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Top 6 Soothing Sleep Sounds

by BetterSleep
Mar 5 • 4 min read

What is it about a gentle river flowing, a soft piano lullaby, or even an oscillating fan that makes people want to fall asleep? These are just a few of the most popular soothing sleep sounds that offer a fast track to dreamland, even for restless sleepers.

Whether these comforting sounds merely block noise pollution or they work deeper to calm the mind and nervous system, research supports the benefits of using sleep sounds for falling asleep and improving sleep quality.

Six potted plants and cactuses with flowers

Some sleep sounds go far back, and some are relatively new. The following six sleep sounds are the most popular and effective for soothing you to sleep.

Ocean, rain, river, and other water sounds

The rhythmic sound of water is undeniably calming. Perhaps it’s a reminder of that relaxing vacation you took, or it’s just effective in drowning out environmental noise. Either way, science shows that it does help improve sleep quality. A study on post-heart surgery patients demonstrated that ocean sounds improved sleep quality, depth, and ability to fall back asleep.

Other popular water sounds that lull you to sleep are rainfall, a flowing river, and a gentle stream.

Nature sounds

The enduring pastimes of camping and backyard sleepovers under a starry sky are so comforting for the soul. Whether it’s the wind blowing through leaves or birds singing their morning song, the sounds of nature help us relax.

Researchers compared the soothing effects of listening to sounds from a natural environment versus an artificial one and found that natural sounds produced more relaxation and stimulated the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the rest and digest part of the nervous system responsible for the balance and maintenance of the body’s systems, including getting quality sleep. And for individuals that had the most substantial amounts of stress, nature sounds induced the greatest levels of relaxation.

So, if stress is disturbing your sleep, then try out the gentle sounds of nature, like the sounds of crickets chirping, a peaceful evening in a forest, or a gentle breeze.


A sleep aid that’s only recently come to light is Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) - the triggering of tingling sensations on the top of the head, the back of the head and neck, and along the spine. Popular ASMR audio triggers include whispering and tapping fingers. It has gained enormous popularity as enthusiasts report that the pleasant sensations they produce help with relaxation and sleep.

Since ASMR is relatively new, there’s very little research about it. However, one study has shown that ASMR significantly reduces the heart rate and produces overall calming and pleasant effects.

White noise

Perhaps humankind’s first experience of sleeping with white noise emerged in the early days of television when stations used to sign off late at night. The snoozing viewer would be sound asleep in front of a screen of snow accompanied by a rushing, static noise.

One study does show that white noise is effective for masking environmental sounds and that it improved sleep quality. So, if external sounds are keeping you awake, the fixed static of white noise might be the ideal sleep sound for you.

Calming music

Even with access to an endless variety of sleep sounds, relaxing music remains one of the most beloved sounds people like to fall asleep to. Classical music has been shown to promote better sleep in individuals with sleep challenges and decrease depressive symptoms, which may also interfere with quality sleep.

And it doesn’t need to be classical music to positively affect you. The key is to choose music that you enjoy and find calming as an accompaniment to soothe you to sleep.

Oscillating fan

Though there isn’t research yet specifically about the sounds of an oscillating fan, it does act as white noise and could offer some of the same benefits—like masking external noise. The tranquilizing sound of a blowing fan—minus the chill of a real one—is one of the most adored sleep sounds.

Choosing the best sleep sounds

It might be helpful to try out a variety of sleep sounds at bedtime and try and find out what addresses your particular sleep challenges. Luckily, BetterSleep has over 200 sounds to help you fall asleep every night. So, get comfortable and enjoy being lulled to sleep with your favorite sounds.

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