Best Noise-Canceling Devices for Sleeping (Light Sleeper Tips)
If you frequently find yourself unable to shut out the relentless ambient sounds at bedtime, you may want to look into solutions sooner rather than later. There are several things that could be keeping you up, including noise sensitivity! Fortunately, there are plenty of solutions available in the form of some of the best noise-canceling devices for sleeping.
In the following article, I’ll talk about several kinds of devices you may want to look into. I also have multiple guides to different sleeping aid devices which may further explain why you’re having difficulty falling and staying asleep. However, before we get into all of that, there are a few questions I should answer. First, let’s talk about why some people find it impossible to fall asleep in noisy environments and others prefer it!
It may not come as a surprise to learn that there’s no single method guaranteed to get everyone to sleep. Basically, it all comes down to personal preference. Some people like to fall asleep in absolute silence, while others may feel more comfortable with some sounds. However, even the latter group has a preference for soothing, even monotone, and continuous sounds.
For example, scientists have already pointed out the benefits of white noise for falling asleep or focusing. The noise we usually associate with static is actually the combination of all the frequencies humans can hear. So it’s a combination of all of the frequencies between 20 and 20,000 Hertz.
However, the result is a bit too high-pitched for some people to comfortably fall asleep to. All of those frequencies are playing at the same volume, leading you to hear the higher-pitched ones as louder.
Still, if you’re not into white noise, there are other versions of it that may be more suitable for relaxing. Personally, I find pink and brown noises much more soothing. These two kinds of noises contain the same frequencies as white noise does, but the higher ones are playing in lower volumes. The resulting noises sound more like the continuous sound of the sea than static.
Sleeping Next to Snorers
On the other hand, some noises are pretty irritating to listen to all night long. For example, having a partner who snores can seriously impact the quality of your sleep. But don’t worry, even if you like to sleep in silence, you’re not doomed to a sleepless life.
There are plenty of devices that could help you maintain a quiet bubble as you get ready to sleep. In fact, there are generally two methods for achieving noise cancelation. So before I tell you about the kinds of products you could use, let’s talk about active and passive noise control.
Types of Noise-Canceling Technology Most Devices Use
When it comes to noise-canceling technology, there are two main methods most devices use. Products like earplugs, earmuffs, and most kinds of headphones employ passive noise insulation. As I have previously explained, these devices create a physical barrier which muffles or completely blocks out external noises.
Some of these products are better than others. Still, most of their success depends on whether they can effectively prevent sound from getting inside the ear. Since this doesn’t require any additional power source, these kinds of products can work well on their own.
Some of them are disposable and others are reusable, but most of them are also fairly affordable. Overall, they can block most sound frequencies, which makes them superior to active noise control.
Active Noise Cancelation
So then, what is active noise cancelation? Well, it’s certainly more complicated than what we just discussed. Most active noise control products are headphones and earbuds. So the technology is often there to help the existing passive isolation. For example, headphones generally have thick padding around the ears in addition to the separate noise cancelation system. But how would that work?
Well, active noise cancelation is really only effective at canceling out sounds that are continuous and consistent. First, the dedicated microphone records the outside noise. Almost instantaneously, the machine flips the frequencies and plays them back through the speakers. That should essentially cancel out both sound waves.
However, as you might have guessed, it does nothing for noises that aren’t constant. So this method is only able to tune out noises such as the sound of traffic or perhaps muted conversation. After all, there is a delay between when the microphone picks up the sounds and the playback. So, the products in this category won’t be able to protect you from sudden noises.
Furthermore, unlike passive noise isolation, active noise control usually does require some kind of power source. If you’re using headphones or earbuds with active noise control, you’ll probably have to charge the part of the device that stores this technology. That also means that you’ll be able to use the active noise control feature even if you aren’t listening to music.
Examples of the Best Noise-Canceling Devices for Sleeping
Whether you like to fall asleep to the tune of a soothing playlist or you prefer silence, sudden, disruptive noises can really put a damper on your sleepy mood. Fortunately, there are plenty of products you can use to create your ideal sleeping conditions.
To begin with, I’ll talk about devices that can muffle or completely block out ambient noise. Alternately, if you’re someone who is uncomfortable with sleeping in silence, I’ll present several alternatives that should enable you to listen to white noise or music as you get to sleep. With that in mind, let’s see our first option.
