Living on a busy road isn’t a problem during the day. The sounds of passing cars and people talking don’t really bother you. But, if you can’t sleep because of road noise, it can affect your life from top to bottom.
The problem of how to drown out the noise from the street is a tricky one. But, it’s not without solutions. That’s what this guide is all about. If the idea of blocking out road noise sounds useful to you, read on for some easy-to-implement strategies.
How to Reduce Traffic Noise in Your Bedroom
There are things that everybody does block out the noise. Drastic measures include taking sedatives to knock yourself out (not recommended). But, there are much better things you can do. These require a little effort but can enjoy enough relief to get a good night’s sleep.
Move the Position of Your Bed
The first and most straightforward method is to move your bed to the opposite side of the room. If your bed is underneath a window, it’s little wonder you’re lying awake at night. The window is one of the main parts of a wall that ‘leaks’ noise, both in and out. Just think of the difference between a room with closed windows, and a room with none at all.
Simply move your bed to the wall that’s furthest away from the street. This won’t eliminate noise, but it might make the area around your bed just a little bit quieter. If the road noise isn’t that bad, this might be the difference between good and bad sleep.
Rearrange Furniture & Decorations
The window isn’t the only part of a wall that seeps noise. If they’re thin enough, the noise comes through the walls themselves. This is especially the case in modern houses. But, by rearranging furniture, you can prevent some of that noise from coming in.
All you have to do is put furniture up against the wall. This will help muffle and block some of the noise. Decorations like art and wall hangings have a similar effect. They won’t block out noise entirely, but with your bed on the opposite side of the room, they can make your bedroom even quieter.
If you’ve tried the first two tips, but they don’t work, it might be time for drastic action. You might want to try switching bedrooms if you have the opportunity. Sleeping on the upper floors of a house is always better. You’re further away from the road. So, if you sleep on the bottom floor, consider moving to the top floor.
If possible, you should also move to the other side of the house—the furthest away from the road. The effect that just a few extra yards can have is surprising. All of the extra brick or wooden walls in the way dramatically reduce noise. Of course, not everybody has the luxury of being able to use other bedrooms in their house; you might want to use the next tips instead.
Lower the Heat
You might assume that it’s best to keep your bedroom as warm as possible to get better sleep. But, that’s not true.
Cooler temperatures help you sleep quicker and stay asleep for longer. That’s because your body naturally cools down before sleep, and keeping the room cool too helps your body get there quicker.
Here is some advice on how to cool your bedroom without air conditioning (AC).
Practise Sleep Hygiene
‘Sleep hygiene’ is a term that refers to how you get ready for sleep. It’s basically how you wind down in the evening hours. Good sleep hygiene is anything that encourages relaxation and tiredness; poor sleep hygiene is anything that does the opposite.
Consider the following ideas:
- Sit down to eat at a set time (e.g., 7 pm) each night. Eating too late disrupts your digestion and sleep.
- Enjoy free time to relax after you eat. You can do whatever you want: watch TV or YouTube, housework or exercise.
- At a set time (e.g., 9 pm), turn off any screens. Blue light from phones or TV prevents your body from tiring.
- Get in bed at a set time each night to train your body to adhere to a sleep schedule.
You might find that road noise was only part of the problem. Whether there’s road noise or not, you’ll struggle to get to sleep if you normally go to bed at 2 am each morning. Sleep hygiene is a simple tip that often solves the problem on its own.
A study in the Journal of Advanced Nursing showed that music improved sleep quality in students. The trick is to use relaxing classical music — nothing upbeat or exciting. The students reported that they slept for longer, with fewer interruptions. They also experienced a reduction in depressive symptoms. So, if you’re feeling down because of lack of sleep, music could help you to sleep better.
Music is the most effective 45 minutes before you go to bed. It can put you in a more relaxed state of mind, which helps you approach the night without stress. With a pair of earphones or headphones, you can use music to disguise noise.
If you don’t already have double glazing, you should consider it. If you didn’t know, double glazing is basically a window inside a window: two windows stacked together, one inside and one out.
