Getting adequate sleep is one of the most important things we can do to keep ourselves healthy. It is beneficial for our mental state, energy levels, and physical health. It repairs our bodies, helps to form memories, and prepares us for the long day ahead.
When you have to deal with noisy roommates, a good night’s sleep can feel like a distant memory. The more people you live with, the harder it can be to get to sleep. Whether your roommates are listening to music, snoring, or watching the TV, it’s all the same. You still can’t get any well-needed shut-eye.
Today, we’re going to look at why humans have trouble sleeping in a noisy environment. We’ll also examine how you can train yourself to sleep with noise. Finally, we’ll discuss how you can block out the sound of your noisy roommates.
Why Can’t I Sleep When My Room is Noisy?
Some people seem to find it easier to drift off in noisy situations than others. If you’ve ever encountered a “heavy sleeper,” you know the sort. It seems that even if an ambulance drove right through their bedroom, they’d remain slumbering peacefully throughout.
Light sleepers, on the other hand, may find it hard to fall asleep with any small noise. A dripping faucet or someone snoring in the next room can cause insomnia. And once they are asleep, light sleepers may wake at even the slightest sound.
But why do some people find it so hard to sleep with noise? A study measured the brain activity of heavy sleepers and light sleepers. They found that sensitivity to noise comes down to bursts of brain activity called “sleep spindles.” Generated by the thalamus, sleep spindles appear to prevent sensory information from waking the rest of the brain.
The study found that people who experience more sleep spindles are less likely to wake with noise. So, if noise is your ultimate night-time enemy, you have your thalamus to blame.
Scientists don’t yet know why some people produce more sleep spindles than others. We know that age plays a part, as older people tend to be lighter sleepers. Other than that, it comes down to individual differences.
How to Block Out Noisy Flatmates
If you’ve tried training yourself to sleep through noise and been unsuccessful, you may prefer to block out the sound. There are many products available to buy which can reduce noise and create a quieter sleeping environment.
We’ll guide you through the most effective ways of reducing noise in your bedroom.
Earplugs are a favorite tool for blocking out unwanted sounds at night. There are many kinds of earplugs available to buy. You’ll find them online, as well as in most pharmacies and supermarkets.
- Foam earplugs consist of a small, soft foam plug that sits inside the ear canal. Most foam plugs are disposable, as they quickly lose their efficacy. They range from very cheap to slightly more expensive, depending on the material used. They come in various sizes to fit small or larger ear canals.
- Silicone and wax earplugs are slightly more customizable. They tend to be more expensive, as they’re made from the more expensive material. They come in the form of a softball, which is moldable to the shape of your ear. As they change shape to fit you, they tend to block out sound better than foam earplugs.
- Reusable earplugs tend to be made from silicone or soft plastic, and are more durable. They’re great for the more environmentally conscious among us, who don’t like the idea of throwing things away.
- Custom earplugs are the most expensive kind. They’re personally designed to fit the unique shape of your ear and offer the best noise reduction. You can have them made by a hearing care professional, or order a kit to do it yourself.
Although earplugs do a great job of blocking out noise, some people find them too uncomfortable to sleep with. This may be the case for you if you have unconventionally shaped ear canals, or sleep on your side.
If you’re wondering how to block out noise without earplugs, you might consider trying sleep ear muffs. These are soft pieces of material that usually fit around the back of your head, and cover both ears. They’re designed to block out noise while being comfortable enough to sleep in. Many brands are available to purchase online.
Many people who have trouble using earplugs, such as side-sleepers, get on better with earmuffs. However, if you move around a lot in your sleep, there’s a chance they might come loose.
If your environment is particularly noisy, you might find that earplugs and muffs don’t block out sound well enough. In this case, you may get on better trying to cover up the noise with a different sound.
A study in the Journal of Advanced Nursing found that music can be conducive for sleeping. Listening to relaxing, classical music before bedtime significantly reduces sleeping problems. This could be because slow-paced music helps to slow the heartbeat and distract the mind from thought. There are four main ways to listen to music in bed:
- Headphones, especially noise-canceling ones, are usually quite effective at blocking out external noise. However, they can be quite bulky and uncomfortable to sleep in.
- Earbuds are a more wise choice and tend to be more comfortable than headphones. However, they aren’t quite as good at blocking out the sound. Furthermore, they can often fall out during the night.
- Sleep headphones are specifically designed for sleeping in. They typically come in the form of a band of fabric, containing two speakers, that wraps around the head. They tend to be more expensive, but also more comfortable than typical headphones. They’re also far less likely to fall off during the night.
- Music pillows contain a speaker built into the pillow itself. They allow you to listen to music while you sleep, without worrying about headphones falling off. They tend to be the most comfortable option. However, they aren’t very good at blocking out external noise.
If music proves too distracting for you, white noise may be a better option. It’s a constant, unchanging sound created by producing many frequencies of noise at once. White noise sounds a little like TV or radio static.
