Does a White Noise Machine Improve Sleep?
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Are you someone who finds it difficult to fall asleep in a noisy environment? You are not the only one – a lot of people struggle to fall asleep when it is not quiet, unlike those lucky ones who can sleep right through a tornado. So what do you do if there is traffic noise outside or the dog next door is barking all night and keeping you awake? If you have problems falling asleep or tend to wake up easily during the night, white noise may be just the answer you are looking for.
What is White Noise?
So what is white noise? To put it simply, white noise is a special type of sound that masks all other background sounds. It helps in drowning out sounds which might be keeping you from falling asleep when it is used as a way to promote good sleep. Genuine white noise cannot be generated in any other way than electronically, and it sounds a little like radio or TV static. Because it contains a high amount of high-frequency energy, pure white noise is not every pleasant to the ears.
In some cases, the term is used as a general description for any type of noise that is constant and unchanging. White noise has become a colloquial term for a wide range of different sounds, including:
- Machinery sounds – washing machine, air conditioners, etc.
- Nature sounds – waves/ sea, rain, jungle, crickets chirping, etc.
- Ambient soundscapes – crowd noise, a crackling campfire, aircraft interior, etc.
Some people, when trying to fall asleep, prefer listening to these types of sounds rather than the harsh tone of genuine white noise. White noise machines are highly recommended by sleep specialists to help people who find it difficult to fall asleep or are awakened easily while they are sleeping during the night.
Do White Noise Machines Really Work?
Nowadays, you will find a wide range of white noise machines available on the market. Also known as sound conditioners or sleep sound machines, they come in a variety of shapes and sizes – from cutting-edge ‘sleep sound systems’ to low-tech, affordable options.
Let us take a quick look at how white noise machines work. When you think about it, it may sound counterintuitive to add more noise in your bedroom to help you sleep when the noise is exactly the reason you cannot sleep. However, white noise works because it has the ability to blend external sounds (traffic, barking dogs, etc.) into the overall background noise, and therefore, your brain pays less attention.
According to experts, it is not necessarily the volume of the sound that keeps you awake but its context. This is why some people can fall asleep in a noisy nightclub. Similarly, a startle response can be set off by a distant barking dog even if you are asleep and unconscious.
When white noise, or a similar sound, is added to your sleeping environment, you are using a principal that is known as sound masking. Instead of drowning out the sounds that are keeping you awake, the frequencies of the white noise signal “masks” them.
White noise machines produce a sound that masks the external sounds that prevent you from falling asleep. Studies have shown that these machines can benefit problem sleepers. If you prefer, you can also use nature sounds, etc. the same way you use white noise so that you can relax and drift off to sweet slumber.
Other White Noise Solutions
If you would rather not spend money on a white noise machine, there are other ways to create white noise, such as:
- A fan: If you have a standard table fan at home, you can use it to mask external sounds. Its whirr is quite ideal for sound masking.
- An old boom box or radio: Anything that comes with an FM tuner should work well. Just break the antenna or dial in between stations to create pink noise, which is a variant of white noise that has been shown to work effectively as a sleep aid.
- An app: A smartphone is one of the easiest ways to try out white noise to help you sleep. You will find countless apps – both free and paid – that are designed to help improve your sleep. However, keep in mind that some free apps use low-quality sounds that could turn out to be irritating rather than soothing and relaxing.
White noise machines are an excellent investment if you have a serious sleeping problem and do not want to depend on sleeping pills. As mentioned, there are numerous types of white noise machines to suit any budget, so you will definitely find the right one to help you sleep. Say goodbye to sleepless nights.
My favorite sound machine is the Marpac Sound Machine. It plays a nice analog sound that can be adjusted with a dial. They are very durable and really drown out ambient noises. Check out my full review of the Marpac Sound Machine.