It Sounds Strange, But
Can White Noise Help You Sleep?
Published April 5, 2017 by Kala Sleep
Written by Kala Sleep
Apr 05, 2017
  • Kala Sleep
  • Sleep
  • White Noise
  • White Noise App
  • White Noise Machine

What is white noise, and could it help you fall asleep and stay asleep?

You probably don't live alone on a desert island. So chances are you've had to figure out how to fall asleep in the midst of sounds - your city, your family, those crazy people in the house next door. But if you're a light sleeper, if your environment is particularly noisy, or if you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep and don't know why, it might be time to look for solutions. Could white noise help you sleep? Here are some answers to get you started.

First of all, how do sounds affect sleep?

You may already know that when you're asleep, your brain doesn't actually shut down - it continues to register and process sounds. Especially when you're in the lighter sleep stages, you may wake suddenly if a loud sound occurs near you - a slamming door, a yell, loud music, a crying baby. Even if you don't wake up completely, loud noises can cause your sleeping blood pressure to rise, your heart rate to change, and even cause you to move around or shift to a lighter stage of sleep. Noises tend to be more disruptive during the second half of the night.

Fun fact: sounds can have more or less disruptive effects depending on what they mean to you. For example, a person might sleep soundly through their partner snoring or their dog barking, but wake up immediately if their baby cries.

You may already know that when you're asleep, your brain doesn't actually shut down - it continues to register and process sounds.

What is white noise?

Technically, white noise is any consistent noise that comes out evenly across all hearable frequencies. For you and me, this is any sound that doesn't vary a lot. This can sound like a lot of things - from a whirring fan to a babbling brook to the sound of static. Consistency is the key: people enjoy different tones, volumes, types, and frequencies of white noise, but the most important element is the fact that it doesn't go up or down.

How does white noise help you fall asleep?

White noise works by reducing the difference between background sounds (things your brain filters out automatically) and "peak" sounds (when something noisy suddenly happens).

What creates white noise?

White noise can be from a "natural" source - that is, something actually creating sounds near you, like a fan or an air purifier (or a beach, if you're lucky enough to live next to one!). Alternatively, it can be from an electronic source - a white noise machine or app.

Does a TV count as white noise?

A television does NOT count as white noise! TV just has a variety of real-life noises - they go up and down, changing in tone and volume and sometimes getting abruptly loud. Plus, the blue light from the screen can be disruptive to your sleep patterns. So keep TV out of the bedroom, or turn it off at least 2 hours before bed.

What's the best way to try white noise?

Have a fan? Turn it on. Boom, white noise. Alternatively, many people use a white noise machine, but these days a number of apps provide a quick and easy way to give white noise a try. These can play a variety of sounds - nature sounds have been proven to be especially relaxing if you're stressed - and some even let you mix and match. Many people also enjoy them as background noise while they work - white noise has been shown to increase both creativity and concentration while working.

Do you use white noise to sleep or work? We'd love to hear your experiences! Tweet us @kalasleep and share.

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