Relaxing Sounds That Aren’t Rain or Whale Songs

These lullabies aren’t the usual noise.

Author by John Devore
Credit: Megan Schaller

The app of relaxing nature sounds I downloaded to help me sleep isn’t working. I think I may be broken inside: most normal people are lulled to sleep by the sound of thunderstorms or the soothing calls of giant aquatic mammals slowly swimming in the ocean. But not me. The sound of rain makes me want to get up to use the bathroom. Whales remind me of a Star Trek movie I saw as a kid. In the movie, it is revealed that the endangered animals are in fact aliens far from home and it made me sad.

What I need are relaxing sounds that aren’t rain or plaintive whale wails. The app also offers up music that I can only describe as “ghost jazz.” This is, also, not relaxing.

In a perfect world, I’d be able to find an app or podcast or whatever that is just an endless loop of the sound of butter being scraped across toast. That, my friends, is the kind of soothing sound that makes me unclench. I could listen to it, blissfully, for hours. Here is a list of fifteen relaxing sounds that aren’t the usual noise. Each of these would take me from eye open to eye closed in a matter of minutes.

Milk Being Poured Into Cereal: In general, as a genre, “breakfast sounds” are very relaxing, at least to me. One of those sounds is the glug-glug of milk crashing into crispy cereal pieces in a bowl. It is the comforting sound of a new day.

Rakes Raking Leaves: The fall means three things: hot cider, blankets, and yard work. Especially the sound of multi-colored foliage being gently forced into piles. I find the sound of low-energy labor to be very calming.

Babies Giggling: I do not have a baby, but I have recently spent time with multiple babies. Their giggles are the sound of pure joy and comfort. They’re the closest you can get to an actual angel whispering “go to sleep now” in your ear when you’re tucked into bed.

Clothes Drying In The Dryer: The sounds of socks and pants tumbling in a drum is like listening to a robot’s heartbeat. A giant, tender, robot who just wants you to peacefully nod off. Goodnight, robot.

Pool Balls Hitting Other Pool Balls: I am not very good at pool but I could fall asleep underneath a pool table to the click-clacking of two cueballs kissing each other. I would, of course, use a nap pillow if I were to sleep under the aforementioned pool table.

Lawn Sprinklers Sprinkling: The rhythmic hiss, hiss, hissing of lawn sprinklers just makes my blood pressure go down. I use to fall asleep to the lawn sprinkler during long lazy summer afternoons. I suppose this also falls under the “low-energy labor” genre of sleepytime sounds.

Bathtubs Draining: The swirling and gurgling of soapy water getting sucked down a bathtub drain is, inexplicably, a sound that helps to slowly pull down my eyelids, like curtains. I don’t know why this sound untangles my nerves, but it does.

Car Doors Slamming: The slightly muffled sound of a car door closing means someone has come home, at least to me. That’s the sound I’d hear when my dad had come home after working late. When I heard that, I knew I was safe and could sleep, and he’d be there, in the morning, making coffee.                                                                                                                                                       Presents Being Opened: The tearing of gift paper is the sound of hope and promises fulfilled. I can do without the totally justifiable squeals of joy that almost always follow, however. But the frantic, hopeful ripping and shredding of tissue-thin paper Zens me right out.

People Talking With English Accents: I sometimes fall asleep while watching The Great British Bake Off or one of the Lord of the Rings movies because English accents are like gentle and elegant tones, like the bars of a regal xylophone being played softly. Hearing that lilt is my cue to Zzz.

Coffee Brewing: The sound of chocolate-brown water bubbling and percolating in a coffee machine is another “breakfast sound” that I find very consoling. Like most of the “breakfast sounds” I enjoy, it reminds me of a good night’s sleep and the promise of family, waiting for me in the morning.

Danny Elfman’s Edward Scissorhands Soundtrack: Yes, Johnny Depp has transformed, over the years, into a highly problematic gentleman raccoon but the whimsical, lullaby-like soundtrack to the 1990 Tim Burton classic about a Frankenstein scarecrow in need of a manicure is pure aural Ambien.

CSPAN: Nothing is more delightfully boring than the sound of democracy. CSPAN is, literally, the warm milk of television. Listening to elected officials legislate—even if that legislation is important and impactful—will always put me right to sleep. Lawmaking is my melatonin.

The Public Library: There is a specific quality to the quiet of a public library. It is a very loud silence, like a thick, comfy, blanket being pulled over your head. Sometimes the noiselessness is interrupted by a distant cough or a firm “Shhhh” but that’s part of the pleasure. The quiet of the library is different from, say, ‘white noise,’ which is the sound of a vacuum. The hush of the library is the hush of a tranquil mind.

Cher Singing ‘Castle On A Cloud’ From Les Miserables: I do not think Emmy and Oscar-winning song stylist Cher has ever sung this gentle lullaby from the greatest musical of all time, but if she ever did, I’d listen to it on repeat until I drifted off to dreamland.


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About Woolly

A curious exploration of comfort, wellness, and modern life — emotionally supported by Casper. It’s a beautiful magazine published by a mattress. Come on, you know it’s not the weirdest thing to happen this year. The first issue includes a love letter to comfort pants, a skeptic's guide to crystals, and an adulting coloring book.