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White Noise For Better Sleep

Updated on November 14, 2017
dwelburn profile image

David is an army-trained biomedical scientific officer, writer, and lifelong health and fitness enthusiast.

White noise can help you sleep better.
White noise can help you sleep better. | Source

White Noise Benefits

Do you often have trouble falling asleep, or do you tend to wake up a lot during the night? If so you might be surprised to find out that noise can actually help you sleep better. But not just any noise – white noise. And white noise has a number of other important benefits too.

So why is that? How can noise improve the quality of your sleep? In this hub I’ll explain all.

What Is White Noise?

Technically white noise is a sound that contains all the frequencies of the sound spectrum at the same intensity. It is called ‘white’ noise because it’s based on the same principle as white light, which contains all the colors (frequencies) of light. White light can be separated into its constituent colors by passing it through a prism.

True white noise can only be produced electronically, but good approximations to it are radio static or the sound of a fan whirring. However other, more soothing white noise sounds, are usually used to promote more restful sleep. These include the sound of wind, waves, raindrops, or other natural comforting sounds.

So the term ‘white noise’ is now used to describe any type of constant, unchanging background noise.

How Does White Noise Improve Sleep?

Because white noise contains all the frequencies of sound, it has the effect of masking other noises, in the same way that one voice would be lost in the midst of 1000 other voices. So noisy neighbours, barking dogs, traffic noise and even the noise of a snoring spouse tend to blend in to the white noise background and become much less noticeable.

So if you have white noise playing in the bedroom you will be able to fall asleep much easier; and once you are asleep you will be less likely to be disturbed by other noises in the night. So you’ll sleep more soundly and awake more refreshed.

And even if your sleeping environment is usually quiet, white noise can still help promote more restful sleep as the gentle background noise is more comforting and has a more soothing effect on the brain than complete silence.

What About Pink Noise?

There are other "colors" of noise apart from white noise, the most notable of which is pink noise. Pink noise is like white noise in that it contains all the frequencies of sound, but the intensity is higher at the lower end of the spectrum.

Pink noise also helps you sleep better, and its effect on sleep appears to be very similar to that of white noise.

What Are The Other Benefits Of White Noise?

Apart from promoting easier and more restful sleep white noise has other uses too. These include…

In the office – white noise helps mask distracting conversations and other noises. So it helps improve concentration and focus whilst working.

For tinnitus sufferers – white noise helps reduce the constant ringing in the ears that characterises tinnitus; so it makes the condition much more bearable.

In the nursery – if your baby is having difficulty establishing normal sleep patterns and tends to wake up a lot during the night white noise can help here too.

A word of caution though; babies have extremely sensitive hearing so you should only use it at low volume. And don’t use it too much either as babies need to be exposed to a wide variety of sounds in order for their brains to develop properly in this area.

In hospitals – white noise helps mask the noise of hospital machinery and other hospital noises, so it helps patients to get the rest they need whilst they are recovering.

How To Generate Your Own White Noise

There are a number of ways in which you can experience white noise. You could for instance simply leave the fan running all night, or leave the radio on with the dial set in between stations.

Alternatively there are various CDs, MP3s and smartphone apps available with dozens of different white noise and nature sounds that you can choose from. And you can even listen to it on youtube.

Probably the best way to get white noise however is with a white noise machine. These give you simple push button functionality and you don’t have to tie up a CD player or computer as a playback device. There are a large number of machines to choose from, but probably the best known and most highly regarded is the Marpac Dohm.

The Marpac Dohm Natural White Noise Sound Machine

This is a variant of a design that was first introduced in 1962. Formerly known as the Sleepmate, it is the only device that uses a mechanical element rather than electronics; the noise being generated by a whirring internal asymmetrical fan. So you get a completely natural, constant shushhhing sound, like rushing air.

The device contains a two-speed motor, so you can select either ‘high’ or ‘low’, and then further adjust it to your preferred tone and volume by simply twisting the cap and collar.

The Dohm is recognized as the Official Sound Conditioner of the National Sleep Foundation, so comes highly recommended.

So that’s an explanation of how white noise can help you sleep better, as well as some of the other important uses and benefits of white noise. Hope you found it useful and thanks for reading.


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    • dwelburn profile image

      David 16 months ago from Birmingham, UK

      Thanks Greenmind. That's ok; I'll take a look at yours. :)

    • greenmind profile image

      GreenMind 16 months ago from USA

      Hey really useful Hub -- thanks! I like the way you write. I have a white noise machine hub of my own, just published. We're going head to head : )

    • dwelburn profile image

      David 2 years ago from Birmingham, UK

      Thanks for that Alison. I'll have a listen to some of those. You can get just about anything on youtube now can't you? :)

    • profile image

      Alison 2 years ago

      Very interesting topic. White noise machines are definitely an upcoming thing!

      i was looking for white noise online, so I didn´t have to buy a machine, and I came across some great youtube videos. The channel, which produces these videos also have videos about pink noise and even brown noise. It´s interesting to listen to, and of course really calming. In case you´re interested, here´s a link to the White noise video:

      Thank you for all the information! As I said, it´s an upcoming thing many people are interested in. :)

    • dwelburn profile image

      David 3 years ago from Birmingham, UK

      Ha; yes it sounds like a better idea. Don't think I'd like to sleep with the vacuum running.

    • indanila profile image

      Inda Blackwell 3 years ago from Hampton Roads

      Wish I knew about the sound machine when my daughter was a baby. She slept with the vacuum running for months! My poor neighbors....


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