White noise sleep aid: how does it work and what are the benefits?

November 17, 2020 4 mins read
White noise sleep aid: how does it work and what are the benefits?

If you’re a light sleeper, have you ever thought about how white noise sleep could benefit you? We know that there is nothing better than waking up feeling refreshed, ready to tackle the day. But unless the outside world stops making such a racket, it happens so rarely for light sleepers.

White noise machines and apps are becoming a popular way to help train the body and mind to relax and prepare for a quality night’s sleep. They aim to block out your noisy neighbours by producing a soothing non-melodious sound.

Let’s explore why this seemingly simple sound could be your sleepy secret.

What is white noise?

White noise is essentially anti-noise. It aims to produce a noise that distracts your brain but doesn’t leave you fixated on it—kind of like TV static, or the drone of a lawnmower in the distance. The type of hum in its frequency makes it audible to the human ear, ranging from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. Weirdly, it’s effective in numbing out any other noises.

However, it doesn’t completely block out outside sounds but instead absorbs the sound making it less abrupt or disruptive to your fast-asleep brain. (We reckon there is definitely some Harry Potter magic involved.) This is what is called auditory masking, which for those of us who struggle with anxious thoughts, can remove distractions that can prevent you from falling asleep.

As white noise has gained popularity amongst our busy-minded peers, so has the evolution of the type of white noise options you can choose from. You no longer need to choose a fancy machine, but a scroll through YouTube or a sleep app can give you the same benefits. Plus, if you’re into rain forests, purring cats and or hurricanes, there’s a soothing sound for whatever tickles your snoozing fancy.

Is white noise good for sleeping?

It depends on your sleeping needs. If you’re a light sleeper and have recently discovered that your neighbourhood is full of cats and you want to drown out their catcalls. Or, you battle to fall asleep because your mind has decided to boycott sleep in aid of mounting to-do lists. White noise will differ depending on your needs (or sleep-deprived severity.)

White noise doesn’t aim to alter your active mind but rather help mask other distractions that keep triggering you into staying awake. It also can’t remove your neighbourhood cats (we’re sorry) but lull them into the distance enough that their pitchy tone won’t startle you into insomnia filled rage.

This is where choosing the right white noise machine or app comes into play. If you tend to wake up a lot in the night, you’ll need a device that can keep up the hum all night rather than an app that’s timed only to get you to sleep.

Even though we wish that good sleep could be solved at a click of a switch, improving your sleep takes time, and healthy habits: ensuring your sleep environment is sleep-friendly, and that you’ve done your necessary steps (put down Instagram) to prepare your physical and mental well-being into sleep.

3 Benefits of white noise sleep aids

Even though white noise might not be everyone’s sleep secret, it’s definitely got its benefits for those who battle with getting quality shut-eye from time to time.

1. Creates a quiet sleep environment

Good sleep happens in good sleep environments. Introducing white noise into your cocoon can help buffer out distractions that are keeping you awake. Even though the sound might not be silent, you can bet your brain is registering it as though it is.

2. Helps to establish a nighttime ritual

Getting to sleep is a process, and just like we have our morning rituals, so should we have a nighttime one. Incorporating your sleep sounds into your sleep hygiene habits can help click your brain into downtime mode.

3. Less likely to wake during the night

As white noise helps mask other sounds that could wake you in the night, you could be less likely stirred awake by even the smallest of peeps. Plus if you do wake up (and your machine is still humming away), it makes it much easier to fall back into slumber.

How effective is white noise for improving sleep?

For the people who say it helps them sleep, the benefits of white noise are in simply trying it out. Understanding that getting quality sleep is not an “app can fix it” approach should be your first step in trialling any alternative sleep aids. Sleep aids, like guided meditation, calming sleep apps, soothing sleep teas are most effective when used in conjunction with a good sleep hygiene routine.

If you’re like us, you’ll try anything in the name of good, quality sleep to score your forty winks. (And if it blocks out the neighbours, even better!)