AD It Yourself

7 Ways to Soundproof a Room (So You Can Actually Get Some Rest)

Peace and quiet can actually be yours
Room Soundproofing 7 Tricks to Try So You Can Get Some Rest
Illustration: Julia Abbonizio/Getty Images

Starting to wonder about room soundproofing? Sure, seasoned city dwellers may claim they simply get used to falling asleep every night to the dulcet sounds of sweetly screeching sirens, charming construction clattering, the chatter of passing revelers, and the traffic noise. But let’s be serious—there’s no getting used to all that ruckus. And when you take a few simple room soundproofing steps—like adding carpets, specialized wall hangings, window hardware, and more—you won’t have to.

And according to science, you really shouldn’t be simply coping with the din. None other than the World Health Organization recommends you sleep in a room where the noise at night does not exceed 30 decibels, which is literally whisper-quiet.

So if your bedroom is louder than whisper-quiet at night, you are probably losing sleep because of it, and even if you’ve gotten used to unsettled sleep, you owe it to yourself to improve your sleeping environment by exploring your options for noise reduction. Fortunately, you can achieve successful sound absorption with relative ease and minor expense.

A few DIY-friendly updates to your room (no major home improvement required!) can greatly reduce the racket, allowing you to enjoy some much-deserved quiet no matter how busy things are outside your window. (Or outside your door, for that matter, as family members, roommates, or the neighbors across the hall can cause just as much noise as the streets outside or that passing train.)

Read on to find a few genius room soundproof solutions you can put to use within hours. We see a good night’s sleep in your future.

1. Improve your window’s sound insulation

Blankets and drapery can help with sound absorption in your home.

Photo: Getty Images

In a perfect world, you could swap out older windows for new double-pane windows that would already offer plenty of room soundproofing. But don’t worry, there’s plenty you can do—even without replacing windows—to create a stronger sound barrier. You can use sound-blocking inserts like those sold by Indow, which can block out up to 70% of the sound coming through a single-pane window. Or you can seal gaps around the window’s frame using specially formulated acoustical caulk. Or better yet, do both. While you’re looking at your windows, it’s worth inspecting your interior doors as well: You may want to consider replacing hollow-core doors with solid composite versions that will do a better job of keeping sound in.

2. Switch out your standard rug pads for soundproof ones

After you tackle the windows, it’s time to look into soundproofing materials you can bring in. The felt and memory foam versions in RugPadUSA’s collection can provide a dense layer of insulation, reducing noise from within your home (think kids stomping about in adjacent rooms) while also keeping neighboring noise out. These pads add insulation that can keep in cool air during the summer and warm air during the winter. And, as you’d expect from a thick rug pad, they create a comfortable and supportive feel under your area rug too. Given all that, these pads are a no-brainer, with three major benefits provided by one easy upgrade. You can even benefit from one if you don’t have a rug or carpeting in your room at all: just get one that’s sized to fit under your bed. It will be out of sight and out of mind, but making your life a bit quieter.

3. Throw some cotton or wool pillows on the sofa

Layer on the cozy textiles.

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In a European Commission report on green construction, the Science Communication Unit at the University of the West of England, Bristol, states that “researchers have found that natural materials, such as plant fibers or wool, can be used to construct sustainable sound absorbers that help prevent noise pollution.” Try adding extra throw pillows (plus, your seating will be more comfortable than ever). You can also add a number of natural fiber pillows to your bed. They’ll look lovely during the day, and when you take them off to get into bed at night, you can place them near the windows or in front of your door, catching much of the sound that comes in. You can also drape cotton or wool blankets over the back of a chair to add a bit more noise-absorbing material to your space. Other textiles to explore for their sound-dampening properties are thick blankets or even wall tapestries, which can be both aesthetically pleasing and functional. The goal is to not have too many hard surfaces around.

4. Buy noise-reducing curtains

The same blackout curtains you buy to block out sunlight by day (or city lights by night) can also work by blocking out that light and muffling street noise at the same time. That said, dedicated noise-reducing curtains may be a better choice. Heavy curtains designed to block sound will almost always block light well too, so shop for window dressings optimized primarily for sound reduction. And like with the addition of a sound-blocking rug pad or noise-blocking caulk, these curtains will add better insulation to your home as well, helping with heating and cooling costs and efficacy.

5. Invest in a fan (or a sound machine)

Fans and sound machines can help provide white noise to detract from other sounds.

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Sometimes your best bet is actually more noise—white noise, that is. A ceiling fan, floor fan, or sound machine can block out the background din and cover up sharper, acute noises (like a car’s horn honking or a dog barking) and let you sleep more steadily. Basically, a steady whir can cover up other sounds you don’t want to hear with sounds that won’t bother you. Just make sure your sound maker isn’t turned up too loud, as too much white noise can be a bad thing. Sound machines should generally not be set to volume levels exceeding 50 or 55 decibels (this is especially true for sound makers used for babies or children, according to Baby Sleep Dr.) to guarantee safe and optimal resting conditions.

6. Repaint or repaper the walls

Every thought about soundproofing walls? Coatings from companies like Acoustical Services absorb mid-range sounds—and they’ve been lab-tested to prove it. After applying base and finish coats on your existing walls, you can paint over it with the regular paint color of your choice, so the aesthetics of your space need not change at all. You can also try using a sound-reducing wallpaper, which usually comes in peel-and-stick rolls that do not require professional installation.

7. Use soundproofing panels

If you really, seriously need to cut down on the sound, then you need to use the same sorts of acoustic treatments that musicians and sound engineers use when setting up recording studio spaces. The best way to soundproof a room is not the most aesthetically appealing, but acoustic foam panels will surely get the job done. You can also find acoustically rated artistic wall panels that can be applied to create a large mosaic-style piece of artwork that also happens to deaden a lot of noise. And you can also opt for smaller acoustic panels that can be applied as needed, such as forming a frame around a window or above a headboard, for example. If you dislike the look of all noise-reducing wall appliqués, you can cut them up, then cover them with a piece of artwork—just don’t cover acoustic panels with something painted on wood or with a panel of glass in the frame, as that can cause sound waves to reverberate.

Below, we address some commonly asked questions about room soundproofing.

How can I make my room soundproof?

The long and short of it is to add material to your space. This means carpets, wall hangings, blankets, upholstered furniture, bookcases, curtains, and so on. It can also mean specialized acoustic panels, better seals around windows and doors, thick padding for the floor, and other more involved steps. You can do wonders with furniture, carpeting, and decor items.

How can I soundproof my room for cheap?

Work with what you have! Move a tall bookcase or sofa from a different room into the space you need to soundproof and place it on the wall that most offends with letting sound in. Drape blankets over the backs of chairs. Add a large area rug under your bed and hang decorative fabric on the walls. And invest a few dollars in specialized caulking that can better seal your windows. You’ll save on heating and cooling costs and it will pay for itself over time.

Can you soundproof an existing room?

All the methods previously discussed will do wonders of course, but if you truly need to make a room soundproof (keeping in mind that if you’re asking, “how do I make my room 100% soundproof?” the only answer is to move into a deep cave) then you can do a little renovation. You can apply acoustic panels or foam insulation over the existing walls, then place a new layer of drywall. Yes, you’ll lose about two inches of floor space and you will need to do your fair share of installing and spackling and painting and finishing—and you may want to hire professionals if the project involves any framing—but the result will be a truly quiet space.