First, the bad news. There are many noises that can keep you from getting good sleep. A partner who snores, sounds from other rooms in your home, a barking dog, noisy neighbors, and loud traffic name just some possible culprits.
The good news is you have more control than you may think over unwanted noises.
Below are eight solutions to sleep-robbing noise problems. Keep in mind that the solutions sometimes work best when used in combination with one another.
1. SOUND / WHITE NOISE MACHINES. They are likely the most effective way to drown out unwanted ambient noise.
4. SOFT SURFACES. To help you sleep peacefully, the inside of your bedroom should be an enemy of sound. This means that you should eliminate hard surfaces as much as possible. Hard surfaces do not absorb and stop sound; they reflect it.
Strive for soft surfaces instead. If sound enters your bedroom from outside or is created inside (from, say, a snorer), soft surfaces can absorb much of the noise and lessen the amount that reaches your ears.
This means that hard floors are not a good idea for your bedroom. Instead you should have carpeting with a thick underlay to absorb as much sound as possible. Thick or lined drapes / curtains are fairly effective at both absorbing sound made within the bedroom and blocking sound from entering through the window from outside.
On the walls, avoid hard surfaces like large mirrors. Consider
using wallpaper since it will help absorb some noise. Or better
yet, use wall fabric, which is like wallpaper except that
it's more noise absorbing. Fabric wall
art is also a good noise absorber.
5. SOUNDPROOF WINDOWS. Soundproofing your bedroom windows can be a good idea for anyone who has to suffer with noise coming from outside, such as loud neighbors, barking dogs, traffic, car alarms, airplanes, etc.
For most homes, around 90% of exterior noise enters through the doors and windows, with only a small amount entering through the walls.
Chances are you already have double-pane (dual-pane) windows. "Double pane" simply means there are two layers of glass with some space in between. These windows can do a fair job of keeping out noise.
However, to effectively soundproof your bedroom you need to replace your double-pane windows with triple-pane windows. Or you can keep your double-pane windows and add an interior window to the inside frame. A triple-pane window or interior window can reduce noise levels by 50-90%.
Keep in mind, however, that because soundproofing your windows is expensive (several hundred to several thousand dollars depending on the number of windows), doing so should probably be a last resort in your attempt to reduce sleep-robbing outside noise.
Also keep in mind that even if you do soundproof your windows, you will likely still hear some noise because as the environment gets quieter the ear becomes more sensitive to noise. This means you will likely end up having to use a fan, white noise / sound machine or earplugs anyway in order to get a genuinely peaceful night's sleep.
Additional benefits of soundproof windows are that they save
energy by improving insulation, and they can also provide
a marketing advantage for your home if you try to sell it.
6. LANDSCAPING AND FENCING. Sometimes it can be wise to use landscaping and fencing to reduce noise from disturbing your sleep, especially noise from traffic.
For fencing, the key to effective noise buffering is to use heavy, thick materials. Brick is ideal, but expensive. A continuous-paneled, pressure-treated wood fence at least six feet tall can be effective, especially when it is double paneled and uses tongue-in-groove assembly to avoid spaces between panels.
For landscaping, using vines to grow on and cover the fence will provide an added sound-deadening layer. Then a hedge of tall shrubs can be planted in front and / or behind the fence for an additional sound barrier.
Deciduous shrubs with thick leaves tend to perform best as a noise barrier, however, they provide no noise protection in the winter when they have no leaves. Therefore, it's best to mix deciduous and evergreen shrubs to ensure a year-round noise buffer.
Keep in mind, however, that because installing landscaping and fencing is expensive, doing so should probably be a last resort in your attempt to reduce sleep-robbing outside noise.
An additional benefit of landscaping and fencing is that they may
increase your home's value and help your home's appeal when you decide to sell it.
7. CONFRONT NOISY NEIGHBOR. Blocking noise from entering your house and bedroom or drowning it out can be effective in helping you to get a better night's sleep. However, the most effective (and usually the least expensive) way to battle the noise is to prevent it at its source.
While some sources of noise that enter your home, such as traffic, are often beyond your control, other sources of noise are in your control to an extent. Barking dogs, car alarms, screaming children, loud music and more, often come from your neighbors.
Once you are ready to confront your neighbor about noise, here's what to do:
a. Talk to the problem neighbor(s). This should be the first step that you take. And you should make sure that you are polite and respectful. Don't approach the neighbor when you are angry. If you prefer, you can leave a note instead of talking to them directly. Inform the neighbor of the problem in detail and that you would appreciate their addressing the issue. Remember that many people, for one reason or another, are not aware that their noise is a problem for others.
b. Warn the problem neighbor(s). Many times the first step ends the problem. But if it doesn't, repeat your request to the neighbor either in person or in writing, and also tell them that if the noise does not stop you'll be forced to contact the authorities.
c. Call the police. This should be done only as a last resort because any relationship you have with your neighbor will likely be damaged beyond repair once you call the police on them. If you do call the police, you'll likely get better cooperation and sympathy from the officer if you've tried your best to reason with the problem neighbor yourself as opposed to calling the police as your first option.
Additional information on what to do about noisy neighbors.
8. SEPARATE BEDROOMS OR BEDS. Sometimes, the biggest unwanted noise maker in the bedroom is your partner. If your partner snores or stirs a lot, you know what I'm talking about. And with the racket happening so close to you, there's a good chance that noise-blocking solutions – such as a bedside fan, white noise machine or earplugs – will be ineffective in reducing the noise enough so that you can sleep soundly.
So what are you to do? Hitting your partner and swearing at him or her all night does not seem to be a civilized solution. And just trying to live with it will only cause you to resent your partner for keeping you from getting a good night's sleep and undermining your health and quality of life.
The solution is separate bedrooms. This idea shocks most couples when they first hear it. But when they hear the logic behind it and let the idea settle in a little, many warm up to the idea.
In fact, more and more couples in the U.S. are ordering separate master bedrooms in their new homes. A survey by the National Association of Home Builders has predicted that in the near future, 60% of custom-built homes will have two master bedroom suites.
The increase in demand for two master bedrooms is not due to marriages or relationships being in trouble. Rather, couples are simply realizing that different bedrooms allow for a better night's sleep. They see different bedrooms as a way to ensure that a marriage or relationship continues with as little tension as possible. Less resentment and better-rested couples can mean happier couples.
Sometimes, the separate bedroom solution is not possible because no other bedrooms are available. In this case, having separate beds is better than nothing.
The way to make this work best is to have the beds as far apart in the bedroom as possible. This increased distance will make it harder for noise to travel from one person to another. Then use a sleeping fan or white noise machine in between the two beds to hopefully drown out a good deal of noise to allow for a more restful sleep.
This separate bedroom or separate beds solution is not for all couples. Those who sincerely worry about what impact these solutions will have on their relationship may not be the best candidates. But because sleep is so important to your entire life, these solutions should get a hearing.