Earplugs Suitable for Sleeping
Personally, I used to have conflicted thoughts on earplugs until I tried wearing them to bed for a week. That experience has convinced me that they’re actually excellent tools for blocking out noise if you know how to use them. Fortunately, I have two guides you can use to figure it out. Furthermore, I’ve also reviewed earplugs that are suitable for sleeping and ones that are better for working.
Most of the earplugs on the market can be separated into two categories, based on the materials they’re made of. The disposable ones are made from foam, whereas the reusable ones are generally made of firm silicone. However, there are also products that don’t belong to either one of these groups, such as moldable silicone or thermoplastic.
These kinds of products use passive noise control, which means that they physically shut off your ear. Foam plugs should be rolled between your palms and inserted inside the ear, where they inflate to fill the ear completely. While their silicone counterparts perform similarly well, they’re often washable and therefore more long-lasting. Additionally, they don’t absorb the natural moisture inside your ear, which means that you won’t experience itchiness.
In my opinion, the benefits of wearing earplugs certainly outweigh the possible disadvantages. That’s actually why I make sure to carry a pair with me everywhere I go, especially when I know I’ll be staying in a hotel, where all sorts of noises can keep me up.
Noise-Canceling Earmuffs for Sleeping
On the other hand, if you don’t believe that you’ll be able to sleep with a foreign object inside your ear, I totally understand that, too. Some people simply can’t relax with plugs in their ears. So what are they to do?
Well, earmuffs are the next best thing. Like earplugs, earmuffs use passive noise control to limit the amount of noise that makes it to your ears. However, instead of closing off your ear, they do it by encircling it or topping it with a thick foamy material.
The trick is in finding earmuffs that are comfortable enough to sleep in, which is particularly hard if you sleep on your side. Fortunately, there are all sorts of products that fit the bill. First, if you sleep on your back, you probably won’t mind these basic, lightweight safety earmuffs from Pro For Sho.
On the other hand, if you’re a side sleeper, you might want to get ones that lay flatter against your ears. Most of the sleeping earmuffs also cover your eyes, which is particularly handy if your room is flooded with street lights. There are ones that are a cross between safety earmuffs and a sleeping mask and ones that look more like a headband that goes over your eyes and ears. Some even have built-in headphones — which brings us to the next kind of noise-canceling device on my list.
Noise-canceling Headphones and Earbuds
Obviously, there is a huge difference between the previous two kinds of products we’ve seen and the category of products we’re now entering. Even though earmuffs and earplugs do look a bit like headphones and earbuds, they’re clearly quite different kinds of products. Namely, while the first two are supposed to muffle and block sounds from entering your ears, the latter two are audio devices that serve to disguise outside noises.
Once again, if you’re a back sleeper, you’ll be able to wear bulkier, over-the-ear noise-canceling headphones with active noise control. However, since most people tend to toss and turn in their sleep, you ought to stick to more comfortable options. Sadly, most headphones for sleeping don’t have active noise control technology. But if you’re only looking for snug headphones that won’t chafe or fall away, you’ll find what you’re looking for.
There are plenty of on-ear headphones that are built into washable headbands. Some of them are corded, while others are Bluetooth-enabled, so you’ll be able to pick whichever ones speak to you. Personally, I’d opt for corded ones if you’re traveling and cordless ones for when you know you’ll have access to a power outlet.
Alternately, if you prefer earbuds to headphones, I recommend grabbing shallow, flexible ones that won’t be too invasive if you sleep on your side. Additionally, if you’re not satisfied with mere passive isolation, plenty of earbuds also have built-in active noise control. There are both wireless and corded versions of these products, so you’ll be good to go whether you’re a calm sleeper or a restless one.
White Noise Machines
As I’ve already mentioned, many studies have remarked on the effect white noise has on the human brain. It has even been shown to help babies sleep, possibly because it may sound similar to the sounds the child may have heard in the womb. On a practical level, we know that white noise can mask pretty much any kind of sound, including the bass-heavy sound of snoring. However, as I’ve explained earlier, some people might find it too grating to fall asleep to.
There are ways around that. If you like the sound of white, pink, or brown noises, you’re in luck. Many electric white noise machines have different noise settings which usually include at least two of those options. Some of them even throw various nature sounds into the mix. The HoMedics machine is the perfect example of that, offering the sound of a river, the ocean, and rain, in addition to thunder, white noise, and a summer night profile.
