Many people have difficulty falling asleep because they are easily distracted by background noise. Our hearing evolved as a warning detection system, and so it’s active even when we’re sleeping. It’s common for people to try sleep aids, especially if they’re light sleepers, and white noise for sleep is a popular choice. But does it really help, and if so, how?
What is White Noise?
White noise is essentially the sound made by a radio when it’s not tuned to a station. It’s the audio version of TV static. The technical description for white noise is a sound containing a broad range of frequencies, all of equal intensities.
Colloquially it’s also come to refer to other kinds of sound, such as ambient background sounds, nature sounds (rain, wind, waves), or machinery noises like washing machines. Some people find actual white noise for sleep too intense, and so use these sounds instead.
How Does White Noise Help with Sleep?
Although the idea of introducing more noise to your sleep routine might seem counterintuitive, the purpose of listening to white noise is to drown out other sounds your brain might find distracting. If you live in a city for example, it can be difficult to escape the sound of traffic or barking dogs, which can lead to difficulty sleeping.
Using white noise to mask these sounds helps your brain to pay less attention to these background noises, and gives it something calmer to concentrate on. Actual white noise is more effective at this than something like nature sounds because it contains a wider range of frequencies, which mask a greater range of sounds.
What’s the Best Way to Introduce it Into my Sleep Routine?
If you’re someone who has difficulty falling asleep because of background noises, white noise can be a useful sleep aid. There are plenty of different ways to play white noise while you sleep. There are videos on Youtube, several apps that play different sounds, or dedicated white noise machines.
White noise machines can be a better choice because it means you don’t have to use your phone or mobile device, and they usually come with a wide range of different sounds. Many also have various settings for volume, pitch, intensity, and frequency, giving you a large amount of control over the sound you use.
Introducing white noise to your sleep routine might be hard at first, and you’ll probably find it will take a few days before you adjust to using it. If you find traditional white noise too distracting, try a nature sound such as rain or waves, as these might be more relaxing. After a week or two you shouldn’t have any problem using white noise for sleep.
Using white noise as a sleep aid has been popular for many years, and is often used with babies to help them sleep. Buying a white noise machine is probably the best way to play it, but there are plenty of free versions too.