Does White Noise Help You Sleep?

Do you sleep better at night when you can hear the steady whir of a fan or the hum of an air conditioner? Are you frustrated when you wake up to traffic noise too early in the morning or a neighbor’s barking dog too late at night? If so, you’re probably already a white noise enthusiast. Here’s the skinny on what white noise is and how it helps you sleep:

What is white noise?

White noise is essentially a mixture of frequencies of sound that are audible to the human ear. It’s similar to white light, which is a combination of all the colors of light visible to the human eye.

True white noise is a combination of frequencies between 20 and 20,000 Hz. When you hear white noise, you hear about 20,000 different tones of sound simultaneously. Technically, white noise is not the same as ambient — or background — noise. Ambient noise describes the noise present in a given situation, like the sound of cars passing on the freeway mixed with music on the radio or chit chat at a coffee shop mixed with the sound of an espresso machine.

Recently, other colors of noise have become popular sleep sounds. Pink noise, for example, is a variety of white noise, but is a mix of high and low frequencies. With more strength in the low frequencies, pink noise is often thought to have a softer, more soothing sound than white noise. Brown noise is at an even lower frequency than pink noise. It sounds like a river or waves on the shore.

Why does white noise work?

White (or brown or pink) noise is helpful for people who have trouble falling asleep at night or those who often wake up throughout the course of the night. It works because it masks other, sudden and acute noises that would typically wake you up.

Research describes that white noise can reduce the difference between background noise and peak noise, which, in turn, lowers a person’s sensitivity to loud noise disruption during sleep.

White noise, through the use of sound machines or fans, is also a good alternative to earplugs, especially if you have sensitive ears that feel sore after spending eight hours with earplugs in.

How can I get white noise?

Fans, air conditioners and other naturally occurring steady noises can be good approximations of white noise. Sound machines are also popular, and most let you select between a variety of noise types. Everyone responds differently to different types of white noise, so it’s worth having options to choose from.

You can also find white noise on YouTube or through an app on your phone, like Atmosphere: Relaxing Sounds or Noisli.

If you’ve tried white noise and you’re still struggling to get better sleep, you might have a bigger problem on your hands. Come talk to the sleep experts at Mattress Man, and we’ll help you evaluate how your mattress is helping you sleep.

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