If you find yourself struggling to fall asleep at night or waking up frequently, you’re not alone — and your sleeping background noise, aka your aural environment, may have something to do with it.
An aural environment is the sound environment that surrounds you. It includes all the sounds you hear in your daily life — from the sounds of nature on your morning walk to the sounds of bustling city streets on your commute. The hum of a refrigerator, overheard conversations, background music, and other ambient sounds also make up your aural environment.
RELATED: What Is Green Noise & Can It Help You Sleep Better?
How Your Aural Environment Affects Sleep
It’s easy to underestimate the impact of the noise around you, or maybe you are unaware of how even subtle sounds can affect the quality of your slumber. However, even when you’re asleep, your brain continue to register and process sound.
This means that even if you don’t consciously wake up because of a noise, it can still have a negative impact on your sleep quality. Research has, in fact, shown that irregular exposure to sound can disrupt the circadian rhythm, and make it difficult to fall and stay asleep.
That said, there are steps you can take to manage the impact of noise on your sleep. By understanding your aural environment and how it affects sleep, as well as implementing some simple changes to the environment, you can create a more peaceful and restful space that promotes quality sleep.
4 Elements of Your Aural Environment
Your aural environment is made up of several different elements, each of which can significantly impact your sleep quality. Understanding these elements is crucial to creating a sleep environment that promotes relaxation.
The volume of sounds present in your environment can significantly affect the quality of your aural environment. Loud and persistent sounds, such as traffic, construction noise, or even snoring, can disrupt your sleep and negatively impact your overall health and well-being. These sounds can cause your body to release stress hormones, leading to increased heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate, all of which can make it harder to fall and stay asleep.
Oura members can track biometrics like their heart rate and heart rate variability (HRV) which may indicate if their bodies are under stress or strain.
Each sound has a unique impact on sleep quality. Some sounds, such as white noise or ambient sounds that are low-pitched and continuous, can help mask other sounds and promote relaxation. In contrast, sudden or sharp sounds like a car honking can startle you awake and disrupt your sleep.
Time of Day
The time of day can also have a significant impact on your aural environment. During the day, sounds such as music or people talking may be acceptable, but these same sounds can be disruptive at night when you are trying to sleep. This is because our brains are wired to associate certain sounds with wakefulness and activity, and other sounds with relaxation and rest.
Finally, personal preferences play a role in the quality of your aural environment. Everyone has different preferences when it comes to sound, and what may be relaxing for one person may be disruptive for another.
For example, some people find the sound of rain soothing, while others may find it too distracting. Understanding your preferences and creating a sleep environment tailored to your needs can help promote better sleep quality.
By paying attention to the different elements that make up your aural environment, you can create a sleep environment that comes with several benefits.
The Psychological Benefits of Good Sleeping Background Noise
The following are some of the ways that good sounds can help you relax, rest, and feel better overall, which means you’ll sleep better too!
Good sleeping background noise can promote relaxation and have a significant impact on reducing stress levels. For example, research has shown that listening to nature sounds, such as birds chirping or a waterfall, can lower cortisol levels, which is a hormone that is associated with stress. Similarly, white noise can help drown out background noise and create a peaceful atmosphere. Music therapy has also been found to be effective in reducing stress and promoting relaxation.
If you’re an Oura member, you can use your Sleep Score and Tags to see how well you sleep after experimenting with various types of sleeping background noise.
RELATED: Restless Sleep? How to Reduce Tossing and Turning at Night
Aural environments that promote relaxation and reduce stress can have a positive impact on mood. For instance, listening to relaxing music can improve mood and decrease anxiety levels. Moreover, nature sounds have been found to have a calming effect on individuals and can help reduce symptoms of depression. In turn, the improved mood will contribute to good sleep and overall better wellbeing.
Sleep-friendly aural environments that promote relaxation can help improve sleep quality and quantity. Such environments will, for example, make it easier to fall asleep and reduce the number of times someone wakes up during the night.
One study found that white noise reduced sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep after going to bed) by 38% compared to normal ambient noise.
Other research has also discovered that soothing music has a positive impact on sleep quality. In a study of older adults, those who listened to calming music for 45 minutes before bed experienced improved sleep quality and duration.
READ MORE: Why Sleep Matters
It’s clear that the right sleeping background noise can be highly beneficial to your sleep, but only when it’s optimized.
How to Optimize Your Aural Environment
Here are some ways you can optimize your aural environment for a better sleep experience:
Reduce noise pollution: When it comes to creating a sleep-friendly aural environment, reducing noise pollution is an important first step. This may involve using earplugs or noise-canceling headphones to block out disruptive noise, such as traffic or snoring. If you live in a noisy area, you may also consider installing soundproof curtains or improving your insulation to minimize outside noise.
Use sound machines: Sound machines can be a great tool for promoting relaxation and masking other sounds that may disrupt sleep. When choosing a sound machine, consider the various types available, including white noise machines, nature sound machines, and music machines. You’ll want to go for a machine that best suits your specific needs and preferences.
Choose soothing sounds: When selecting sounds for your sleep environment, it’s important to pick ones that promote relaxation and calmness. Soothing sounds, such as rain, ocean waves, or soft instrumental music, can be particularly effective. Don’t shy away from trying new sounds and adjusting your sleep environment as needed. At the same time, you should avoid sounds that are too stimulating or loud, such as heavy metal music or car alarms.
Adjust the volume: The volume of the sounds in your sleep environment is essential. The sounds should be loud enough to mask other noises but not so loud as to cause disturbances that will keep you up and negatively impact your sleep quality. It’s a good idea to try out different volume levels to find one that’s most effective for you.
Experiment with different sounds: Everyone is unique and this extends to preferences when it comes to sound. As such, you should test out different sounds. You may discover that a combination of sounds, such as white noise and nature sounds, is most effective. Oura members can track how certain behaviors, habits, and environmental factors like their aural environment impact sleep.
READ MORE: The Value of Oura Membership