White noise tends to be very successful at blocking out exterior sounds. This is because it consists of many frequencies which override background noise.
The best way of producing white noise in your home is a white noise machine. These are specialist pieces of equipment that create white noise on a high-quality speaker. Many of them have various settings to choose from, such as ambient sounds and different ‘colors’ of noise.
If you don’t want to buy a white noise machine, some people have success with using fans instead. However, while the sound of a fan resembles white noise, it doesn’t block out sound as successfully. It also creates a bit of a breeze, which may disturb you from your sleep.
Another option is to look into soundproofing for your bedroom. Professional soundproofing, which blocks out all noise, can be quite expensive. However, there are some more budget-friendly DIY options available.
- Acoustic foam and sound-deadening panels are the most useful tools for DIY soundproofing. They can be bought online and applied to walls and ceilings. It can be difficult to install correctly if you’re new to soundproofing. It can also be visually unappealing, so you’d need to speak to your landlord first.
- Soundproofing tape is relatively cheap and can be used to seal the space around doors and windows. This is an excellent option if the sound is coming from across the hall.
- Soundproof wallpaper is available to purchase online. It’s easier to use than acoustic foam and tends to look more aesthetically pleasing. A nice bonus is that it can also help with heat insulation. You can also apply it to the ceiling if the noise is coming from above.
- Large, high-pile rugs can help to muffle noise from rooms below you.
- Thick, heavy curtains can be placed above windows and doorways, and along walls. These won’t block out much sound on their own but can be combined with other methods.
If the noise is coming through one particular wall, move your bed to the other side of the room. You can also push bulky furniture, such as bookcases, up against the offending wall. This will help dampen the noise.
How to Sleep in a Noisy Environment
If you’re a light sleeper, you may always find it difficult to sleep in a louder environment. There’s no real way to “become” a heavy sleeper. However, it is possible to learn to sleep with noise. You’ll find it much easier if you’ve adequately prepared your body for rest.
Creating a structured, regular sleep routine will help your brain to learn when it’s time to sleep. If you’re sufficiently tired and ready for bed, you’ll find it easier to fall asleep regardless of noise.
Why a Good Sleep Schedule is Crucial
The most effective way of telling your brain to wind down is by creating a sleep schedule. This means going to sleep and getting up at the same time every day. By doing this, your brain will learn to release melatonin (the sleep hormone) in preparation for sleep. You’ll then be able to drift off far easier than if your bedtime varied from day-to-day.
To begin, choose a time that suits you. Make sure to allocate a sufficient amount of sleep per night. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 7 to 9 hours per night is necessary for most adults. So, if you need to get up at 7 am for work, choose a bedtime between 10 pm and midnight.
At least an hour before bed, start winding down. Avoid partaking in anything mentally or physically strenuous, and instead, relax. To relax your mind, try the following:
- Take a warm bath.
- Listen to soothing, instrumental music.
- Read a slow-paced book.
- Practice slow breathing exercises.
- Tense and relax each of your muscles, one by one.
Always switch the light off at the same time each night. Remember to set your alarm consistently each day, even on weekends. Don’t be tempted to sleep in on your day off. You’ll only confuse your body clock, which will make it harder to fall asleep.
Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol
Two of the most potent drugs for disturbing your sleep are caffeine and alcohol.
Caffeine is a stimulant, naturally found in substances such as coffee beans and tea leaves. It gives a natural boost and creates the illusion of energy. Many people indulge in a few cups of coffee throughout the day.
However, if consumed too close to bedtime, caffeine can make it difficult to fall asleep. According to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, caffeine disrupts sleep if consumed even six hours beforehand. To be on the safe side, try to limit your caffeine intake before 2 pm.
Many people feel that alcohol, by contrast, helps them to feel tired. Unfortunately, its effects are short-lived. While you may fall asleep quickly after a beer or two, your sleep stages will be massively disrupted. You’ll fall promptly into a deep sleep, but miss out on valuable REM sleep. You may also wake up earlier than usual, and find it hard to get back to sleep. If your roommates are making noise to boot, you’re in for a night of terrible sleep.
If possible, avoid consuming alcohol in the four hours before bedtime. When drinking, try to limit yourself to one or two drinks.
No Computer and Cell Phone Screens
How often do you attempt to soothe yourself to sleep by scrolling through Facebook or Instagram? Many people bring their cell phones into the bedroom and use them before bed. Unfortunately, the bright light from nearby screens can keep you awake.
Our internal sleep clock, called the circadian rhythm, helps to regulate when we feel tired. It does this mainly by using cues from our environment, such as light levels. In the darkness, your brain releases melatonin, the sleep hormone. This prepares you for sleep and helps you feel tired.
