Do you love someone who snores?
Up to 45% of men and 28% of women snore habitually, so if you struggle to get a great night’s rest because of a snoring partner, know that you’re not alone, and that help is available. (1)
Here’s a closer look at the five most effective ways curated by sleep experts for how to block out snoring noises:
Earplugs are an easy, affordable, and simple way to block out low to moderate-levels of snoring noises.
Earplugs generally work best to block sounds in the range of 50 dBA to 77dB. (2)
That’s a fairly low-level amount of snoring. On the low end, it’s about the volume of a refrigerator – not so bad. But on the high end, it’s about as loud as a vacuum cleaner!
Most earplugs used for sleeping are made from foam, either a type called polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyurethane (PU).
While both work well for blocking noise at this decibel range, PU is usually a bit better because it’s memory foam, so it conforms to the shape of your ear canal
Wax earplugs are another option.
They fit over the outside of your ear canal. Generally, most people tend to prefer foam earplugs when sleeping, but wax can work as well.
Earplugs are ranked according to a metric called a Noise Reduction Rating, or NRR.
It’s a standard measuring system used to describe how effectively the earplugs protect against noise. It’s not a one-to-one system, where the decibels in the outside world are reduced by the exact NRR number.
Instead, it requires this formula:
- Subtract seven from the NRR
- Divide that number by two
- Subtract that number from the outside decibel level
The result is the decibel level you’ll hear when wearing the earplugs. The minimum rating you want for mild snoring is 28.
Thirty-three is the highest level, but you do sacrifice some comfort at that level. The lower the number, the softer the foam, which is important when you’re wearing it all night.
How to Find Earplugs that Fit Comfortably
To insert a foam earplug, first, you compress it by rolling it with your fingers. Then you insert it into your ear canal.
As the foam expands, it conforms to the shape of your ear canal, creating a custom seal against sound. The earplugs are probably longer than you think. Your ear canal bends in several places, and you want the earplug to fit beyond the second bend.
You want earplugs with two features:
- Slow expansion time
- A narrow tip
Together, those features give you the time and ability to insert the earplug properly, past the second canal bend
Are Foam Earplugs Reusable?
The answer’s a bit complicated. Strictly speaking, earplugs aren’t designed for single use. But it’s usually not a big deal if you want to use them multiple times.
Reusing earplugs is mainly a hygiene issue. You want to protect your ear canal from any debris in the environment. However, that’s a problem generally regarding construction sites and similar situations.
If you’re only wearing your earplugs in bed, they’re probably not getting particularly dirty. Many people feel comfortable wearing the same earplugs for about a week, or even longer.
While earplugs can minimize the sounds of mild to moderate snoring, they’re often not an effective solo treatment for loud snoring. Instead, you’ll likely want to use earplugs along with at least one other method listed below.
#2 White Noise Machines
Investing in a machine that creates white noise is another option when you’re looking for more creative ways on how to block out snoring noises. While they have some unique benefits, they also have a few drawbacks. Here’s a closer look:
How Do They Work?
Have you ever wondered why your partner’s snoring keeps you awake? The volume of the noise is a factor. But another aspect of a disruptive noise is its inconsistency.
The unpredictable, changing sounds can grab your brain’s attention, even if you’re asleep, and startle you awake. White noise helps mask this noise with a more consistent sound. Certain types of white noise are generated naturally, such as rain on your roof or a fan.
However, when using white noise as a sleep aid, many people who have trouble falling asleep do prefer these helpful machines. Most machines are compact devices that sit on the floor or a bedside table. Typically, they’ll need access to an electric outlet, too.
What is White Noise?
Technically speaking, white noise is a high-pitched static made up of random frequencies. It’s a fuzzy, persistent, and gentle sound. However, the term “white noise” is also often used as a more generic term for any ambient noise used to help block other sounds and improve sleep.
Most of these machines offer the following options:
- Natural sounds – rain, ocean waves, animal noises, and other sounds from the natural world
- Ambient sounds – freeways traffic, murmuring crowds, and other sounds typically associated with large public spaces
- Machine sounds – ceiling fans, dishwashers, and other household-type appliances
- Traditional white noise – the fuzzy, static-type noise mentioned earlier
The traditional type of sound isn’t necessarily better than the others. Michelle Drerup, a Cleveland Clinic sleep psychologist, elaborated on this concept.
