Can White Noise Help You To Sleep? When people think of noise, they naturally think of sleep being disturbed. Quite a few people have had their sleep disturbed by babies crying, birds chirping, construction work, and other sounds. But it’s important for people to realize that white noise is different than invasive background noise. Once people realize the difference between white noise and other sounds, they realize why some scientists do believe that White Noise for sleeping is truly beneficial.
White Noise: What Is It?
White noise can be thought of as a sound signal that can be used to hide any sounds that are happening in the background. For sleeping purposes, white noise can be used to keep other sounds from disturbing a person’s ability to fall asleep. The more scientific explanation of white noise is noise that has a constant amplitude throughout the range of its audible frequency. You can hear white noise when you listen to an unmuted, untuned FM radio – it’s the loud hiss. This type of noise does have a high-frequency range that some people find disturbing, and technically, that’s pink noise, but it’s close enough for you not to worry about the difference.
It might have occurred to you that white noise has something in common with the gentle sound of the sea. It’s also pretty similar to what we hear on detectors as the ‘cosmic background radiation‘ – which is rather cool, because the cosmic background noise washes onto our planet form the eternal void of space and time.
Other types of sounds that people associate with white noise fit into a general description of sounds that have a constant background noise. These sounds include ambient sounds, machine noises, and sounds from nature. Although these aren’t white noises in the scientific sense, some people still like to use them for sleep sounds to block out background noises.
Why Does It Work?
People will naturally wonder how adding more noise to a situation can help with sleep. Shouldn’t a White Noise maker only make matters worse? In essence, white noise helps to trick a person’s brain by mixing all of the outside noises into one noise in the background. White noise helps to place background noise into a context that isn’t disturbing. It makes it so background noise doesn’t get a person’s attention.
What’s important to realize is that the volume of sound isn’t what may keep a person up. As long as the sound is constant, a person may be able to sleep. This is why people have been known to fall asleep with loud music playing in the background. If the loud music suddenly stops, the person might wake up because of the sudden change in background noise. People also have different opinions of which types of noise disturb them. This is why some people can fall asleep with a dog constantly barking, while others can’t.
Is Music A White Noise Alternative?
Since some people can fall asleep with music on, there are those who think that music as sounds to sleep to is an alternative to using white noise. There are some scientific studies that show that music can indeed be used to improve a person’s quality of sleep, but the problem when comparing it to white noise is that music doesn’t have a large enough range of frequencies. Without these frequencies, it isn’t able to mask background noise quite as effectively as white noise can. However, music can be used to relax prior to going to bed.
Does White Noise Have Any Harmful Effects
When something works well, there are usually concerns about any bad effects that it may have. If something is too good to be true, it usually is. Thankfully, most of the scientific studies concerning white noise have been very positive. Although there aren’t any any long-term studies available when it comes to the effects of white noise, there are short-term studies to reference. There will without a doubt be more studies on white noise in the future.
Research was done with white noise and intensive care units(ICU). It determined that periods of wakefulness were lessened when white noise was mixed together with the noise in the ICU. A study done with ADHD patients showed that white noise helped improve both cognitive performance and concentration. Although the study done with ADHD patients wasn’t related to sleep, it does help to show the mental benefits of using white noise.
It should be noted that there is some concern about using too much white noise to help babies sleep. Some parents have reported having success using white noise to help babies sleep, but some scientists are concerned that overexposure to white noise may actually delay a baby’s brain development. So just as a safety precaution, parents should try to only use white noise on occasion for their babies. Since adults already have developed brains, there doesn’t seem to be any risk with them using too much white noise.
White noise seems to be truly helpful for those looking to get a peaceful night of sleep. There are a number of companies that sell white noise devices. Apps are even available that can be used to produce white noise. There are also free options available online.