The blue light emitted by screens can trick your brain into thinking it’s daytime. So, if you use your cell phone or watch TV before bed, you could be creating a problem. Melatonin won’t be released, and you’ll find it difficult to sleep.
If your roommates are making noise, it’ll be far easier to fall asleep if you’re tired. At least one hour before bedtime, switch off all screens, including:
- E-readers with a backlight
This will give your brain enough time to release melatonin ready for bedtime. Then, even if your roommates are creating noise, you’ll find it easier to fall asleep.
How to Create the Ideal Sleeping Environment
To make it easier to fall asleep, it’s important that your bedroom is adequately prepared for sleeping in. Adhere to the following rules to create an ideal sleeping environment. Make sure your bedroom is:
- Dark. Invest in blackout blinds to block out all light from outside. If this isn’t possible, buy a quality eye mask to wear while sleeping. This will communicate to your circadian rhythm that it’s time for sleep. Make sure you use a low wattage and warm-toned lightbulb in your bedroom.
- Comfortable. Use a good quality mattress that is pleasant to sleep on. Pair this with comfortable pillows, and a duvet or comforter of appropriate thickness for the time of year. You’ll be less likely to wake up from sleep if you’re comfortable.
- Cool. Although the idea of a warm, cozy room is tempting, it’s easy to get too hot during the night. If you’re too warm, you’re likely to wake up or suffer from disrupted sleep. Aim for a room temperature between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Only used for sleep. If you watch TV or play games in your bedroom, your brain will associate the room with activity. If you only use it for sleep (and sex), you’ll begin to feel sleepy whenever you enter your room. If you must do other things in your room, you should avoid the bed if possible.
With a perfect sleeping environment, your brain will find it easier to switch off, even if it’s noisy.
Use Natural Sleep Aids before Bedtime
If you’re having trouble falling asleep, try to avoid sleeping pills. According to Informed Health Online, using sleeping pills too often can result in addiction. This can cause a multitude of unpleasant symptoms when you try to stop taking them.
Instead, opt for more natural sleep remedies. These can help your body to relax and prepare for sleep, without the risk of becoming dependent.
- Herbal teas, such as chamomile and decaffeinated green tea, are great for relaxing before bed.
- Valerian root has properties similar to a sedative but is entirely natural. It’s great for inducing sleepiness.
- Melatonin mimic’s the body’s natural sleep-inducing hormone.
- Lavender essential oil, sprinkled on bedsheets, or applied directly to the skin, has relaxing and calming properties.
Follow the above advice, and you may find that you’re able to fall asleep naturally, despite the noise. Preparing your mind and body for sleep can be a valuable tool. It helps train your mind to ignore the noise and drift off to sleep regardless.
Can’t Sleep with Any Background Noise?
By now, you should know the most effective ways to get to sleep with noisy roommates. To recap:
- Set up a strict sleep schedule and stick to it.
- Prepare your mind, body, and bedroom for going to sleep every night.
- Relax with herbal sleep remedies.
- Use earplugs, earmuffs, or DIY soundproofing to block out the sound.
- Alternatively, try masking the sound with white noise or music.
Sometimes, though, it’s just not possible to block out every small noise. Many people find that as long as the noise is muffled significantly, they’re able to sleep. However, if you are an unusually light sleeper, you may need complete silence to doze off.
Alternatively, your roommates may be so loud that nothing can block them out. If there’s a loud party in the next room, for example, earplugs and thick wallpaper may not cut it.
If this is the case, you may have to confront your roommates or landlord about the problem.
Talk to Your Roommates About the Problem
When approaching your roommates, try not to come off as hostile or aggressive. You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, after all. Address the problem in a polite, non-threatening way.
Here are some tips:
- If other roommates are being affected, too, involve them in the conversation. If the perpetrator realizes that their noise is disturbing multiple people, they may be more likely to stop.
- Suggest set days of the week on which you don’t mind the noise. For example, if you don’t work on weekends, propose that they schedule their parties for Friday and Saturday nights.
- If they’re keeping you awake with snoring, suggest some products that may help such as nose strips, anti-snoring spray, and mouth guards.
- If another roommate is a heavy sleeper, and their room is further away from the noise, ask them if they would mind swapping rooms with you.
Talk to Your Landlord or Resident Advisor (RA)
You may find that your noisy roommate(s) are unwilling to engage with you about the problem. They may not be able to help with the noise, for example, if they have a snoring problem. Alternatively, they may not care that they’re keeping you awake.
If you’re in college, speak to your RA about the problem. They might offer to talk to the perpetrator directly about the noise issue. Alternatively, they may be able to switch you to a different dormitory.
If you’re renting, your landlord should be sympathetic to your problem. As a tenant, you have the right to the quiet enjoyment of your property. The landlord will be able to speak to the noisemaker and ask them to quiet down. If they don’t, they may risk eviction.
If all else fails, speak to the landlord about breaking your lease early. Sometimes the only solution is to live elsewhere.