According to a survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, 5% of Americans now use a sound conditioner, which refers to a fan, phone app, or a white noise machine to help them sleep better at night. If you have trouble getting to sleep, white noise machines come out as a very popular choice among its users. However, do white noise machines work?
- What is White Noise?
- How White Noise Machines Work
- How White Noise Helps You Sleep
- Our Best White Noise Machine
White noise is a combination of all frequencies having equal intensity in the audible range (20 Hz to 20000 Hz). Playing all imaginable sounds that the human ear can pick at the same time is what results in white noise.
The name ‘white noise’ is used to describe this type of noise because it gets its analogy from white light. White light is also a combination of different colors. A prism or a rainbow separates white light into different colors. Using the analogy, white noise is a combination of all different sound frequencies.
For a sound to be categorized as white noise it has to be mathematically correct. Thus, an audio signal is considered to be white noise if all signals combined have a flat spectrum over the range of the frequencies, which is between 20 and 20000 Hz.
The sound of white noise is quite similar to the sound of a whirling fan, static TV, a rumbling waterfall, or rain. However, though similar to white noise, all these sounds or other soothing sounds compiled on youtube are not to be confused for white noise.
White noise can be produced digitally by white noise machines. White noise machines are portable devices that produce background noise that qualifies mathematically as white noise. Also worth noting are white noise apps that are good for those on a budget but will lack the benefits of white noise machines.
The white noise generated by white noise machines helps people get better sleep by drowning out other disruptive/distracting sounds in an environment.
If you’ve ever slept in a quiet environment, you will notice that even the subtle sounds can get amplified. Likewise, in the bedroom where it is quiet, disruptive sounds will get amplified. White noise helps by masking these sudden sounds so that they are less obvious and unlikely to wake you up. Whether it is traffic, construction work, snoring, or loud music, white noise can help.
Apart from masking disruptive sounds, white noise can also help you get back to sleep in case you are suddenly woken up. White noise is consistent, soothing, and does not keep your brain focused. Getting back to deep sleep is easier with a white noise machine. This, in turn, improves sleep quality by allowing people to fall asleep easier and longer.
Research and studies also support the added benefits of white noise in aiding better sleep.
A 2005 study published in the journal Sleep Medicine, researchers studied the influence of white noise on sleep in subjects exposed to ICU noise. The study results showed people who slept with white noise machines were hardly disturbed by ICU noise. White noise was found to reduce the difference between background noise and peak noise, and this in return increased the arousal thresholds when exposed to recorded ICU noise.
Another study on the Effect of White Noise on Sleep in Patients Admitted to Coronary Care also upholds the same results. The results of the study recommended the use of white noise as a method of masking environmental noises and improving and maintaining sleep in the coronary care unit.
White noise and sleep induction, a study on newborn children published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, found that white noise may help mothers settle difficult babies. The effect of white noise on babies is, however, a grey area. A study published in the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), tested some white noise machines designed for babies. All were found to exceed the recommended noise limits of 50 decibels.
The study suggested three recommendations to encourage safer use of white noise machines for babies. First, keep the white noise machine as far away from the infant as possible. Second, set the volume as low as possible. Lastly, limit the duration of use by turning off the device after the baby falls asleep or operate a white noise machine for a short duration of time.
Adaptive Sound Technologies LectroFan – The LectroFan white noise machine by Adaptive Sound Technologies is our best pick. It has 20 sound settings that you can choose alternating between fan’s sounds or pure white noise. The device is also small, light, and very portable to carry around.
Before investing in a white noise machine, you can try free white noise apps for a start. Should these apps help you sleep, then you can opt to buy a white noise machine. Apart from white noise, these are also other background noise that you can try to help you sleep better. Pink and brown noise, natural sounds, or simply soothing music can also work.
Do you use background noise to help you sleep?
Comment below with your answer and how it has helped you get better sleep.