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There’s nothing quite like waking up and feeling refreshed and ready for the day ahead.

Unfortunately, many people struggle in snoozeville.

One reason may be the fact that it’s difficult to create the ideal sleep environment: cool, calm, light-free, and quiet.

White noise machines can help with at least one part of this equation. They provide steady, continuous noise that blocks out all the other stuff, like sirens, barking dogs, and your roommate’s TV.

There’s even some science to back up the fact that white noise machines can give you sounder sleep.

Read on to get the details on how this simple sleep tech works.

There are many reasons why good sleep is important. It’s vital to our overall health and impacts our physical, social, and mental well-being.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis.

The benefits of good sleep include:

One of the significant causes of sleep disturbances is environmental noise, which is where white noise comes in.

White noise is a combination of various sounds at different frequencies that are audible to the human ear.

It can often sound like hissing or a “SHHHH” sound, similar to television or radio static.

You may have even heard white noise machines in a doctor’s or therapist’s office. In these settings, they help keep sessions private.

Researchers have found white noise helps people not only get to sleep but also stay asleep.

“White noise is more than just recordings of ocean waves and rain sounds,” says Molly Szkotak, community manager at Yogasleep. “Sonically, white noise is a collection of sounds that has the same intensity through the audible range, creating a uniform sound perfect for masking loud disruptions.”

This masking effect helps block out other sounds so you can sleep.

Similar to white noise, pink noise consists of all the frequencies audible to the human ear.

However, the energy isn’t evenly distributed among them, and there’s more intensity of lower frequencies, creating a deep and even sound.

Examples of pink sounds include:

  • rustling leaves
  • steady rain falling
  • strong wind
  • waves crashing on a beach

White or pink noise can help people sleep by blocking out outside sounds and masking disruptive sounds.

Research has found that sleep disturbances caused by noise pollution have health consequences for our biological systems. Both duration and quality of sleep can be impacted by outside noises.

White or pink noise can help you maintain solid sleep by limiting disturbances.

It creates a buffer between outside noise and your eardrums so you can keep snoozing peacefully, despite what’s going on around you.

“So much of good sleep hygiene is establishing a good nighttime routine,” says Szkotak. “Following a nightly ritual like winding down with a book, switching on the sound machine, and settling into your bed for the night signals to your brain and body that it’s time to rest.”

Once you begin using it, white noise can also signal to your brain that it’s time to get to sleep.

“It’s a little bit of a Pavlovian response to the sound of the white noise,” Szkotak adds. “After it helps you fall asleep, white noise also helps you stay asleep by blocking out any noises or loud disturbances that may wake you up.”

This is especially useful for those who live in the city. Traffic, neighborhood noises, and aircraft sounds are all sources of sleep disruption.

Additionally, white noise can help those who work the night shift and need to sleep during the day or live with housemates on different sleeping schedules.

A 2021 study found that white noise significantly improved sleep for people who experience difficulty sleeping due to high levels of environmental noise. It concluded that the application of white noise may be an effective tool in helping to improve sleep in metropolitan areas.

Furthermore, a 2012 study found that steady pink noise can increase stable sleep by reducing brain activity. A 2017 study showed a positive link between deep sleep and pink noise.

There are a range of sleep machines that emit white noise to help with sleep, and some are even geared specifically for helping babies sleep.

For example, the Dohm Classic Natural Sound Machine by Yogasleep has two speed options for adjustable tone and volume so you can find a soothing sound you enjoy. This will mask background noises, like boisterous housemates or cars on the highway.

Another option is the Dreamegg D1 Sound Machine. It features 24 sounds, including white, pink, ocean waves, rain, and campfire, plus a night light, headphone jack, and timer.

The Whish Multi-Sound Machine from Yogasleep boasts multi-sleep sounds including chimes, sleep songs, nature sounds, and meditation soundtracks.

There are also multiple apps you can download, including the hugely popular Bedtime Fan for Apple devices or White Noise Generator for Android.

White noise machines may help you get a better quality night’s sleep by masking environmental or outside noises that are causing disturbed sleep.

They not only can help you get to sleep but also stay asleep, and may even help to train your brain to know when it’s time to snooze.

White noise is a simple way to create an environment that supports your best sleep.

Marnie Vinall is a freelance writer living in Melbourne, Australia. She’s written extensively for a range of publications, covering everything from politics and mental health to nostalgic sandwiches and the state of her own vagina. You can reach Marnie via Twitter, Instagram, or her website.