photo of frustrated man who can't sleep because of noisy neighbors

12 Things worth a try if you can’t sleep because of noisy neighbors

By Jason Wooden, PhD | March 31, 2021

Intruding sounds from a noisy neighbor can make it harder to fall asleep, cause more night time wake ups, and arouse you out of deep sleep.

To keep your sleep on track , you can try ear plugs, white noise, music, noise canceling headphones, rearranging your bedroom, sound proofing, and various other remedies.

Your options for addressing the issue directly include politely talking with your neighbor, contacting a landlord or on-site property manager, and filing a noise complaint.

Is there anything more frustrating than a noisy neighbor keeping you awake?

Noisy neighbors can be a nightmare.

Nothing is worse than being ready for bed, desperate for a good night of Zs, and unable to drift off to sleep because of a noisy neighbor.

Losing out on sleep can leave you dragging and feeling miserable the next the day.

Do a quick search on YouTube and you’ll find all sorts for posts from people sharing their frustrations about a noisy neighbor.

Noise is one of the most common complaints a landlord gets from tenants.  It can be an issue for condo owners and home owners too.

When it keeps happening, it can strain relationships with neighbors and lead to resentment…and anger.  Sometimes things can spiral into outright hostility.

For some, they may begin to dread going home and their living situation.

We all expect some amount of everyday noise, especially living in an apartment or townhouse.  However, when it’s so loud it’s shaking your wall or it’s past reasonable hours that’s a different thing.

And if you’re a light sleeper like me, it can be a major issue.

So, you really need to do something given how important your sleep is.

If you’re in an apartment, kicking the wall will only get you so far.  Likewise, starting a war with your neighbor across the driveway can make a bad situation worse.

It’s hard enough to get regular sleep with busy schedules, the daily stresses of life, and the many distractions our modern world throws at you.

Let’s take a look at the surprising ways intruding noise can mess with your sleep and some practical things you can actually do about it.

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The many ways your noisy neighbor can ruin your sleep

Most people are aware that noise from the neighbors can make it harder to drift off to sleep.  What’s worse, as it keeps happening you get more frustrated which can actually make it even tougher to transition to sleep.

As you get more and more stressed out, your body may turn on the fight-or-flight response and pump out stress hormones designed to get you in a heightened state of arousal.  If you’re not careful, you can get into a downward spiral.

Intruding noise can affect your sleep in other ways too.  It can wake you up during the night which can lead to fragmented sleep which is less refreshing.

Guess what?  Even if doesn’t wake you up, sounds in your sleep environment can affect how well you sleep.  They can arouse you out of deep sleep into a light sleep.

The reason this is a serious issue is because deep sleep is where your body actually replenishes and restores itself.  It’s what sleep is all about, so it’s really important you get it.

So, those are all the ways your noisy neighbors could be affecting your sleep:

  • It’s harder to fall asleep
  • More night time wake ups
  • Less deep sleep

Bedroom remedies for a noisy neighbor and your sleep

Let’s look at some practical ways to keep your neighbor’s noise from wrecking your sleep.  We’re going to focus on things in your immediate control, your sleep environment.

Obviously, what you do will depend on your exact situation:

  • Is noise occasional or a regular occurrence?
  • Does it happen before you go to sleep, during the night, or at random times?
  • Is it coming through a wall, window, or the floor?
  • Are you a light or heavy sleeper?

Some of the remedies listed are quick or short-term.  Others will require some work or investment.

And you’ll likely need to mix and match depending on the specific issues you’re up against.  Start with the easiest remedies and continue tweaking things until you figure out what’s going to create the optimal sleep environment for you.

photo of ear plugs is a simple remedy if you can't sleep because of noisy neighbors

1) Earplugs

Old fashion, yes. Simple, affordable, and just may do the trick. Depending on your preference, you can try wax, silicone, and foam earplugs.

Some ear plug options

photo of white noise machine

2) White noise machine (sound masking)

White noise is what you get when you combine all the hearable sound frequencies altogether, similar to how white light contains all the colors of the light spectrum together.

The way white noise helps sleep is by reducing the difference between regular background noise in your environment and sounds such as a door slamming that can arouse you out of sleep.

So, if you have trouble falling asleep or you’re easily awakened by intruding sounds, white noise will keep your sound environment constant.

Learn more:
What Is White Noise? (National Sleep Foundation)
Some white noise machine options

photo of house fan which can be used to mask noise from a neighbor keeping you awake

3) Turn on a house fan or air conditioner

Running a house fan or air conditioner works the same way a white noise machine does.  They produce consistent ambient noise to drown out intruding sounds.

They also have the added benefits of circulating air, providing cool air, and air filtering.

More:
Picking the best fan for white noise

photo of musician playing the cello

4) Music

Music can help mask intruding noises.  In fact, it’s been shown in studies to help people fall asleep faster and improve their sleep quality. 

The right music can help relax the body and mind to aid the transition to sleep.

Studies have also shown music can directly affect the stress response in the body and lead to the release of feel good chemicals in the brain.

What to look for:
-Try lite music (classical, jazz, folk, or “new age”)
-Music that’s slow and stable rhythm (60 beats / minutes) with low tones
-Avoid music that overly excites or is loud enough to keep you awake

photo of ocean waves

5) Nature sound tracks

Many people find that the sound of rain, ocean waves, and other natural sounds help them fall asleep. 

