Why Does White Noise Help People Sleep?

Well, it’s not surprising that for some people the idea of sleeping and listening to white noise at the same time seems kind of illogical. Have some sleep problems? Easy-peasy – fix it with noise!

However, no matter how senseless it might seem to some people, the idea of using an optimized white-noise machine is getting more and more popular. So is it some trick that sellers and marketers use or is it actually helping? What happened to the good old idea about sleeping in a quiet room? So, let’s look into this topic. What may be wrong with our ears and brains if they seem to rest better in a room full of noise?


White noise

To make a long answer short, let me figure everything out. White noise is proven by scientists to help with sleeping issues. Not for everyone, certainly, but for most people.

The technical definition is that white noise is created by equally distributed frequencies. To make it simpler, white noise is formed by an equal amount at every frequency that can be heard by a human – from low to high.  So you have to take some amount of each frequency, put it all together – and voila, you have white noise. Musically, it can be compared to a giant band where each instrument plays a different note at the same volume.

So if you are woken up by a noise, it’s not actually a noise that has woken you up but the sudden change of it. White noise, on the other hand, helps to hide these sudden changes and masks them. It’s important to remember that during sleep we still can hear things but it does not necessarily wake us up.

We can easily sleep listening to constant unchanging white noise without reacting to it. Even better, it helps us to ignore those noises that we’d much rather avoid hearing during our sleep – like your spouse’s crescendo-decrescendo snoring sounds.

That’s why many respectable scientists, such as  A. Kushida, director of the Stanford Center for Human Sleep Research, recommends using a Sleep machine in order to have a better sleep. So now it’s clearer, right? But wait – there are other things that have to be taken into account.

Types of white noise

It turns out that there are few types of white noise. Firstly, there is pink noise. To avoid all the complicated mathematical explanations, we can say that pink noise is pretty much the same as white noise but a little bit lower. So for some people pink noise fits better – especially in case if they suffer from tinnitus or find the higher sounds of white noise quite annoying.

For other people, none of these options help. But don’t worry. There is a great variety of white noise. For example brown noise, violet noise, and many others. So if you experiment a little, you will definitely find your favorite one.

Anyway, many people seem to be happiest with classical white noise so you should try this option first.