“I know from talking with my patients that some people prefer natural sounds, like a rainstorm or the rush of water,” she said, “whereas others don’t want a sound they can attach an image to.” (3)
Is White Noise Safe?
Generally, this type of noise is perfectly safe to listen to, even for infants. In fact, babies who listen to this type of noise typically fall asleep faster than babies who listen to nothing in particular. (4)
However, always monitor its volume. If your partner snores like a jet engine, you can’t crank up your machine to equal levels, in an attempt to drown out the snoring.
To protect your hearing, you want the decibel level of your room to remain under 85dBA during an eight-hour time period. (5)
You don’t want to turn your trusty machine past that volume. If you feel like you need to, what you should do instead is add other noise-suppression techniques on top of this type of noise.
Features of a White Noise Machine
Although they’re usually simple-looking, nondescript boxes, these machines have a fair degree of complexity. Here’s a closer look at what features you should consider when selecting this type of machine:
As we discussed above, there’s no “correct” type of white noise. You can listen to traffic, nature, static frequencies, or whatever else helps you fall and stay asleep. Additionally, your preferences can change from night to night.
You want your machine to offers a wide variety of listening options. It should cover all of the major categories listed above. Even if you know you prefer a certain sound, your preferences can easily change over time, so you want options.
The machine should have an adjustable volume. You want the ability to raise and lower the level of white noise in the room so it can match your partner’s snoring.
As discussed above, you want the total decibel level that reaches your ears to not exceed 85 dBA during an eight-hour night.
However, that’s for adults. The requirements for younger kids are stricter. A machine shouldn’t emit noise more than 50 decibels. That’s the limit found in most hospital nurseries.
True white noise (the fuzzy noise) is constantly generated at random. However, the other types of this noise – nature sounds, mechanical sounds, etc. – are recordings that play on a loop.
You’re looking for what’s called a clean loop. That means the recording seamlessly transitions from the end back to the beginning.
Remember earlier, when you learned that snoring keeps you awake because of both its volume and inconsistency? The same principle applies here. For example, if the sounds of nature abruptly change, or pause for a significant period, your brain might take notice and wake you up.
#3 Sleep Headbands
Another way for how to block out snoring noise is with a sleep headband. It’s a thin, lightweight headband usually made from fleece or mesh. Inside the headband are several speaker inserts. These headphones are great for sleeping.
Advantages of Sleep Headbands
- Sleep headbands have these main benefits:
- They provide private sound
- They’re more comfortable than headphones
- You can wear them with earplugs
Here’s a closer look at each:
If earbuds alone don’t block the sound of your snoring partner sawing logs, the next step is usually a white noise maker.
Unfortunately, these machines don’t remove noise; it masks it with different sounds. For the snorer, who typically doesn’t wake up due to their own snoring, a white noise maker can make it difficult to fall asleep for some.
With a sleep headband, along with headphones and earbuds, you can listen to white noise without it filling the room. It’s often more pleasant for your partner.
The problem with headphones and earbuds is that they both press into your ears if you want to sleep on your side. Sleep headbands are often more comfortable.
While you’ll still likely feel the audio components against your head, they’re usually comfortable, or least better than other types of headphones.
Used with Earplugs
You can wear wax or foam earplugs with a sleep headband, which you can’t do when wearing earbuds. If your earplugs for sleep aren’t quite blocking the snoring, and you want to add white noise without bothering your partner, a sleep headband is often a good solution.
Not everybody finds sleep headbands comfortable to wear.
While the material used is often light, it’s still a headband, which can feel a bit odd to wear at night. Also, they don’t always stay on very well, especially if you sleep in multiple positions throughout the night.
Another disadvantage is the sound quality. Earbuds, which fit into your ears, and headphones, which fit around your ears, usually provide superior sound quality compared to a headband.
Earbuds, or headphones that fit inside your ear, are another option. They allow you to play white noise directly into your ears. Using earbuds to block snoring sounds is frequently misunderstood, so let’s run down some of the pros and cons.
