I’m a nationally published sleep expert, journalist, and the mom of three young kids. I’ve been helping tired families sleep since 2007 (more about me here). Subscribe to The Well Rested Family for fresh news and tips on keeping your bunch happy and healthy. Thanks for stopping by!


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Ask Malia: Help for a Sound-Sensitive Child

Respecting your kid's quest for quiet.Dear Malia,

My 7-year-old son is especially sensitive to noise. He’s always had trouble sleeping, and it’s been especially tough since we moved into a new house. This house is creakier than our old one and our neighbors are pretty noisy. Do you have any tips—beyond white noise, which we use—to keep his room quieter at night?


In the quest to keep your child’s bedroom quiet at night, you may run into some obstacles—especially when your child is particularly sensitive to noise. Maybe you live in a noisy, creaky home with old hardwood floors, or a loud apartment building. Perhaps your child’s bedroom is near an elevator or stairwell. Maybe the sounds from traffic, airplanes, or trains are too loud to mask with white noise.

Some kids sleep well under these noisy conditions. For others, any sound is too much sound. When your home is simply too noisy for restful sleep, a few simple adjustments (and maybe a trip to the local home-décor store) may be in order. Though I don’t suggest encasing your son’s room in soundproof foam, there are other things you can do to help lower the racket:

  • Heavy curtains and thick textiles help to absorb and mask noise. This principle is at work in recording studios and soundproof rooms that are padded in thick foam from floor to ceiling. Choose thick drapes; quilts make excellent (noise-lowering) wall hangings.
  • Hardwood floors and tile may be beautiful, but quiet, they're not. Thick-pile carpeting masks noise, especially when it's wall-to-wall. Area rugs should be well-padded underneath. Hallway floors are notoriously creaky, so don’t forget about the floor outside of your child’s room.
  • Treat all of your home’s door hinges with WD-40 to prevent ear-shattering, sleep-disrupting squeals every time a door opens.
  • If possible, give your child a bedroom toward the back of the house, away from stairwells, busy hallways, and the home’s main living areas. That way, he won’t be disrupted by normal foot traffic or conversations.
  • To make an even bigger dent in the noise level, drape sheets across the ceiling to absorb and soften sound (the soft, tent-like atmosphere that it creates in the bedroom is an added bonus).

Please don’t fall prey to the myth that by creating a quiet sleep space, you are “spoiling” your child’s ability to sleep with background noise. To the contrary: a well-rested child has an easier time falling asleep, period. By quieting your home, you'll increase your child’s chances of sleeping well, both at home and while traveling to other, noisier locales. Over time, he may outgrow his sentivity to noise. But for now, do what you need to do to help him rest.

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