The older we get, the more likely we are to identify with the Grinch. Sure, he may try to steal Christmas but nobody’s perfect; after all, he just hates all that “Noise, noise, noise, noise!”
“Try some earplugs,” you might say. Then again, if you’re reading this, chances are that you’re sick of earplugs and want a new solution.
Thankfully, whether you’re a morning person or prefer to sleep in as long as possible, there are lots of earplug alternatives that people can use to help them sleep.
1. White Noise Machine
This is an increasingly popular response to this quandary and one that works well with children. It’s reasonably affordable and, if you buy the right model, it can also be pretty small and inconspicuous.
It is hard to describe the kind of noise produced by a white noise machine and that’s kind of the point. As opposed to music or nature sounds, a white noise machine produces indistinct noise that allows your brain to tune out and turn off.
One thing that white noise does extremely well is block out other noises. While it may not be distinct in itself, white noise can help block out everything from booming basses to barking dogs to cars blasting by.
2. Soundproofing Your Room
If you’re someone who’s fine with putting in a lot of extra effort, you might want to consider soundproofing your room instead. Naturally, this is a lot more work than simply installing a white noise machine; however, if done properly, it can result in totally soundproofed bliss.
There are many steps to properly soundproof a room, which is a story for another time. However, suffice it to say that you’ll need to spend a lot of time installing thick soundproofing mats and wall-mounted items, both of which are specially designed to block sound.
3. Sleep-Friendly Headphones
Earphones may feel a bit too similar to earplugs, given that both fit similarly into the outer edge of your ear canal. If so, noise-canceling headphones can be a great alternative. The best models have large, cushy earpads that can be way more comfortable to wear if you don’t like inserting earphones into your ear.
What’s more, the top of the headphones are often padded as well, making these models that much more comfortable. Those large earpads also do a good job of creating a seal around your ears, affording you an even greater degree of comfort.
When you wear these kinds of headphones, you have a couple of options. For starters, you could simply wear them on a sound-canceling basis. You could also listen to some soothing classical music or sounds of nature.
4. Headphone Bands
If you already have headphones and still can’t sleep, you may be aware of one of the biggest obstacles towards making that work — the discomfort of laying on the headphones themselves. If you sleep on your back, that may work okay, but if you sleep on your side or even just turn your head to the side, you’re immediately greeted with the sensation of hard plastic pushing against your ears, which is not exactly the way to get a good night’s sleep.
That’s why headphone bands can be a gamechanger in this regard. They are soft fabric that can be placed (depending on the model) inside or around the headphones in such a way as to cushion the blow. These bands won’t block noise on their own but they can do a great job of making sound-cancelling headphones more comfortable to wear.
5. Regular Headbands
Maybe you don’t want to buy special headband inserts for your headphones because you already have a perfectly good headband. If so, rejoice: you can just use this option as a cost-cutting measure. It won’t block things out the same way as the other options on this list but it can muffle sounds at least somewhat while offering a nice, cheap alternative.
What’s more, headbands are far softer, more comfortable to wear, and easier to sleep on your side with than many of the other options on this list.
If you’re someone who loves to sleep on your side or want to try a cheaper alternative first, you might want to try this option first before moving on to the more elaborate and expensive options on this list.
6. Noise-Canceling Earmuffs
Maybe you’ve already tried those headphones and haven’t found them effective enough, or maybe you already own a pair but don’t want to risk damaging them by sleeping on them. The best, most comfortable headphones are also among the most expensive and you don’t want to damage your Beats by Dr. Dre Headphones or something similar by sleeping on them.
If this is you, noise-canceling earmuffs may be worth a try. They are basically just as the name says — units shaped to resemble headphones or earmuffs whose caps are specially designed to fit around the ears and create a complete seal, allowing you to block out the noise altogether. This can be a great benefit for anyone living in especially noisy homes or neighborhoods.
When purchasing noise-canceling earmuffs, you’ll want to pay attention to a few key details. For starters, most noise-canceling earmuffs worth that description will list the amount of decibels they can block. The caps can be quite thick and bulky, meaning that they’re pretty much just an alternative for those who sleep on their backs.
7. CPAP Machine for Partners Who Snore
You love your partner and are lucky to spend the rest of your life with them, except when they snore. Anyone who has a partner who snores can sympathize with this. They may be lovely during the day but at night, they sound like a wounded elephant or a vacuum cleaner gone horribly wrong as their loud snoring keeps you awake all night.
