Why Does the Sound of Raindrops Help People Sleep?

The pitter patter of rain on a rooftop, the crashing of an ocean wave, the babbling of a fast running brook. Lots of people swear that these sounds not only help them fall asleep but to stay that way too. And there is a whole slew of products, everything from smartphone apps to special machines, that have sprung up around that idea. But just why does the sound of flowing water seem to have such a potent drowse inducing effect?

Rain Sounds and Science 

According to scientists, part of the answer lies in how our brains chose to interpret the sounds we hear when we are close to sleep or indeed when we are asleep. The brain will filter sounds into categories; threats or non-threats.

Certain sounds - like that loud screechy alarm clock - can hardly be ignored. Others, like those watery sounds we just mentioned, the brain tunes out. According to one researcher who has done extensive work and writings in the area, Dr. Ofreu Buxton; "These slow, whooshing noises are the sounds of non-threats, which is why they work to calm people. It's like they're saying: 'Don't worry, don't worry, don't worry."

However, that's not all these watery white noise sounds can do. Their calming effects can help the brain 'drown out' intrusive noise, like that of say a busy street outside your bedroom, allowing a person to stay asleep even though there is plenty of intrusive noise around them. And as for that alarm clock? While cars pass, and noise fades, that blasted alarm never stops, and so it manages to cut through the watery sounds to do its job and wake you up.

The Best Way to Listen to Rain Sounds

Take a look in the Apple App Store, or on Google Play if you are an Android person, and you'll see that there are lots of 'white noise' apps that contain those soothing rain and water sounds available for you to download in an instant and often for free. While these can do the trick, they may not be the best choice.

Why? Because they involve taking your phone to bed with you and leaving it on, something that almost every sleep expert agrees is a big no-no. In fact, most experts advise that you should not use electronic screens at all in the thirty minutes before bed so even setting every up could be detrimental to your chances of a great night's sleep. Very few of these apps can run for eight hours without seriously draining your phone's battery either, so if you rely on a phone alarm up to wake you up then the chances that that will happen are jeopardized.

The better answer is two-fold. First, buy an old-fashioned alarm clock. Then, buy a dedicated bedside white noise machine, there are some great ones out there and they are very inexpensive. Then, when it's nearly bedtime, do as the experts suggest. Put your phone away, set your old-school alarm clock and then set your white noise machine to run so that it can lull you to sleep with one of its calming watery lullaby sounds.

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