At some point in your life, you have probably been kept awake long into the night by a snoring roommate, a neighbor’s barking dog, or the chittering of nocturnal wildlife. These nights are, in polite terms, the worst.
Instead of facing the next day with bright-eyed energy, you are worn and tired, thoughts thick with lethargy. Few enjoy working in such conditions, and any social events become exhausting after a few minutes.
The good news is, there is a way to drown out those irritating sounds after dark and get a decent night’s sleep; it is called white noise.
- 1 What is White Noise?
- 2 Types of White Noise for Sleeping
- 3 Benefits of Using White Noise for Sleep
- 4 White Noise Apps
- 5 White Noise Websites
- 6 Conclusion
What is White Noise?
White noise is a collection of ambient sounds layered over each other to create a background wash of constant, unchanging noise.
How is this any different from the clamor keeping you up at night? Well, unlike your roommate’s snoring in the next room over, which rises and falls at an inconsistent frequency, white noise does not change.
There may be overlapping sounds that pop up in alternating patterns, but the underlying foundation of sound remains consistent.
White noise acts as a blanket, almost, masking the other sounds that keep you alert while you try to sleep. In a way, white noise merges with the yapping of the neighbor’s dog and hides it within an orchestra of other sounds, making these sounds less noticeable.
There are a few main categories of white noise. Check them out below, and see which ones suit you best!
Types of White Noise for Sleeping
Nature is all about taking the soothing lull of Mother Earth and centering yourself in these sounds, finding a rhythm in the whisper of wind and the hush of gentle rain. For these reasons, nature is, perhaps, one of the most popular white noise sources.
Rain, ocean waves, deep sea sounds, and thunderstorms are calming and soften out other noises with their lulling rhythm.
Rainforest and forest soundtracks from all around the world, splattered with bird calls and the coos of other animals, are wonderful escapes from a concrete reality, all the while hiding wall-shaking snores.
The sounds of nature bring a certain peace with them; a serenity that makes sleep deep and restful after a tiring day.
Those raised in cities, suburbia, or with siblings may find sleeping in dead quiet difficult. Over time, your brain became accustomed to sleeping with lots of consistent noise.
In this case, white noise of lived-in spaces is helpful. These tracks simulate all sorts of busy environments, like cafes full of clinking plates and the low murmur of conversation, or a busy road in the night with the whooshing of cars and hooting of nightlife animals.
These are good for muffling the quiet when it is disturbed by irregular sounds – such as a weather vane being rattled by a strong wind.
Quiet offices and households, with gently whirring machinery, paper hissing, and soft chattering, are good options for those that need an ambient, living soundtrack in order to sleep peacefully.
Ambient noises are for those that want to get lost in a specific sound, to center on this one beat and let it lull them into slumber. Using these sleep noises to rest is almost akin to meditating.
Those that might consider ambient noise as their white noise of choice are similar to those that might need lived-in ambiance.
However, if there is a specific sound (not an atmosphere made of several different sounds overlapping) that you find comfort in, then ambient noises are for you.
The crackle and pop of a warm campfire remind some of camping trips away from the hustle and bustle of city life, while the electric hum of fluorescent lights lull those accustomed to sleeping with such sounds.
Compiled Soundscapes and Ambiances
For those that want to be coaxed into a sleep full of adventurous dreams, compiled soundscapes are a wonderful, thematic solution. These tracks can be a mixture of ambient noises.
Sound designers will craft an ambient soundscape for both real and fictional places. Ever wanted to visit Hobbiton from The Lord of the Rings? Well, you can!
Aside from the movie set that you can fly to in New Zealand, there are sound designers that have created a fantasy ambiance soundscape for Hobbiton that acts as a fantastical white noise for sleep.
There are hundreds of these soundscapes available, with and without music, for all sorts of places. Do you want the lilting, gentle sounds of the Shire to send you into the land of dreams, or would you prefer it to be the pulsing heartbeat of the Starship Enterprise and the rustle of her crew?
Ambient soundscapes also include glimpses into places all around the globe and all throughout time.