The point of double glazing is to keep heat inside during the winter, and outside during the summer. But it’s also an excellent way to stop noise getting in. This is a more expensive solution, but it is remarkably effective.
Invest in Your Front Yard
Make structural changes to your front yard (if you have one). Walls, shrubs, trees, and garden furniture all play a role in deflecting noise away. The bigger your wall or fence, the more powerful the effect.
The cheapest and easiest way to achieve that is with a tall fence. But having a wall or tree line combination would absorb even more noise. So, if you’ve been considering getting your yard landscaped, now might be the time.
Earplugs for Sleeping
Earplugs are normally the first sleep product that people buy. The idea is so simple: block out any noise by plugging up your ears. Basic earplugs are made of foam and are disposable. They’re a very affordable option for the budget-conscious shopper.
You can also find more effective earplugs: silicone and wax, as well as custom earplugs fitted by a healthcare provider. These are more effective but are more expensive.
- Pros: Earplugs are the simplest way by far to block out the noise. Instead of rearranging furniture or doing DIY, just put earplugs in at night. It couldn’t be any easier.
- Cons: Earplugs can’t block all noise. They do a great job, but they won’t make you deaf overnight. If the road noise is loud enough, it’ll still wake you up.
Headphones to Block Out Noise
Sleep earmuffs are exactly what they sound like. They’re like regular earmuffs, except more comfortable when you wear them to bed. Normal earmuffs are too big and bulky, and would easily slip off over the course of the night. Sleep earmuffs, by contrast, are designed to be comfortable and easy to use.
The majority of sleep earmuffs come with a sleep mask built-in. This achieves two things: first, it helps you sleep better overall. But it also helps keep them in place over the course of a long night. If there’s anything else keeping you up—bright street lights, for instance—then sleep earmuffs can help too.
- Pros: Sleep earmuffs block out light, too. This helps you sleep better overall. Since you can reuse them, they’re also easier to use long-term than earplugs.
- Cons: Sleep earmuffs are more expensive than simply buying earplugs and a blackout face mask for sleep.
Natural Sleep Remedies
Natural supplements can help you deal with anything from lack of sleep to inflammation and pain. There are all sorts of natural supplements and other remedies that could help, including:
Essential oils, which can help you relax before bed
Supplements that include chamomile, lavender, valerian root, magnesium, and melatonin
Other warm drinks like milk, which relax the mind and body
- Pros: These remedies are great in combination with other sleep aids. Together with earplugs, you have more restful sleep overall.
- Cons: Natural remedies don’t block out the noise. You might still wake up at night if you don’t use other sleep aids too.
Herbal Tea for Sleep
Herbal tea is a natural remedy that deserves a section of its own. Many teas are renowned for their soporific effect, especially chamomile. Generally, drinking warm drinks at night is a good idea as the warmth of the drink helps you sleep.
However, chamomile’s effect goes beyond just warming you up and helping you relax. Chamomile tea contains a mild natural tranquilizer which helps you get to sleep quicker and to sleep deeper.
Other teas including green tea work too, although not to the same extent. Just avoid black tea—and, of course, coffee—because of their caffeine content.
- Pros: Chamomile tea does work. Just check this paper in Molecular Medicine Reports.
- Cons: The positive effect of teas is mitigated by their diuretic action. In simple terms, they make you get up more at night to go to the toilet.
Essential Oil Diffusers
Essential oil diffusers help you sleep by gently releasing essential oils over the course of a night. While they’re not the first choice for most people, and easily dismissed as hokum, essential oils do work to relax the body.
A controlled study in Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine found a significant increase in sleep time in those who used essential oils versus those who didn’t. They might, therefore, be able to prevent you from waking up because of traffic noise, or any other problem.
- Pros: They’re non-invasive, calming, and easy to use.
- Cons: More studies are needed to see how essential oils affect the body.
Seal Gaps in Your Windows
A direct way to block out any noise from the street is to seal your windows better. If you live in an older house, the odds are that your windows have come a little loose. This lets in noise, cool air, and moisture—so sealing your windows is a good idea anyway.
You don’t need to buy any particularly special products. All you need are basic window sealant agents. These are available online, or from any DIY store.
