How Does White Noise Help You Sleep?

Some people sleep with the TV on.

Some prefer an oscillating fan. Others listen to white-noise compilations on Spotify. Whatever your preferred method, listening to white noise is a tried-and-true way to calm your mind and block disturbance from outside noises so you can get better rest.

What is white noise?

White noise is a combination of a range of frequencies played together that results in a “static” noise. Think about sitting in an athletic stadium surrounded by thousands of people who are all talking at the same time. Unless you have a super-human sense of sound, you likely wouldn’t be able to make out every individual conversation. Instead, the noise from thousands of voices, at different octaves, creates a lulling hum that is, essentially, white noise.

White noise for babies

“Never wake a sleeping baby” is a classic piece of advice for new parents. In the newborn days, getting baby to fall asleep and stay asleep is one of the biggest obstacles for new parents to survive. But even if you’re as quiet as a mouse, you will inevitably have days when the doorbell rings 10 seconds after you’ve put baby down, prompting the dogs to bark and chaos to ensue. After this, you’ll not only put a sign on the door stating (in all caps, of course) BABY SLEEPING, DO NOT RING THE BELL, but you’ll also realize it’s about time to get a white noise machine or at least time to build a white-noise playlist. Remember to keep the volume low, though, or you could hurt your baby’s developing eardrums.

The boom of ASMR

The millennial generation has taken white noise to a whole new level. Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is booming in the world of social media and while ASMR isn’t intended to block outside noise, it IS intended to be a relaxation method for listeners (and watchers, as ASMR is often visual, as well). If you want to know just how elaborate ASMR has become, go to Instagram, search for #asmr, and see what you find. Whispering is a popular ASMR category, as well as more visual categories such as soap-cutting videos. No one ever expected soap-cutting to be so hypnotizing, but the internet is 100% here for it. It's a wild world, amirite?

Other types of white noise

“White noise” doesn’t necessarily have to be the classic, soft-static sound; it’s simply a general description for any constant, unchanging background noise. It’s become a colloquial term for a diverse range of sounds, such as:

  • Nature sounds – rain, ocean waves, birds chirping, jungle sounds
  • Machinery noises – AC unit, washing machine, hair dryer
  • Ambient soundscapes – aircraft propellers, crackling campfire, crowd noise

If you decide to try out white noise, remember that, as with anything, we all have different preferences. For example, some people don’t care for the sound of birds chirping while trying to fall sleep and others keep a time limit on their white noise that ends after an hour rather than having it play through the whole night. If you want to try white noise, but prefer not to keep unnecessary electronics in the bedroom, consider purchasing a white noise machine with an alarm clock.

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Erin Cline
Erin Cline

Erin Cline is a Copywriter at Tuft & Needle and a Phoenix native who began her writing career in 2011. She excels at karaoke and making jokes in uncomfortable situations. Erin has one dog-ter named Baila, loves donuts, and hates mushrooms and raisins. Craisins are fine.

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