If you are a fiction writer with writer’s block, maybe popping one of these on will trick your subconscious into plotting out the next scene.
Benefits of Using White Noise for Sleep
Now that the four of the main categories of white noise have been covered, just what are the benefits of listening to any of them?
Masking Sounds That Cause Sleep Disruption
Irregular sounds or loud noises that we are not accustomed to trigger ancient instincts buried in our DNA like the flight response.
Jerking awake into full alertness at a sound was our Neanderthal ancestors’ only way to survive predators at night. Have you seen a picture of a dire wolf? Sabertooths? They were terrifying!
Despite millennia separating this and the invention of houses with locking doors, this ancient threat response still kicks us awake at night when we hear an odd sound.
Masking these sounds is the main benefit of white noise. An opossum scuttling over the roof becomes a mere whisper with the appropriate white noise to wash it out.
Kids and Babies Sleep Easier
Kids either sleep like a rock or wake at the tiniest noise; and when little ones get a poor night’s sleep, the next day is a teary, unhappy crawl. Tantrums abound when kids get too-little sleep!
Popping on some ambient noise is a good way to keep intrusive sounds from disturbing their precious sleep.
Considering how much time babies spend sleeping and how important it is, it is crucial that they not be disturbed, as any parent will tell you.
Naps during the day can get easily disturbed, especially if you live in a noisy metropolitan area. White noise is incredibly useful for creating a consistent noise barrier that muffles outside disturbances.
Plus, babies startle easy. Creating a sound barrier that prevents odd and irregular sounds from breaking silence is a great benefit of white noise.
There are plenty of white noise machines designed especially for babies and toddlers.
Sleep is Deeper and More Restful
One of the key benefits, and what makes people become a white noise fan, is that ambient noise crafts a wonderful space for getting deep, restful sleep.
Sleep is so important. Your mind and body all work far better with a proper night’s rest. Getting that rest, though, can be difficult when you live in a noisy area.
White noise as almost like a dilution agent. It sucks up any divergent noises, like your housemate’s snores, and dilutes it underneath the frequency of the white noise.
Grabbing yourself a sound machine for sleep can really improve the quality and duration of your rest. Being able to drop into slumber in minutes, instead of tossing and turning and jerking awake for hours, is always an improvement.
White Noise Apps
So, it should be evident by now that white noise can be hugely beneficial in helping people get quality sleep times.
People invested in helping themselves and others sleep easier have created a number of white noise apps that you can download onto your phone or tablet.
Plug one of these devices into a speaker, adjust the volume and settle in for a healthy night’s sleep.
Google around and check out the many different apps available to you. Some are free, others are not.
White Noise Websites
There are plenty of websites designed purely to be white noise generators, while others have been used by individuals to distribute white noise content to the world.
Check out three solid sources for white noise that you can use, entirely for free, before investing in apps.
Yes, YouTube is a solid way to find white noise soundscapes. A quick search will reveal thousands of videos that play ambient noises, soundscapes, and white noises of all kinds.
You will need an ad blocker of some sort to listen to these without hearing about the latest in women’s razors or some such, but quite a few of these sound designers will have links to where you can support them and download the soundscape.
This is a great, free site that allows you to personally design your own white noise soundscape.
Sound Drown has a range of ambient sounds that you can include or exclude with volumes adjustable to your taste.
You also have the option of playing gentle music alongside the white noise to add an extra layer.
This is literally a website that plays rain ambience on repeat. There is gentle thunder and the hush of a healthy rainfall on an eternal loop.
You can adjust the volume, but they have found the sweet spot. It’s loud enough to drown out intrusive sounds but soft enough that it won’t wake you up.
Rainy Mood also has an app!
Here’s a video explaining more about white noise for sleep.
If you have trouble sleeping because of thoughts running wild or intrusive noises, trying out a white noise soundscape can be a fantastic solution.
Push sleep meds, warm milk, and counting sheep to the side and give these generators a try!
Do you have a favorite white noise for sleeping?