You can find a variety of sound tracks online for purchase, on phone apps, or on sites like YouTube.  Many combine nature sounds with peaceful music.

photo of noise cancelling headphones which can help if can't sleep because of noisy neighbors

6) Noise canceling headphones

These headphones are designed to block out ambient sounds.  They have microphones that sample the ambient sounds and generate sound waves of the opposite frequency to cancel them out.

photo of person walking for exercise

7) Exercise

Exercise helps sleep in a variety of ways.  It physically tires you out, helps you fall asleep more quickly, and promotes deep sleep.

cartoon drawing of lady sleeping in bedroom

8) Move your bed

If the noise is coming through a wall or window, try moving your bed to a different spot in the room.

photo of lady sleeping on couch

9) Sleep in a different room

This could make a difference if noise is coming from one side of your apartment or home.  Even if it’s just a temporary relocation, it might help you weather the storm on the worst nights.

photo of full wall book case being used to insulate from neighbor’s noise

10) Rearrange your furniture

Did you know that the furniture in your room can help insulate a room from noise?

Try moving bookcases and other heavy furniture against a wall.  Add more furniture to minimize echoes.

photo of curtains

11) Soundproof your bedroom as much as possible

There are plenty of things you can do to sound proof a room, some simple and some more involved:
– wall quits and art pieces for the wall
– a thick rug or carpeting to prevent sound from downstairs from coming through
– stripping around the door edge to prevent sounds leaking through
– replacing a hollow door with a solid core
– sound-reducing curtains for the windows
– soundproof wall paper, foam paneling, or acoustic panels to the wall

All are readily available online.

moving truck

12) Move somewhere else

If all else fails, this may be an option depending on your situation and budget.

Less practical if you’re a home owner, but maybe worthwhile if you live in apartment.  It’s certainly worth it if nothing you do helps and the situation is really taking a toll on you.

Addressing the noise directly with a neighbor

So far, we looked at the things you can do on your end when noisy neighbors are keeping you awake.  Now, let look at what you can do more directly to get some relief.

Over the years, I’ve been surprised by how noisy some people are at night seemingly without a care for their neighbors.  All the same, as they say, it is what it is.

It’s important to know your rights.  Research your local noise ordinance (you can check with your city and police department).  Check any agreements you may have as a renter or owner (i.e., lease, condo association, home owner’s association).

 

Depending on your situation, your options are to:

Talk to your neighbor

They might not realize it’s an issue.  In fact, sometimes people are surprised they can be heard, especially if they’re a deep sleeper.

Now, if they’re aware and just don’t care, than that’s a different situation and you’re in a different ball game.  However, it’s worth giving them the benefit of the doubt and politely approaching them.

A couple tips:

  • approach them at a convenient and courteous time
  • be as courteous and honest as possible
  • avoid confronting them in anger as this may actually make things worse

Talk to a landlord or on-site manager

If you live in an apartment or condo complex, you can ask for help from the manager.  Likewise, if you’re renting from a landlord.

If you’re a home owner in a planned covenant community, check with your home owner’s association.  You may not be the only one bothered by the noise.

File a noise complaint

If you’ve struck out with everything else, you can try filing a noise complaint with your local municipality.  This may be a safer way to go if you’re being met with hostility.

Contact law enforcement

This is another last resort option.  If you call the police, be sure not to use the emergency 911 number.  Make sure to contact them while the noise is happening.

Other things that can make it easier to sleep

As you’re figuring out the best remedies to keep your noisy neighbors from wrecking your sleep, you don’t want anything else to make things even harder.

Avoid getting over stressed

As I mentioned earlier, worrying too much about things can make it hard to fall asleep.  Stress and anxiety are major causes of insomnia.

That makes it important to find some relaxing activities to do on a rough night.  You can try relaxation exercises, light music, or quiet music.

Practice good sleep hygiene

Your neighbor’s noise may not be the only issue you’re dealing with.  Unfortunately, there’s a long list of things that affect sleep.

That makes it important that your everyday habits are the ones that support quality sleep.  Bad sleep hygiene can sabotage the other things you do to improve your sleep.

For better sleep hygiene, you should:

  • keep consistent wake up & sleep times
  • avoid naps
  • exercise during the day
  • avoid large meals, alcohol, or stimulants such as caffeine before bedtime
  • maintain a regular bedtime routine
  • avoid using TVs, laptops, or other electronics before sleep
  • keep your bedroom dark, cool, quiet, & relaxing

Get a check up

It’s important to see a doctor, especially if your insomnia becomes a long-term problem.

Too many people aren’t aware how many other medical issues can cause problems or worsen sleep.  This includes things like chronic pain, heartburn, cancer, dementia, and asthma.

You may also be living with an undiagnosed sleep disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea.

Lastly, there’s the link between sleep and depression.  Insomnia increases your risk for depression and depressed people find it harder to sleep.

If you’re not careful, you can get into a downward spiral.  If you’re really feeling down because of your situation, it’s important to get help.

Sources:

1. “How Noise Can Affect Your Sleep Satisfaction”, sleepfoundation.org

2. Can music improve sleep quality in adults with primary insomnia?  A systematic review and network meta-analysis.  International Journal of Nursing Studies, 2018, volume 77, pages 189-196.

3. The Effect of Music on the Human Stress Response.  PLOS ONE, 2013, volume 8, issue 8, e70156.

4. Anatomically distinct dopamine release during anticipation and experience of peak emotion to music.  Nature Neuroscience, 2011, volume 14, pages 257–262.

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