Could White Noise Improve Your Sleep?

noisy neighbor

If you’ve even laid awake at night tossing, turning, and counting sheep, you’ll have been desperate for some sort of revelation or cure to bring you a good night’s sleep. It’s true that some people can sleep through anything. However, when you live in a noisy area, or if you’re a shift worker trying to sleep during the day in a full house, you’ll be aware of just how difficult getting to sleep is, even when you’re exhausted.

According to the Better Sleep Council, you should never go without adequate sleep. It takes you two weeks to die without food, however, it only takes ten days to die if you don’t sleep.

If your noisy sleeping environment is getting in the way of getting quality sleep, you might want to consider using a white noise machine. But first, let’s learn about what white noise is — and what it is not.

What is White Noise?

To put it simply, white noise is a type of sound signal that’s used to mask background noise. It works by drowning out any disruptive sounds that could potentially wake you up. For many people, it’s great to use in situations where they just cannot get rid of all the sounds that enter their sleeping space.

White noise is comprised of sound waves that spans a wide range of frequencies, and sounds like a hissing noise, akin to the spray of an aerosol can.

The sound of white noise is steady, so it captures your attention without you needing to focus at all. The nonrepetitive, basic sound is an ambient noise that passes through your brain within arousing any emotions, so there is nothing to process.

When you’re asleep your brain is still taking in sounds and processing them, so random noises can affect your entire sleep quality. According to Medical News Today, research published in Nature Neuroscience has shown that it’s possible to learn during your sleep. The study showed that while people are asleep, if certain smells are released after hearing tones, the subjects began to sniff even when there was no smell presented on hearing the same tones. This is true both in and out of sleep.

So, you see, as your body is probably more aware than you thought it might be when you’re sleeping, it’s imperative to have the best night’s rest you can.

What White Noise is Not

White noise refers to a specific type of sound signal as we discovered earlier. It does not usually encompass often annoying external environmental sounds such as:

  • Sirens wailing
  • Babies crying
  • Dogs barking
  • Partner snoring
  • Faucet dripping
  • Pipes creaking
  • Cars passing
  • and so on.

While some people are able to sleep through these types of noises, for many of us these types of sounds disrupt and fragment our sleep.

Why Does White Noise Help with Sleep?

Although the concept of adding more sound into your sleeping quarters might sound like a bad idea or counterintuitive, it works due to white noise blending any external sounds into an overall background noise. This stops your brain from picking specific sounds out and focusing attention on them.

With white noise quickly becoming a very popular way to help your brain and body get into the right “place” for a good night’s rest, let’s look at some of the ways your sleep benefits from white noise:

  • You can take it anywhere. If you’re going on a trip, or on vacation, you can bring a white noise machine anywhere with you, enabling you to get a good night’s rest no matter your location.
  • You’ll benefit from better quality sleep. If it’s common for random sounds to wake you up multiple times during the night, trying white noise could make you awake in the morning feeling far better and more refreshed.
  • You can create a regular bedtime ritual. Through establishing a regular routine before bed and incorporating white noise into this, you may find you eventually train your body to relax and to sleep better.
  • Your bedroom is quiet. Although it involves sound, white noise creates a positive and relaxing sleeping environment by buffering annoying and disturbing sounds.
  • Your brain will stop being as busy. If you’ve trouble falling asleep as you just can’t stop thinking or worrying, white noise can be a help.
  • You’ll stay asleep once you nod off. As white noise masks any noise that can interrupt your sleep, it helps you remain asleep once you’ve dropped off. If you do wake, white noise makes it easier for you to fall asleep again.

As human beings, our hearing is an important part of protecting us while we sleep, so if you’re constantly being subjected to a barrage of different noises, this severely impacts upon your slumber, and can in time affect your health. White noise is one way you might just get back on top of your sleeping routine.

Natural White Noise Sounds

Rather than using a conventional white noise machine, you might want to opt for sounds that you feel are more soothing and natural. For example:

  • Ocean waves lapping on the shore
  • Rain hitting the ground
  • Waterfall sounds
  • Rainforest noises
  • Autumn winds, and so on

In fact, any sound found in nature (aside from dogs barking) that is relaxing and low key can generally be considered to be natural white noise.

Many people love hearing ocean waves rolling into shore, whereas others enjoy the sound of distant thunderstorms as they drift off to sleep. It’s a good idea to download some samples of these type of sounds and music to see how they affect you.

You may also benefit from listening to calming music at nighttime. Do your best to avoid songs that make you feel lively or ones with lyrics that keep your mind turning over. Some mellow, soft tunes that involve chanting are often very useful for aiding sleep.

Types of White Noises You Can Use

If you’re wondering how and where you can find white noise machines, there are various options available from ones with no financial outlay to more expensive machines. No matter your budget, you have a choice of options available.

Sound conditioners/white noise machines/sleep sound machines

Standalone sound machines are a good option for you if you want a simple and functional piece and don’t want to rely on using your smartphone, laptop or CD playing as a playback device.

Makers of these machines tend not to market these as white noise machines nowadays, as modern models generally offer a range of pre-recorded and electronic sounds to select from. As there are many devices on the market, it’s a good idea to shop around and to look at reviews before buying the machine you want.

Free White Noise Solutions

If you’re not sure about laying spending money just to try white noise as a solution to your sleep problems, there are other ways you can get the effect without breaking the bank.

  • Use white noise MP3’s. There are many online sites where you can download nature and white noise sounds completely free. Of course, you need to have an MP3 player, phone or computer handy to play your MP3 back.
  • Run a fan, air conditioner, vaporizer, or humidifier. The gentle whirr of these commonly found household appliances is a brilliant and inexpensive method of masking sounds, and it’s likely you’ll have at least one of these items in your home already.
  • Use a CPAP machine (if needed). Most widely known as a treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea, using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine can give you a good night’s rest if you’re suffering from the condition. The device delivers a continuous supply of air through a mask that covers your nose or nose and mouth while sleeping, and thus prevents you from stopping breathing while you’re asleep – one of the main symptoms of sleep apnea.
  • Turn on a TV. Some people swear by the background noise of a television to lull them asleep.

White Noise Apps

Everyone has a smartphone nowadays, and if you want to delve into the world of white noise, you can check out your app store and choose from a huge variety of both paid and free apps that can help improve your sleeping routine.

People tend to find white noise apps to be one of the most convenient ways of utilizing white noise as it’s likely you already keep your phone by your bed at night, so you’ve no extra equipment to purchase and use.

Bear in mind that if you’re using a free app, the sound quality might be low, making the white noise perhaps more annoying than settling for you. Remember also that you won’t necessarily get the best sound from your phone’s speaker; however, downloading an app helps you figure out whether or not white noise could work for you.

So, if you’re having trouble sleeping, white noise may be what you’re looking for. If you try a white noise machine or app, do your best to be courteous to your partner, if you have one. If they can’t stand the sound, set a timer to shut off the noise, or listen through headphones.

White noise can create a very helpful atmosphere for you to sleep in. Add this to a nightly regular winding-down routine, and you’ll find that you’re soon sleeping like a baby.

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