Is there anything better than a good night’s sleep? Unfortunately, getting the recommended amount can be a rare occurrence, whether you’re dealing with a buzzing phone, barking dog, or the neighbor’s early morning construction outside your window. While lavender pillow sprays and weighted blankets can help, others might benefit from the low hum of a white noise machine.
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So what exactly are they? White noise machines produce a low, uninterrupted sound that plays on a loop as you sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, white noise helps you get better rest by drowning out unexpected noises. White noise can come from a fan, an air purifier, or anything that makes a low, consistent sound all night. We spoke with Christine Lawler, of The Peaceful Sleeper and an author to two newborn sleeping books, to find out more about white noise machines and how they can help you get some shut-eye.
Do White Noise Machines Really Help You Sleep?
White noise helps you sleep better because it equalizes noises in the environment that might otherwise wake you up or disrupt deep sleep. "This could mean cars zooming by, doors opening and closing, family members talking," says Lawler. "While the white noise is not inherently loud, it is closer to you than these other disturbances, so it drowns out the extra sounds."
Will White Noise Help You Fall Asleep Faster?
In short, no. A common misconception of white noise is that it will help you fall asleep faster. "If you consistently use white noise and it's a sound you have come to associate with sleep, an argument could be made that it could help you fall asleep faster because it signals to your brain that it's bedtime," says Lawler. "But the biggest benefit of white noise isn't found here."
Who Should Use White Noise Machines?
The people who benefit the most from white noise machines are those who commonly have disturbances as they sleep, according to Lawler. This includes babies, who go to sleep while everyone else at home is awake. White noise can promote healthy sleeping patterns and be a sleep aid for newborns. Night-shift employees or new parents looking to sneak in a quick snooze may also benefit from a white noise machine blocking.
Toddlers and young children, meanwhile, are typically deep sleepers. Lawler suggests dropping the white noise machine as kids get older unless, say, a barking dog often wakes them up too early.
As we age, our ability to fall and stay asleep slows down. According to the National Institute on Aging, insomnia is the most common sleep problem in adults age 60 and older. People with insomnia have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. This makes it difficult to stay alert during the day. A white noise machine may prevent older adults from waking up at night from trivial noises in the home.
What Is the Best White Noise Machine to Buy?
First and foremost, you want to choose a white noise machine with a sound you actually like. We recommend asking a store associate to test the machine before purchasing. If you cringe at first listen, it's probably not the one for you. Some machines, like the LectroFan, $49.99, have several programmed sounds, so you can choose which one is best for you on any given night.
Other noise machines feature special tech features. The Hatch Baby Rest Sound Machine, $59.99, for example, doubles as a night light. The SNOOZ sound machine, $79.99, has an app-based remote control that allows you to program it from your phone.
As for Lawler, she prefers the Marpac brand,$41.22. "There is an actual fan inside making a whirring sound, as opposed to an electronic static sound," says Lawler. "Some people, myself included, get highly annoyed by certain white noise sounds so it's important to find a sound that is neutral for you and can be easily tuned out."
Is White Noise Harmful to Have On All Night Long?
Many designs come with the ability to program a timer that shuts off your white noise machine an hour or so after you go to bed. With the rise in smart home technology, we're not surprised to see this feature. However, Lawler advises against that. "Ideally, once the white noise machine is on, your brain quickly tunes it out and you forget it's there. Since we don't always know when there will be disruptive sounds (and we don't want to be waking up to turn a machine off) it's easiest to keep it on all night."
What If Your Partner Doesn't Like White Noise Machines?
This is a sleeping problem that you can overcome with a little trial and error. First, try to find common ground. Test out different apps and machines to find a sound that works for both of you. If that doesn’t help, play with the placement of your sound machine. "If one partner likes white noise and the other does not, have it on a very low volume very close to one partner and farthest away from the other," says Lawler. "This will optimize the sound for the partner who wants it and be more difficult to hear for the partner who doesn't want it."
Is White Noise Better Than Nature Sounds for Sleeping?
Some people love falling asleep to the sound of waves crashing or leaves blowing in the wind. However, loops of nature sounds often have a rogue seagull or noise that could disturb your sleep. Like white noise machines, this one comes down to your personal preference.
If you're struggling to stay asleep, consider trying a white noise machine. With so many sounds and features available, there is likely a setting suited for your needs. And if you can't get the dog to stop barking or the floorboards to stop creaking, this may be just what you need.