There’s nothing worse than trying to sleep in an apartment full of people who are living on different daily schedules. In college, I had one roommate who was regularly going out at all times of the night and another who went to evening classes and worked as an overnight cashier on top of that.
My schedule was pretty tame in comparison — and I definitely never envied them. However, this kind of discrepancy in schedules was why I had to figure out how to block out noise when trying to sleep without using headphones or earplugs.
As you can imagine, I have fairly sensitive hearing, and I’m very protective of it. That’s why I’m not too keen on using earplugs, despite knowing that they can be helpful for blocking out noise. My drummer friend, for example, swears that they’re the only reason why he still has his hearing. However, when it comes to creating a quiet environment to sleep in, I’d rather stick to the many other methods.
Sleeping with Earplugs
There are several reasons why I’m not a big fan of sleeping with earplugs in my ears. For one, even though they’re literally designed with comfort in mind, they just don’t feel right in my ears.
Ultimately, I think that it’s the lack of noise that gets to me, in a way. What if there was a fire alarm? Some people might even be afraid of missing their wake-up alarm. However, there are now plenty of alarm clocks that can wake you up by using vibrations or light. So this isn’t a concern I share.
Still, between the odd feeling in your ears and the fact that you might potentially miss suspicious noises, you can see why someone wouldn’t want to sleep with their ears plugged. And then, there are the health risks:
- Earplugs prevent your ear wax from draining from your ears as it normally would. That can lead to an infection.
- If you don’t clean your earplugs properly, bacteria can grow on them, further endangering your health.
- Pushing the earplugs too far into your ears can also damage the ear canal and lead to permanent hearing damage.
- Lastly, you can really damage your eardrums if you remove your earplugs too quickly. Some people learn the hard way that the proper way to remove earplugs is slowly, with a bit of a twist.
Of course, you may not experience any of these negative consequences at all. Cleaning your ears and the earplugs regularly, as well as getting new ones periodically, should minimize the damage. Still, if you’re like me and you don’t really like tempting fate, there are plenty of great alternatives you can use to block out the sounds of your roommates coming and going at all hours of the night.
How to Block Out Noise Without Earplugs
If you need to sleep in silence but are unwilling to use earplugs, there are plenty of other solutions to try. For one, there are also many soundproofing materials you could use. But if you’re worried about soundproofing materials raising eyebrows if you put them in your room, don’t be. I’ve come up with several solutions that will look natural.
I’ll even share some non-soundproofing recommendations for going to sleep without earplugs. But first, let’s talk about some earplug alternatives.
1. Try Some Earplug Alternatives
If you think that covering your ears is the only way for you to get some sleep, you have several options to choose from. If you want something that’s specifically designed to grant you peace of mind, you can use something like this sleeping mask with earmuffs. In fact, earmuffs are a great option if you’re looking for comfort and noise-canceling.
However, if that’s not quite your speed, soundproof headphones might be the route you want to go. In my article about sleeping with headphones on, I also mentioned earbuds. But if you’re as sensitive as I am about having things in your ears as you sleep, you may want to stick to headphones that cover your ears.
Plenty of the products I’ve recommended in the article I’ve linked to are wireless, which is what you want, especially if you’re someone who tosses and turns in their sleep. Also, most of the ones I recommended sit flat against the head, so they’re very comfortable as well.
You can even use the headphones to play music or even a meditation audio track as you fall asleep. Or, if you want to get ahead of the game, you could also listen to white noise. But if you’re not that excited about trying to sleep with headphones on, you could just play your tunes from speakers.
2. Use White Noise
White noise is a powerful tool for masking any type of noise. After all, it’s essentially a blend of all the frequencies humans can hear, although it doesn’t sound like anything at all. It’s the sound you used to hear when you saw static on the TV — a sort of a dense humming that eventually becomes background noise. Well, that background noise can actually cover up all sorts of other sounds, including the sounds of your drunk roommates returning from a bender.
As it turns out, I wrote about how white noise can help when you’re trying to sleep next to a person who snores. All of the advice I doled out in that article is applicable here. Essentially, there are several white noise products you can use:
- White noise machines are little devices with a speaker that can play white noise on a loop. Many of them have several additional sound profiles to choose from as well, such as lullabies and nature sounds (Amazon). If you’re interested in seeing the many other features some white noise machines come with, you can check out my article about them.
- Next, you have white noise fans, which are exactly what they sound like. They’re regular fans that keep you cool while producing a whirring noise that’s very conducive for falling asleep.
- Finally, you could also download one of the many mobile apps for white noise, or listen to it on YouTube. I’ve explained my experience with these in the article I’ve linked to.
3. Play Music or a Podcast
Using background music or a podcast to fall asleep is an offshoot of using white noise. Whether you play your own sleepy-time mix or one of the many soothing playlists on Spotify or YouTube, your choices are almost unlimited.
With music, only you will be able to decide what genre you want to listen to as you fall asleep. However, there are several podcasts that are supposed to make you basically pass out from boredom. I’d even stumbled upon one of these before writing my previous white noise article, and it left me so dazed that I actually forgot the name of the podcast.
