The Power of Noise for a Good Night’s Sleep

When you think about getting a good night’s sleep, you probably imagine a completely quiet room. When that isn’t possible, a little noise might actually help you sleep better. Different types of noise can mask disruptive sounds and help you relax. Here’s what you need to know about sleeping with noise.

White Noise – the Soothing Sound of Slumber

Have you ever fallen asleep to the gentle hum of a fan or the steady whir of an air conditioner? That’s white noise – a constant, static-like sound that many find soothing. Studies show that white noise can help you sleep by blocking outside sounds like traffic or loud neighbors. It can be especially beneficial for light sleepers who wake at the slightest sound. White noise may also provide relief for people with tinnitus, masking the ringing noise that is most noticeable – and bothersome – in a silent room.

Other “Colors” of Noise

While white noise is popular, there are many different “colors” of noise that may also help you sleep. Two options are “pink noise” and “brown noise.” Pink noise mimics the gentle sounds of nature like steady rain or ocean waves. It has more power in the lower frequencies than white noise, which gives it a deep, soothing quality. Research suggests that pink noise can help people with insomnia fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly. Brown noise, also called red noise, has even more bass and deeper tones, resembling strong winds or waterfalls. It can mask low-pitched disturbances like buses or machinery. This type of noise may benefit you if you have hearing difficulties or tinnitus. There are also “colors” like gray, green, blue, and purple noises. Each has a unique frequency balance that creates a distinct sound profile. When experimenting with noises for sleeping, try a range of different types to find what works best for you personally.

Should You Sleep with Noise?

 If you want to try sleeping with noise, remember to keep the level low. Anything at 85 decibels or above – about the same volume as a hair dryer – can cause hearing damage. Experts generally consider noise machines and apps to be a safe option that might help you sleep better. When traveling, a noise device allows you to easily recreate your ideal sleep environment no matter where you are. A noise app is convenient for packing light. However, noise probably won’t be a cure-all for everyone. If you’re bothered by any sound at all, complete silence may still be best. But for many, a little background noise could be the key to getting the restful night’s sleep you need.

Genevieve Walker, PhD is a freelance writer and editor specializing in patient education, plain language, and consumer health content. She holds a PhD in English and serves on the board of the American Medical Writers Association


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