things? Why it relaxes and how to use it for sleep

What is White Noise?

What is meant by white noise (or white noise)?

Il white noise it contains all the frequencies of the audible sound spectrum, in equal measure: for this reason, it is also called static noise and, as it covers multiple bands of sound, is sometimes referred to as “broadband noise”. Anecdotally, people often compare white noise tostatic electricity which comes from one radio o a television not tuned.

Overall, white noise is one masking spectrum used to cover i unwanted sounds coming from the environment or from internal spaces. When it comes to well-being and health, the effects of white noise are diverse; mainly, listening to it seems to have a relaxing power that relax, increases concentration e promotes sleep. According to one theory, white noise helps drown out other distracting sounds such as street noise; another argues that hearing the same sound every night could trigger a sort of Pavlovian response, so people would learn to associate it with falling asleep.

However, if several scientific studies highlight i benefits of white noiseother research suggests there is no solid evidence that they work and they might even make things worse.


White noise is characterized by a constant amplitude of frequencies and the absence of periodicity over time.

This would help the brain mask the background noises we are subjected to every day (or at least some), providing a constant and continuous noise. Basically, white noise create a “blanket” of sound which absorbs other sound waves, so that squeaks, passing cars and barking dogs are not perceived in the brain, activating a reaction.

Precisely for this same characteristic, however, white noise it can be annoying for some people: the human ear is more sensitive, in fact, to sounds with high pitches that are often “hissing”.

Health effects

White Noise: Potential Health Benefits

For many years, the effect of white noise on health has been the subject of scientific research, highlighting that:

  • White noise can reduce crying in babies;
  • White noise can improve work performance;
  • White noise it can help counteract the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Does it help you sleep?

Several studies have looked at how white noise can affect sleepespecially would help to sleep better o ad fall asleep faster. Remember, in fact, that sleep deprivation can increase a person’s risk of incurring a variety of chronic ailments, including diabetes, obesity and depression.

However, as we will see below, not all the evidence is in favor of supporting a beneficial effect of white noise.

To know more:
I Can’t Sleep: Effects of Sleep Deprivation and Poor Rest

White noise: how it affects sleep

Machines designed to promote sleep using the concept of white noise were in use as early as the 17th century. Later, in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, researchers began conducting extensive research on sleep, discovering that listening to white noise:

  • It helped newborns fall asleep faster;
  • It affected the amount of time adults spent in different stages of sleepwhen it played all night long.

A more recent study reported that adults fell asleep 38% faster while listening to white noise (Messineo L, Taranto-Montemurro L, Sands SA, Oliveira Marques MD, Azabarzin A, Wellman DA. Broadband Sound Administration Improves Sleep Onset Latency in Healthy Subjects in a Model of Transient Insomnia. Frontiers in Neurology. 2017 Dec 21;8:718).

Other scientific research has continued to find that white noise has a positive effect on sleep. For example, 64% of people who lived in a very noisy area of ​​New York fell asleep faster and spent most of their time in bed sleeping while listening to white noise (NYC Health. 2018, September. Epi Data Brief No 105).

At the moment, more research is needed to confirm:

  • whether an intrinsic feature of white noise can actually improve sleep, perhaps by synchronizing brain waves


  • if sound helps primarily by masking background noise, which is considered a major contributor to sleep deprivation, with all possible health consequences. Noise capable of disturbing sleep can cause variations in heart rate, suggesting that sleepers are experiencing semi-awakenings. Researchers hope that the constant hum of white noise could reduce a sleeper’s sensitivity to unpredictable noises from the environment.

Regardless, it appears that a soothing buzz helps several people fall asleep and stay asleep, especially if they are anxious, suffer from insomnia o live in a noisy urban environment.

White noise for sleep: does it help or not?

A recent systematic review of available studies on white noise as a non-pharmacological approach to promote sleep and improve sleep quality yielded mixed results and at present there is insufficient evidence to conclude whether it is actually beneficial (Riedy SM, Smith MG, Rocha S, Basner M. Noise as a sleep aid: A systematic review. Sleep Med Rev. 2021 Feb;55:101385). In particular, it has been found that, in some cases, white noise can produce the opposite effect to the expected one, ie can disturb sleep e can affect hearing. Therefore, more research is needed to widely recommend white noise as a sleep aid.

What could be the disadvantage of using White Noise for sleep?

Whenever we are exposed to sounds and noises, the inner ear translates them into nerve signals which are then interpreted by the brain. While we sleep, the brain works actively to regenerate the body and prepare it for the next period of wakefulness. If continuous sound is introduced throughout the night, it means that the brain is constantly perceiving and analyzing those signals.

The question the research teams are trying to investigate is: Actively listening to continuous sound all night long deprives the brain of rest and restoration, or does the constant hum soothe the brain and let it carry on with its work?

It may be that white noise and other sounds are truly beneficial for some people, but detrimental to others seeking the perfect night’s sleep.

One thing is certain: if the sounds are too loud, using a sleep device or app can be harmful to your hearing.

Pink noise

Differences between white noise and pink noise

Like white noise, pink noise is broadband sound containing components from across the sound spectrum. Pink noise contains sound within each octave, but the power of its frequencies decreases by three decibels with each higher octave. As a result, pink noise has a lower sound than white noise.

What can it be compared to

Pink noise can be compared to the noise made by a waterfall.

Potential health benefits of pink noise

Pink noise can:

Brown noise

Differences between white noise and brown noise

Brown noise, often called red noise, is another broadband sound like white and pink noise. Similar to pink noise, brown noise contains sounds from every octave of the sound spectrum, but the power behind the frequencies decreases with each octave. This decrease is double that of pink noise, resulting in a sound that people perceive as deeper than white or pink noise.

What can it be compared to

Brown noise resembles the sound of rain or a shower.

Potential health benefits of brown noise

Studies have shown that brown noise might be helpful in reducing symptoms experienced by people who have ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and improving cognitive performance, but its effect on sleep hasn’t been extensively studied.

To know more:
Ringing in the Ears: Causes and Associated Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

How to use White Noise

How white noise is produced

The idea that it helps you sleep better has spread so much that today there are several applications for smartphones and technological devices to reproduce it. Often, the latter offer the possibility to listen to other broadband noises, such as pink and brown noise or a combination thereof, as well as playing a variety of relaxing nature sounds, such as those of the sea or the forest, but also rain or the hum of fans.

Tips for incorporating white noise into your bedtime routine

Once in the bedroom, dim the lights, arrange the pillows and set the alarm for the next morning, then turn on the white noise machine just before turning off the lights. Consider whether you prefer white noise to play all night or only when you fall asleep, and set a timer as needed.

Continue reading:
Nocturnal Awakenings: Causes of Interrupted Sleep and How to Get Back to Sleep

It may also be of interest to:
ASMR: What is Cerebral Orgasm and How Does It Work?


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