A lot of insomniacs listen to the radio late at night. Many people discover that this helps them get to sleep, and for some this becomes part of their bedtime routine.
There are several reasons why people find it easier to fall asleep with the radio on than in complete silence. The most obvious explanation is that radio relaxes the mind and distracts you from worrying about things.
Another reason is that listening to the same radio programme every night can form part of a bedtime ritual, which sleep experts recommend to those suffering from sleep problems. It’s also better than watching TV or reading, as you can switch the light off which tells your brain it’s time to sleep.
Having the radio on in the background also blocks out other noises that might disturb us, such as traffic and other people in the house. Radio tends to have a fairly constant volume, which makes it easier for us to relax.
Research has shown that loud traffic noises have a negative effect on health and increase stress levels. Listening to the radio at a moderate volume can help keep you relaxed. Radio also helps people with tinnitus, as complete silence makes tinnitus seem louder.
Is it bad to sleep with the radio on?
Sleeping with the radio on could result in less restful sleep, so you should use a sleep timer so that it won’t stay on all night. To find a good radio with a sleep timer, see this roundup of the best alarm clock radios, which all have sleep timers. Apart from that there shouldn’t be any harmful effects of falling asleep with the radio on, though obviously it would be better if you could fall asleep easily without having to listen to the radio.
What kind of radio programme should you listen to?
Many people find it easy to fall asleep to speech programmes. This could be because the sound of speech programmes is more constant and predictable than listening to music. Compared to music, speech probably comes closer to white noise, which is what many experts recommend listening to. However, some people find it hard to switch off, so you might be best choosing a speech radio programme you find boring!
If you prefer music, it’s best to choose something slow and calm. Some classical music can be a good choice, but classical music in general often has a large dynamic (volume) range which can make it less relaxing. The ideal noise to fall asleep to doesn’t have any sudden changes, so if you choose classical music try some repetitive, slow (adagio) pieces from the Baroque era.
Many people also listen to podcasts before going to sleep. You can even download a podcast designed especially for this purpose: the Sleep With Me Podcast. This podcast describes itself as “A Lulling, Droning, Boring Bedtime Story to Distract Your Racing Mind”.
Tips for listening to the radio while falling asleep
Use a radio with a sleep timer
You don’t want to leave your radio switched on all night, or drain the battery if it’s a portable radio. Instead, choose a radio with a sleep timer, so that it will automatically switch off after 30 minutes or an hour.
Recommended radio with a sleep timer:
Pure Siesta Rise DAB/FM Clock Radio
This clock radio is ideal for your bedside table. It usually costs around £80 (see price on Amazon), and is fairly priced given the radio’s quality and features. It includes an adjustable sleep timer, a USB Powerport for charging your phone. The LCD display automatically adjusts to the light levels in your room, so it won’t disturb you while you’re sleeping. Read our full review of the Pure Siesta Rise here.
Use a pillow speaker rather than headphones
Sleeping with regular headphones or earphones can be uncomfortable and unhealthy. You can also damage your headphones when you move in the night.
Listening to the radio through its speakers isn’t ideal either, as it might disturb your partner or other people in your home.
A better option is to get a specially designed pillow speaker. A pillow speaker connects to your radio’s headphone socket and is designed to rest on your pillow while you fall asleep.
Recommended pillow speaker:
SoundLAB Pillow Speaker with 3.5 mm Jack Plug
This pillow speaker is a great value product (see price on Amazon). It fits easily under your pillow and connects pretty much any radio or smartphone via the 3.5mm jack. It lets you listen to the radio without disturbing the person next to you, and is a much better option than using regular earphones. It’s a very affordable product that should make your bedtime radio or podcast listening more enjoyable.
Other tips for getting a better night’s sleep:
- Have a snack a couple of hours before going to bed
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol in the late afternoon and evening
- Turn off all lights as early as possible, and refrain from watching TV or using a phone or computer
- Follow a routine and go to bed the same time every night
- Do some vigorous exercise during the day