, such as Hearoes and Macks.
      Personally, I much prefer foam to wax, silicone and any type of plastic ones. They just work better. But…not everyone finds them comfortable. And some people are more concerned by the health risks that come with wearing earplugs all the time. Personally, I choose to have less noise over the risk of ear infections and have only had one in 20 years of using earplugs (that I’m aware of).
      So, within the foam earplug world, there are lots of good ones, and the right one for you (or them) will depend on the size and fit. I personally really like mack’s ultraSoft, any style of moldex earplugs, ear buddy, and howard laser leight. But really, any that have a noise reduction rating between 30 and 33 are worth trying at least once in my opinion.
      As for other options, there’s not much more I can offer than already in the article I’m afraid. Noisy upstairs neighbors can be a real nightmare, I know. For me, earplugs are the best way forward.
      Regards
      Ethan

    1. You’re very welcome Satya – I’m very happy to hear the article was useful. Let’s hope the tips actually help you!
      Regards
      Ethan

  3. Hi Ethan,

    I would like to know your opinion on sleeping in a room for 9 hours with closed windows. Is it unhealthy? CO2? Even if the air is maximally fresh in the moment of closing the windows?

    Thanks,
    Dominik

    1. Hi Dominik
      I guess it depends on just how sealed in you become. If there is very limited fresh air from any gaps in the home, then I imagine it’s not ideal. Where I live, winters can be very harsh, so I wouldn’t want to sleep with an open window on the coldest nights. But I know some air comes in around the window frame anyway, so I’m not bothered by keeping the windows closed all night.
      One other note I’d say is to make sure you have a carbon monoxide tester in the home if you feel there is no air flow.
      Regards
      Ethan

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