Does Listening to White Noise Really Help You Sleep?
Whether it's the neighbor's dog barking or your partner snoring, certain sounds can definitely keep you up at night. It might sound counterintuitive, but some suggest fighting noise with noise - white noise, that is. The idea is that a consistent sound can drown out any disturbances, meaning you sleep right through them and ultimately get a better night's rest.
While you've most likely heard of white noise, you may be wondering if it's actually helpful.
Here's a deeper look at the effectiveness of this sleep-promoting strategy.
What Is White Noise?
To put it simply, white noise is a constant, unchanging sound that makes other noises in the background less audible. White noise machines typically emit a purring or whirring sound, which can be comforting to those who find total silence disturbing. Some of these devices might feature nature sounds, like wind rustling through leaves, waves crashing or rainfall.
How Does It Work?
Dr. Seth Horowitz, neuroscientist and author of "The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind," told Popular Science magazine that human hearing works much like an alarm system, even when you're sleeping. A sudden sound, therefore, flags your brain that it's time to pay attention. When noise wakes you up, it's not necessarily the volume that sets off a response, but the sudden and unexpected change. That explains why you might be able to fall asleep on an airplane with constant murmuring, but are instantly jolted awake at the sound of a car horn honking. Basically, white noise masks those disruptive sounds and blends them into the background, making your brain less likely to activate in response to them.
Which Are the Best White Noise Sources?
If you're eager to see if white noise can help you sleep, you could certainly invest in a state-of-the-art system specifically made for this purpose - but it's not your only option.
Sleep Junkies recommended trying out alternative cost-effective solutions, like downloading a white noise app on your smartphone. Since you probably already keep your phone by your bed, it's a super convenient method. Keep in mind that depending on the quality of your phone's speaker, this might not be as effective as a standalone machine.
Other electronics can give off white noise naturally, such as radio or TV static. Apartment Therapy noted that even simple solutions such as your air conditioning unit or washing machine may also give off white noise.