Today, being able to sleep peacefully every single day is something of a rarity. With the increased emotional and mental stress, undisturbed sleep has become a difficult task for most people. If you are frequently waking up in the middle of the night or you are unable to sleep (due reasons like loud noise of traffic), here’s a simple solution to improve your sleep quality. Just listen to white noise.
Listening to white noise and tuning out can put you to sleep sooner and for longer. So, let’s examine what exactly white noise is and how it can help improve sleep.
What Is White Noise?
White noise is nothing but a sound that helps mask background noises when you are asleep. For instance, if you live in an urban surrounding or around loud neighbors, your sleep may be interrupted because of the traffic outside or a late night party. White noise can help fade these background noises and allows you to sleep without any disturbance. This may be particularly useful for those who are light sleepers.
White noise is called so because it is very similar to “white light,” which is different colors combined together. White noise contains different frequencies and types of sound. In technical terms, white noise is noise that has a constant amplitude throughout the audible frequency range. Pure white noise resembles TV or radio static and is not very pleasant to the ears.
How Does White Noise Work?
White noise does not add to the background sounds. Instead, it blends with them. White noise masks the sounds and makes it difficult for your brain to pay attention to the external noises. Let’s explain how:
If you hear two people talking from the room next door, your brain will be able to listen and understand, allowing you to differentiate the voices. However, if 20 different people are talking altogether instead, you won’t be able to pick the voice of one individual and hence, not be able to differentiate them. Similarly, when you use white noise to cover the background noises, you are using it as a mask so that your brain is not paying attention to any one particular sound, thereby allowing you to sleep undisturbed.
Convinced that white noise is something you want to try to help you sleep better? Here’s how you can choose a white noise that’s appropriate for you.
How To Use White Noise For Better Sleep
For better sleep, make sure that the sound you choose as a white noise is consistent and repetitive. This way, your brain gets used to the sound and will eventually stop paying attention to it. Here are a few tips you can consider to find the perfect noise that’ll put you to sleep:
- Focus on natural white noise: Depending on natural sounds around you is the easiest and most cost-effective way to use white noise. For instance, consider opening your windows (if the outdoor traffic isn’t too much) to let sounds into your bedroom. You can also consider switching on the ceiling fan or air conditioning to mask the surrounding sounds.
- Download white noise applications on your phone: Cellphones have a variety of applications that help you use white noise. Choose the free apps to check if white noise works for you and move on to the paid ones if required.
- Purchase a white noise machine: You can invest your money in a reliable white noise machine. Before purchasing, listen to the sounds and buy one that has a variety of sounds to choose from.
Is White Noise Suitable For Adults And Children?
White noise has been seen to help adults get uninterrupted sleep and positively impact the sleep quality of patients who are exposed to the intensive care unit (ICU) noise. White noise with mixed frequencies could reduce the difference between background noise and peak noise.12 This implies that white noise can be used to reduce the effect of environmental noise in hospitals, thereby improving sleep cycles of patients.
Adults are not the only ones who can benefit from the influence of white noise on sleep. It can also be used to put your baby to sleep for a long duration without any fuss. Here is how white noise can help your baby:
- Reduces stress: Most babies are stressed easily. Using white noise can create a safe environment that reduces their stress levels.
- Improves sleep: Babies often experience “sleep arousals.” Some babies may not be able to fall back into deep sleep after waking up. White noise can help such babies sleep better by masking the sounds around them and reducing their sleep arousals.
- Has a calming effect: With its calming effect, white noise may also help reduce the number of times babies cry, which can be a blessing for parents and caretakers.
Although white noise can benefit your baby’s sleep, studies show that it may not be suitable for long-term use. According to research, white noise from infant sleep machines play at a high frequency of 50 decibels and may contribute to hearing loss.3 Therefore, it is important to use these machines and white noise that isn’t from a natural source with caution. To be on the safe side, always get professional advice from your healthcare provider.
|↑1||Stanchina, Michael L., Muhanned Abu-Hijleh, Bilal K. Chaudhry, Carol C. Carlisle, and Richard P. Millman. “The influence of white noise on sleep in subjects exposed to ICU noise.” Sleep medicine 6, no. 5 (2005): 423-428.|
|↑2||Afshar, Pouya Farokhnezhad, Fatemeh Bahramnezhad, Parvaneh Asgari, and Mahmoud Shiri. “Effect of white noise on sleep in patients admitted to a coronary care.” Journal of caring sciences 5, no. 2 (2016): 103.|
|↑3||Hugh, Sarah C., Nikolaus E. Wolter, Evan J. Propst, Karen A. Gordon, Sharon L. Cushing, and Blake C. Papsin. “Infant sleep machines and hazardous sound pressure levels.” Pediatrics 133, no. 4 (2014): 677-681.|