- Pros: Sealant alone can often be enough to block out the majority of noise coming from the street. If road noise is the only noise that keeps you awake, this could solve your problem entirely.
- Cons: If any other noise—e.g., neighbor noise—keeps you awake too, then sealant won’t help.
Something that achieves the same thing as window sealant is a soundproofing curtain. These are like your regular curtains but are extra thick. The extra thickness blocks out the noise. They don’t have to look strange; in fact, they look much the same as a normal curtain. There isn’t just one brand, either, so you can pick from a range of styles and colors.
You might think that harder materials like wood or brick would be best at blocking out the noise. In fact, the opposite is true. Soft materials absorb sound waves far better than harder brick, wood, or tile. Not only that, but the more layers to a material, the more likely it is to absorb noise.
- Pros: Soundproof curtains are cheap, and look good. They’re also great in that you don’t have to wear them. Many people report being unable to sleep with large earmuffs on their head, or with uncomfortable earplugs. They also directly prevent the problem of noise from the street.
- Cons: Curtains aren’t a great option if you have a lot of windows in your bedroom or house. It may be expensive to buy as many soundproofing curtains as you need.
Soundproofing Wall Panels
Soundproofing foam is exactly what it sounds like. You can buy wall panels made of a special kind of foam that blocks out the noise and keeps noise in. If you’ve ever seen the inside of a recording studio, you’ll know what it looks like. However, you can buy these panels in a variety of styles that are intended for home use.
All you have to do is stick the panel to the wall. Most kinds of panels come with a sticky back that you adhere to the wall. This makes use, and removal, simple. They’re by far the best solution available on the market today. A study in the British Medical Journal found that they can reduce noise significantly, even in noisy environments like hospitals.
- Pros: Soundproofing wall panels are by far the most effective way to block out the noise. That’s why they’re used in recording studios. They’re also easy to put up and take down.
- Cons: The more expensive the panel, the better it is. Unfortunately, they’re more expensive than using earplugs. That’s especially the case if you need to soundproof a large area of the wall.
White Noise Machines
White noise machines create relaxing sounds. White noise is the familiar noise of static, but it’s also scientifically defined, too. White noise is defined as a random signal having equal intensity at different frequencies. In basic English, this means that white noise is noise at all frequencies, at once.
A study in the Archives of Disease in Childhood showed that newborns love white noise, and adults are no different. White noise machines are excellent for masking street noise. A car’s engine is a low-frequency noise—a rumble. A car alarm is a higher frequency noise—it’s high pitched and piercing. White noise is a sound that is both high and low frequency at the same time.
You might be wondering why that’s important. Well, there are two ways to get rid of noise: blocking and masking. Blocking noise means stopping the sound waves from reaching your ears at all. Using a sealant or curtains is a great example. Masking noise, by contrast, doesn’t involve blocking sound waves from reaching your ears.
It involves using other noises at the same frequency—like white noise. If the white noise is loud enough, you won’t be able to hear the other disturbing noise at all. This gives you a more restful night’s sleep.
- Pros: White noise is effective against all noise. This includes street noise, noise from neighbors, and even snoring. It’s, therefore, a great solution no matter what your problem is.
- Cons: White noise machines are expensive relative to the other options above. That being said, they are, of course, reusable. If you get many years’ use out of your device, the expense won’t seem as bad.
What Should I Do First to Reduce Noise in a Room?
Combine as many options as possible. Start by moving your bed, and block out the noise with furniture and decorations where possible. Then, buy just one sleeping product—say, earplugs—and see how they work. This might be enough to nip your problem in the bud.
Give each method an honest assessment. Is it not working at all? Try something else entirely. If it’s half-working—so, you wake up less often for example—you might want to combine it with something else. Maybe try using natural sleep supplements alongside your earplugs (or white noise machine) to see if that does the trick.
Consider talking to your physician about the problem. Lack of sleep is a crucial issue. According to the journal Nature and Science of Sleep, sleep disruption causes stress, somatic pain, and reduced quality of life. It can also negatively affect mood, memory, and cognitive performance—in the long term. So talk with your doctor and see what they can do for you if the tips above don’t work.