If this is your partner (or if this is you and you’re torturing your own poor partner with your snoring), you may want to consider a CPAP machine. This is a sound-focused alternative for improving the quality of your sleep that does not focus on shielding your ears but helping stop disruptions from an outside source — in this case, snoring.
If you’re sitting there annoyed and thinking that your snoring partner is slumbering away nicely and peacefully, it’s worth noting that snoring can stem from sleep apnea so it’s in both of your best interests to combat it.
A CPAP machine can be one way of solving that. CPAP stands for “Continuous Positive Airway Pressure,” which helps explain what it’s all about. A CPAP machine works by having the machine pump air through a mask that the patient wears. This sustained burst of air creates “continuous pressure” in the patient’s throat, helping to keep it from narrowing or closing, which can cause all that snoring. Other positive effects of CPAPs include lowering fatigue during the day, blood pressure, and risk factors for conditions such as heart disease.
8. Custom-Molded Ear Defender
One of the reasons why people hate earplugs is that plugging up your ears can feel incredibly uncomfortable if the plugs are too big and can be ineffective with the plugs wiggling loose or falling out if they’re too small. In the former case, it can feel as if you’re trying to jam a square peg into a round hole, or an oversized plug into a smaller ear canal opening. In the latter case, the sensation of a plug wiggling around can be enough to drive anyone mad and prevent you from falling asleep.
A custom-molded ear defender can solve those problems by conforming to the particular contours of your ear. Most of us don’t think about it that much but just as with every other aspect of our bodies, our ears come in all shapes and sizes. You wouldn’t force yourself into a T-shirt that was three sizes too small and you shouldn’t have to suffer the pain of trying an earplug that’s way too big for your ear just because you want a good night’s sleep. Instead, custom-molded ear defenders are made from special materials that fit your ear’s shape perfectly.
Think memory foam beds, but for your ears. As with memory foam beds, these alternatives can be a bit pricier than traditional earplugs but if they block out sound and allow you to finally enjoy a good night’s sleep, they might be worth it.
9. Shower and Swimming Caps
Once again, we dip into the well of McGyvered sleep quality innovations based on whatever’s laying around the house. Obviously shower and swimming caps aren’t designed to be used as a means of blocking out sound for sleep but the close fit of the former in particular can be useful in doing just that.
That being said, that is also what can make this alternative challenging. You basically need the fit to be perfect: too snug and it will be uncomfortable, too loose and it won’t block sound at all. What’s more, while it should go without saying, you definitely don’t want to sleep in either of these after you’ve already used them for swimming or showering purposes so make sure that it’s completely dry first.
There are plenty of better options on this list but if you’re in a pinch, this could be a quick, cost-effective way to block out sound for the night until you can select something better for your long-term needs if that proves necessary.
10. Beanies and Ear Warmers
These are a couple more choices we pulled out of the “What’s Laying Around the House” category. As with swimming and shower caps, neither of these options are designed with sound prevention in mind per se, but this doesn’t mean that they can’t be used to help muffle sounds in a pinch.
What’s great about both of these options is that they typically avoid the uncomfortableness problem of swimming and shower caps. Both beanies and traditional ear warmers are far more comfortable (and snuggly warm!) than those alternatives. That being said, they also don’t create as tight of a seal around your ears. These are thus comfy stopgap measures that can be used to get you through the night.
11. Fixing Your Window
If sound is leaking into your room, a cracked window or a lack of a seal in your window frame may be the culprit. In the former case, you’ll obviously want to get your window repaired as soon as possible.
In the latter case, you’ll want to make use of caulk, weather stripping, and other products used to insulate windows. For an added bonus, you can look for weather stripping that not only insulates against moisture and debris but against sound as well.
12. Extra Pillows
Last but not least, you might just need to use a couple extra pillows to get through the night. This is one of the most basic options on this list but it’s also the simplest and cheapest. After all, it doesn’t cost you a penny to take a few extra pillows out of the cabinet. Place them atop or around your face in whatever position you deem comfortable and try to drift off to dreamland.
Again, this is hardly a long-term option so you’ll want to work out what to do next. Still, if someone’s causing a racket and you can’t take it anymore, this can at least get you through the night (before you talk to them or your apartment supervisor in the morning).
These dozen ways to block out unwanted sound if earplugs don’t appeal to you each have their own merits. Some of them are pricier but could have long-term benefits and be the choice you need to help you to sleep fine for years to come. Others might work well for a particularly troublesome night or two. Mixing and matching them as needed can make sure that you sleep well and that’s what counts.
Take the time to see which is the “best fit” for your needs and enjoy the good night’s sleep that you deserve.