On the other hand, you can also get a mechanical white noise machine, such as the Marpac Dohm. The mechanical machine has a single button on it, which turns on the sound and sets the speed. Once the unit is on, the fan inside starts spinning, which is when you can twist the acoustic metal top to adjust the tone and volume of the sound.
If you’re wondering about how this classic mechanical machine fares next to an electric one, check out my comparison of the Marpac Dohm and Lectrofan machines. As another mechanical alternative to electric white noise machines, you could go for white noise fans. As you might have inferred, these are just regular cooling fans which also happen to make the kind of soothing noise you might fall asleep to.
Sound Apps that Help You Fall Asleep
In addition to white noise machines, there are all sorts of smartphone apps and online sites you can use to find the kind of sounds you’ll want to listen to. For one, if you know what you want to hear, YouTube is an excellent resource. Whether you want to hear 11 hours of jungle sounds or a guided meditation for sleep, you’ll find it there.
On the other hand, you can use various apps and sites to create a sound profile according to your specific tastes. Noise generators such as
let you choose between a host of different nature and ambient sounds to create the perfect sleeping environment for you.
And if that’s not quite your style, you can also find guided meditations to suit your every mood on different meditation apps. Yet, you may not feel comfortable enough to fall asleep. So what are you to do if you’re still too restless to sleep?
More Tips for Setting the Sleepy Mood
So we’ve seen the devices you can use to block out the noise while you sleep. However, there are other ways to ensure a relaxing environment before bedtime.
No Noise Before Bedtime
Aside from using white noise or music, you can also do your best to make sure that there are no weird noises that might disturb your rest. That means turning off any loud appliances, such as dishwashers, ice makers, space heaters, and dehumidifiers. In fact, if you’re considering getting a potentially noisy appliance, aim to get the quietest option.
Similarly, you should also look for ways to lessen the noise coming from outside your home. If you’re plagued by cars zooming by your house with the music turned up or neighbors partying well into the night, you can take steps to prevent that. And if worse comes to worst, you can always make an official noise complaint. On the other hand, you can also implement some basic soundproofing techniques in your bedroom.
Soundproofing Your Bedroom
When it comes to soundproofing, you should always begin by taking stock of the room you’re in. That will allow you to determine where the noise is coming from. After you do that, you’ll be able to figure out which methods of soundproofing you should use.
In our bedrooms, as in most other rooms, the weak spots tend to be the doors and windows. So you’ll want to start by focusing on those areas. On top of that, you can also work on the bed by surrounding it with soundproof curtains or room dividers. If you’re interested in my thoughts on bedroom soundproofing, check out my article on sleeping without earplugs.
Lastly, you might want to consider trying some relaxation techniques and other common-sense tips. For example, ever since we’ve all collectively developed an unhealthy relationship to our smartphones, scientists have urged us to steer clear of blue light late at night.
According to research, our phones, computers, and TV screens emit the kind of light that makes us more alert. There are ways to avoid the effects, including various apps (like f.lux) or even blue light blocking glasses. Ideally, though, you’d set aside all of your electronics about an hour before getting into bed.
Ironically, your smartphone could also turn into an important part of your bedtime routine. You could use it to play white noise, your favorite podcast, or even use a meditation app.
However, if none of that works, you can also engage your other senses. Many people use various scents to get them in the right state of mind. You can put a few drops of lavender essential oil into an aromatherapy diffuser. Alternately, you can use calming scented candles to achieve a similar effect. And, if all else fails, you can always rely on sleep supplements to get you there.
Pick a Device and Get More Sleep
Hopefully, those last few tips will allow you to create an environment you’ll be able to fall asleep in. With a few adjustments, you can rest in a cozy cocoon of soundproof curtain canopy, surrounded by the smell of lavender. Add a sound machine to the mix, and you’ll be able to sleep to the tune of rain patter. I can hardly imagine a better setting for deep sleep.
So put your earplugs in and turn your lights off, light sleepers! Once you’ve picked out one of the noise-canceling devices I’ve mentioned today, it’ll only be a matter of time till you’re out cold. And without being able to hear disruptive sounds in the night, your dreams will be more restful than ever!