Have you ever had a fan running in your bedroom when you fell went to sleep?
If so, then you probably experienced one of the best nights of sleep ever – without pills or medicine. The background noise that most household fans make is called white noise and this sound has been proven in research to help you sleep during the night. You can use white noise to fall asleep quicker and sleep more restfully, which gives you health benefits.
Is white noise bad for sleep?
No, it’s not bad for sleep. Reviewed study results show it is actually beneficial for your sleep and general health – much healthier than sleep medicine. White noise is nothing more than an anti-noise mechanism. Think of a bedroom fan (floor-standing model). As you turn the dial to “low” it emits a low hum. This is white noise. In a short time, while falling asleep, your brain tunes into this noise and it blocks out other annoying noise, so you can sleep peacefully.
Why does white noise help you sleep?
Even though it seems counter-intuitive, making noise in your bedroom so you won’t be awakened by other noise has a scientific explanation, and evidence, behind it.
Let’s go back to our bedroom fan example. The sound emanating from it contains a lot of different tones. However, each tone has the same intensity. The noise is boring, steady and monotonous over time – which helps you sleep.
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What does white noise do to your brain?
Your brain needs that steady and monotonous noise level when you go to sleep. As you sleep, your hearing is still working, which is a throwback to when man lived in caves and had to be alert to any sign of danger while sleeping.
When a car alarm, barking dog or loud teenagers disrupts your sleep in the middle of the night, your brain and memory are programmed to wake you in case you need to defend or protect yourself. This is a classic example of the memory-based “fight or flight” mechanism.
When your brain hears a noise in the middle of the night, it raises your blood pressure, increases your heart rate and eventually wakes you up. This is why it’s hard for some adults to fall back asleep after they’ve been awoken at night by a loud noise – adversely affecting the quality of their sleep.
White noise generators basically mask loud noise so that you’re less likely to hear them. This is great if you live in an especially noisy area, for example:
- Teenagers playing loud music outside
- Airplanes landing or taking off
- Street sounds such as cars and traffic
- Animals such as the barking dog who lives next door
Types of White Noise
Through research, scientists reviewed and classified 11 different types of noises: white, pink, brown(ian), blue, violet, grey, red, green, black, noisy white, and noisy black.
The science, research and evidence reviewed get pretty in-depth regarding these different types of noises reviewed, but for purposes of this guide, there are several types of sounds that are reviewed and included in the white noise definition.
Bedroom fan, air conditioner, air purifier, ticking mechanical clock.
Thunderstorms, rain, chirping birds, rainforest sounds, wind, and even traffic (cars).
Crackling of your fireplace or a campfire, inside an airplane while it’s flying (ever notice how you’re able to sleep so well on an airplane? It’s due to the white noise created as the plane is flying).
Scientists have discovered that “brown noise” will also help you fall asleep. Some of the noise generation machines that are designed to help you fall asleep have brown noise capacities. It’s considered to be one of the lowest frequencies that the human ear is able to hear. It sounds like a deep rumble and can be considered as a “warm” sound.
Pink noise is very similar to white noise, but pink noise tends to focus on sounds that are of lower frequencies. The end result is that the pink noise sounds you hear are a bit more pleasant to your ear than white noise. Pink noise has been said to be able to improve concentration as well.
Different Ways to Have White Noise
Should you have white noise on all night?
Why not! There is no evidence or study to suggest any adverse side-effects. But white noise, pink noise, and brown noise, in particular, have been proven to help good sleeping. There are many ways adults can go about having white noise while they sleep. The cost can range from free up to $60.
There are many apps for your cell phone on the market that claim to help you get a better night’s sleep. These apps can cost anywhere from free to $10. These apps can produce a wide range of noises related to the natural environment, from ocean waves to frogs and stream water, to mask other ambient noise.
You can buy these machines with variable frequencies in almost any home goods store, or online. They cost anywhere from $9.99 to $60. The more expensive ones are better because they allow you to adjust the tone and volume in order to personalize the sound emitted.
If you have a free-standing bedroom fan lying around somewhere, you could repurpose it as a white noise machine. Set it somewhere where you won’t trip over it and put it on “low”. You could also buy an air purifier, which will improve the quality of the air and help you rest better.
Under the Pillow Machine
Some good online stores sell what they refer to as “pillow speaker sets”. On one end is a flat speaker that is inserted into your pillow. It is thin enough so that your head won’t feel it while you sleep. On the other end is a 3.5mm jack that can plug into your smartphone, or other music player device. You can use this to listen to the apps white noise or you can create your own.
There are a few other good applications in which pink noise or white noise may be used. For example, if you have a newborn baby, try putting a noise machine in their bedroom, the sound might help them (and you) get a better night’s sleep.
Recently, many IT companies have begun to experiment with white noise generators in the office. For example, in the IT work environment, you have people coding and working on their keyboards. The “clackity clack” sound can degrade the quality of the work environment. So by incorporating a white noise machine, the department finds itself to be more productive and the workers more rested and relaxed at the end of the day; one of the best health benefits!