After doing a bit of research, I can now say that the podcast I’d heard was probably Sleep With Me. The host talks in a monotone tone of voice about incredibly boring subjects, thereby putting the audience right to sleep. Apparently, the same person makes another podcast with a similar premise, Game of Drones. You can imagine what those topics are about.
There are also other podcasts that aren’t necessarily made to make you sleep, but they’d work in a pinch. Spotify is full of fiction podcasts, meditation tracks, and playlists of audiobooks, so you should have no shortage of content to doze off to.
4. Use Soundproof Curtains as Bed Canopy
Adding noise to noise is a bit like fighting fire with fire. Realistically, it may not work. Even worse, it may only cause more agitation if you’re overly sensitive to sounds coming from several sources at once. So I was thinking that you could make a bed canopy using soundproof curtains.
As you know, soundproof curtains are just thicker and denser than regular ones. Depending on whether or not you like to wake up with the sun, you may or may not appreciate the light blocking properties of these products.
Since soundproof curtains are typically also heavier than regular ones, you’ll need to make sure that your bed canopy can withstand the weight. So if the frame is too thin or unstable, you should consider making a new one.
I found a video on YouTube that will be very helpful if you’re considering building a bed canopy frame. You can see all of the supplies you’ll need to make a solid frame to hang your curtains onto. Or, if you’re not particularly handy, you could also buy one.
Once you have your frame all set up, you can hang soundproof curtains on all sides. Then, when you want to sleep, simply draw them shut and forget about the noise.
Alternately, if you’re working on a budget, you can also make a canopy out of old, thick blankets. And on the other hand, if you want your canopy to be even more effective, you can use room divider curtains and sew MLV pieces inside. Or you can use room divider curtains as they were intended to be used.
5. Encircle Your Bed with Soundproof Room Divider Curtains
Are you sharing a room with a roommate and you don’t want them trampling all over you on their way to their bed? Well, if setting up a canopy isn’t really your style but you do need some separation from the rest of the room, room divider curtains are the next best thing.
You can set up curtain rods along the ceiling to section off your areas of the room. As long as your room divider curtains reach all the way from the ceiling to the floor, you’ll be good to go. Just close them when you want some privacy and you won’t mind that your roommates are trampling all over the apartment at 4 am.
As always, you can check out my recommendations for all of these products in my previous articles on the subject.
6. Cover the Door and the Windows
On the other hand, if you have your own room in the apartment you’re sharing with your roommates, you could always just soundproof your own bedroom. However, if I had to tell you which places to focus most of your attention on — I’d point you to the doors and windows.
Most of the sounds that keep you up at night enter your bedroom through one of these two areas. So you could just use soundproof curtains on them as well. Or, if you wanted to, you could also cover them with soundproof or regular blankets.
Still, perhaps the most important part is to make sure that all of the gaps are plugged. Interior doors are tricky to soundproof but they’re not impossible, especially once you’ve gotten the hang of it. Fortunately, I’ve got an archive full of guides to help with that.
7. Put Soundproof Blankets on the Walls
If you have exceptionally thin walls, you may want to thicken them up. But don’t go berserk and line all of them with blankets. Instead, focus on dealing with any walls you share with your noisy roommates or neighbors first. For example, line up all of your closets and bookshelves along the weakest wall.
As for the rest of them, you can feel free to use soundproof curtains, pin up soundproof blankets, or even just use regular blankets or even carpets on those. It all depends on the general vibe you’re going for with the rest of the room’s decor.
8. Alternative Solutions
If you really can’t sleep or you feel particularly restless and irritable by the time you’re supposed to be in bed, your roommates may not be to blame. Your own body could be the thing that’s keeping you awake.
Well, if you want to be able to relax at bedtime, you should avoid napping during the day. Additionally, experts recommend sticking to a consistent sleeping schedule. Ideally, you’d be going to bed and waking up at about the same time every day.
After a while, your sleeping schedule should balance itself out as your body learns when to make melatonin on its own. Actually, having blackout bed canopy would help tremendously with this. Leaving the phone on the other side of the room is also advisable.
You can also try herbal remedies. I’ve heard that using a few drops of essential lavender oil on your pillowcase puts people right to sleep. You can also rub it on your skin or put it in some water and spray it around the room.
Still, if that’s not enough to get you to relax, you could also try meditation or other breaking exercises. A while ago, I decided to try out a technique the U.S. Navy developed in order to help their officers fall asleep faster. I found a video about it and had it playing as I followed the 5 steps program. It’s all about releasing muscle tension and emptying your mind, so it should count as some sort of meditation.
More on Blocking Noise While Sleeping
Remember, no matter how hopeless a situation may seem, you’ll probably be able to find a solution. Let yourself think creatively when you’re dealing with soundproofing projects. However, keep in mind that your moves should ideally make sense. Hence, why I’ve reminded you to keep the layout of your room in mind when you’re dealing with the walls.
Even if you share your bedroom with a particularly insensitive roommate, these tips should come in handy. Just find the combination of methods that works for you, and stick to it. You’ll be enjoying your new peaceful alcove in no time.