We all know that kind of person who can sleep through a hurricane, screaming baby or nuclear bomb. Heck, you might even sleep next to someone like that. But, not all of us can be so lucky. In fact, for some of us, even the slightest noise can wake us from an otherwise deep slumber. If this is you, the idea of adding noise — like white noise — to your sleep routine might be something you’ve tossed away into bin of crazy ideas. But here, we’re going to take a look at what white noise is, why it’s helpful and how you can use it to try and get a better night’s sleep.
What is white noise, anyways?
White noise might sound like this abstract concept, and well, it kind of is. White noise is a mix of different frequencies with the same amplitude. Inherently, this broad spectrum of frequencies masks background sounds. Think of the constant humming sound your fan makes when it’s blowing air — it’s like that. A white noise machine then generates its own sound signal that plays in a repeating loop to create a sort of sound-mask that distracts you from other noise, like the sound of your neighbors rolling out the trash cans or your dog barking late at night.
How can white noise help me sleep better? As psychiatrist David Neubauer of Johns Hopkins Hospital Sleep Disorders Center explains, “When it’s completely quiet, people with insomnia or other sleep difficulties focus more closely on small noises, which can interfere with their getting to sleep." White noise then helps blend those distracting external sounds that would normally keep you awake into the background — almost creating a ‘sound cocoon,’ as Dr. Neubauer calls it.
Helpful white noise machines for your bedroom
If you’re the kind of person who wakes up to the slightest noise at night, a white noise machine might be able to help you get to sleep easier and stay asleep longer. There are a few different types of white noise devices which you can choose from.
1. A regular fan One of the oldest white noise ‘tricks’ in the book is a regular old house fan. The constant humm created by a fan is a great, steady distraction and mask to the other noises that creek and scare in the middle of the night.
2. White noise machine Because it consists of a wide range of frequencies, white noise itself can actually sound harsh to our ears. For this reason, white noise itself might not be relaxing for everyone. Today on the market you can find different white noise machines that produce this static, looping sound that blocks out other noise. Really good machines will also offer ‘pink’ and ‘brown’ noise which is similar to white noise, but not as harsh.
3. A sound machine The same concept of white noise can be applied to the effectiveness of sound machines, as they also can be used to block out or cover up other distracting sounds. There are hundreds of different sound machines (and apps) to choose from — from the sound of crashing waves to rain, babbling brooks and rustling leaves. Not only can these sounds calm you down and help ease you to sleep, but they can be used throughout the night to mask street noise or anything else that might prevent you from catching zzz’s.