First, finding earbuds comfortable enough to wear while sleeping isn’t as big of a challenge as many people think.
You can find a wide variety of soft buds that fit snugly in your ear for hours at a time. The earbuds don’t necessarily need to fit deep into your ear. However, they shouldn’t stick out of your ear too far. Laying on your side can force them deep into your ear, which can be painful.
Wireless or Wired?
Generally, wireless is considered better than wired. Sleeping with wires does pose a safety risk. Plus, wired earbuds and headphones don’t tend to work as well. As you roll around in your sleep, you can pull on the wire, pulling it out of your noise player, white noise maker, or another device.
Look for what’s often called a “shark fin” design. It lets the earbud fold down to fit snugly in your ear when you’re on your side.
Additionally, you want earbuds made from silicone or similar material that’s both durable and flexible. Avoid buds that have any type of hard components, such as a plastic frame. Not only is it uncomfortable for side sleeping, but it’s potentially dangerous.
Long Battery Life and Quick Recharge Time
You don’t want to wait around for your wireless earbuds to charge. While each brand differs, you should have no problem finding many options that will play sounds all night without a problem and then charge during the day.
Generally, you want the earbuds to last at least 12 hours before needing a charge. Additionally, the rechargeable battery should take no more than three hours to fully recharge.
Benefits of Earbuds
The main benefit of earbuds is for your snoring bedmate. If they don’t like the sound of an ambient white noise maker, you can instead play the white noise directly into your ears.
Not everyone enjoys the sounds of rainforests, waves, and so on. What works for you as a sleeping aid might drive your partner crazy, so earbuds provide a more private approach.
Disadvantages of Earbuds
If you want to wear earbuds to combat snoring, you then can’t wear earplugs.
It’s a trade-off between the two. (Note: Never, ever wear earplugs and earbuds at the same time. You risk pushing the earplugs way too far into your ear canal, which can cause significant injury to your eardrum.)
Earbuds block far less noise than earplugs. Even though the white noise plays directly into your ear, it’s still not as effective at blocking noise than the combination of earplugs and a white noise creating device.
Additionally, even the softest earbuds can irritate your ears if you’re a regular side sleeper. Some people never find earbuds comfortable when sleeping.
If your partner’s snoring is off the charts, and rattling the rafters, then you’ll want noise-canceling headphones. When combined with earplugs and white noise, you’ll block out a significant amount of the snoring sound.
Plus, they’re easier on your eardrums. “Earbuds can increase the sound intensity reaching your inner ear by as much as nine decibels when compared to over-the-ear headphones,” says NYC-based otolaryngologist Tahl Colen. (6)
With noise-canceling headphones, you play white noise from your preferred source, such as an app or a machine (with the appropriate connection ability).
Unlike earbuds and sleep headbands, noise-canceling headphones remove low-frequency snoring sounds from the environment. Additionally, they isolate higher frequencies.
Basically, they muffle aspects of the snoring that the white noise can’t. So, when worn while playing white noise, you’re blocking a greater frequency range of the noise. Plus, you can also wear earplugs for additional dampening.
The setup is similar to the standard gear used by industrial workers when working in loud, heavy-duty situations.
On the downside, over-the-ear headphones aren’t always great for sleeping. You’re limited to sleeping on your back, as sleeping on your side is usually far too cumbersome.
Additionally, noise-canceling headphones don’t block every type of sound equally. As explained by New York Times technology reporter Lauren Dragan, “[Noise-cancelling headphones are] better suited for reducing low, sustained sounds like those of motors and airplane engines, and it’s why such headphones can’t filter out screaming kids.” (7)
However, when combined with other techniques, such as white noise and earplugs, they’re often quite effective against heavy snoring.
The Bottom Line
Don’t let your partner’s snoring keep you from the peaceful sleep you deserve, when you have lots of great options to try here at SleepFM. You can learn how to block out snoring noise with either one or a combination of the above techniques. Each one is a fast, effective solution.
However, if none of the above methods completely solve the issue, check out our #1 best anti-snoring mouthpiece of the year to stop the problem at the source. Heavy snoring can signal a potential health problem, so it’s a great idea to help them all you can. Together, you and your loved one can enjoy peaceful, healthy, and snore-free sleep!