What Is White Noise?

White noise is used by many people today, especially as a sleep catalyst. In this guide, we’ll see what white noise is, and its benefits. It would be really helpful to you if you read through this guide. As you read, do take note of the important points.

What Is White Noise?

White noise refers to a noise that contains all frequencies3 across the spectrum of audible sound in equal measure. Because white noise spans multiple bands of sound, it is sometimes referred to as broadband4 noise. Anecdotally, people often liken white noise to the static that comes from an untuned radio or television.

Researchers have studied the effect of white noise on humans for many years, finding evidence it can reduce crying in infants, improve work performance, and potentially help counteract symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Multiple studies have also examined how white noise may affect human sleep.

White Noise for Sleeping

As earlier seen, one of the most popular uses of white noise is for sleeping. White noise is effective for sleeping for a number of reasons. For starters, it literally distracts the brain. A completely quiet room may cause the potential listener to stay alert, listening for any trace of sound. The sound of white noise gives the mind something to focus on without the distraction of music or words.

It also helps prevent sudden noises during the night from surprising and waking the sleeper. When you are able to get good, uninterrupted sleep for seven to eight hours, your body will be better rested and you’ll notice an improvement in your health and daily functioning.

White Noise for Babies

People have long known the benefits of white noise for babies. For decades, weary parents have been taking infants for car rides or putting them on top of active washing machines, hoping the sound and vibration will lull them to sleep. White noise helps babies fall asleep and stay asleep by providing a comforting noise and masking the many sounds that can startle and wake a baby.

White noise vs. the other colors

While it may seem confusing, there’s actually a whole rainbow of noise colors out there — including pink noise, brown noise, and black noise. Unlike the full-spectrum coverage of white noise, these other colors cover only a part of the spectrum for a different kind of impact. Both pink and brown noise, for example, focus more heavily on the lower frequencies. Black noise, meanwhile, is a term used to describe the “sound” of complete silence — the complete opposite of white noise.

While different hues work better for some people than others, white noise machines remain the most common and most often recommended. Because white noise contains all other frequencies, it’s more likely to cover up intrusive noises and aid with sleep. For many people, different hues of noise will sound almost identical to each other. For some people, however, other hues do a better job of promoting deep relaxation. For example, many people with tinnitus prefer brown and pink noise because the higher frequencies are aggravating to them.

Besides white, pink, and brown noise, there are other color noises that aren’t related to sleep. These include:

  • Blue noise. Its power increases as the frequency go up. Blue noise sounds slightly shriller than pink and white noise. Imagine the hissing noise you hear when a water spray is turned on.
  • Violet noise. Also called purple noise, it’s the opposite of brown noise. The volume goes up when the frequency does and it gains power faster than blue noise. It’s one of the higher-pitched color noises. It’s often used to treat tinnitus, a condition that causes loud ringing in one or both ears.
  • Grey noise. This produces noise at higher and lower frequencies but not so much in the middle frequencies. It’s similar to white noise but more balanced.

Benefits of white noise

Now that you understand the science behind white noise discover how it can improve your life: from better sleep and lessened stress to fewer distractions at work.

  • Reduced anxiety

A little relaxation — we all need it now more than ever. White noise can give you an added boost in this department. Because the hum of white noise is a pleasing sound for many people, it can help to induce a more relaxed state. By blocking out other sounds, white noise makes it easier to shut out the rest of the world and focus, as is necessary for practices like meditation that can aid sleep and reduce stress.

In addition to helping you mentally reset before going to bed, white noise can minimize stress in other parts of your life. For individuals who tend to be jittery in loud environments, like an office, white noise can provide solace and help keep the nerves down. While white noise certainly isn’t a cure-all for anxiety and shouldn’t be used in substitution for any recommended medication or therapy, it can be an impactful tool for many people.

  • Improved sleep

While it may seem counterintuitive to add extra background noise into your bedroom as you’re falling asleep, white noise machines are a game-changing addition to the sleep routine of many people — from the slightly tried to those suffering from more serious sleep disorders like insomnia.

White noise assists with sleep by blocking out other sounds that may be more intrusive to the sleep cycle. Typically, the noises that can wake us up don’t necessarily leave an impact because of their volume — rather, it’s the sudden transition between quiet and loud that catches the brain’s attention. White noise can smooth this out by keeping the volume level consistent and covering up some of the impacts of any sudden sounds. For this reason, a white noise machine will sometimes also be called a sound masking system.

It’s important to note that a white noise machine isn’t an end-all-be-all solution for your sleepless nights. Taking steps toward proper sleep hygiene, like sticking to a sleep schedule and steering clear of caffeine, alcohol, and screen time before bed can also have an outsized impact.

  • Fewer distractions (at night and at work!)

There’s nothing worse than being suddenly jolted awake by a barking dog or a loud crash outside. Getting woken in the midst of a REM cycle, the point when you’re at your deepest rest, can leave you with a rapidly beating heart and even affect your mood if it happens regularly. One of the key benefits of a white noise machine is that it blocks out the sound of potential distractions — making it easier to fall asleep and wake back up on your own schedule.

Keeping the sounds of the outside world at bay isn’t only great at night. A white noise machine can also help you to stay focused at work, especially if your work-from-home setup isn’t as peaceful as it could be. From loud next-door neighbors to kids at school via Zoom, there are a lot of possible distractions to contend with on any given weekday. White noise helps you turn your home office into a personal oasis!

How To Choose a White Noise Machine

There are many factors to consider when choosing a white noise machine:

  • Machine or App: One of the first decisions to make when seeking out white noise is whether you would prefer a stand-alone white noise machine or a white noise app. A machine tends to be larger and more expensive, but it might come with better sound quality. A machine is a better choice if you prefer to sleep far from your phone. An app could be more convenient while traveling since it does not require you to bring any additional devices with you.
  • Cost: Consider your budget. Some white noise apps offer a free or very low-cost version. White noise machine prices vary greatly, with the lower-priced machines costing around $20 and the higher-end options costing more than $100.
  • Sound Quality: Check reviews of the white noise products you are considering to see what other customers have said about the sound quality. White noise machines either play a digital white noise recording or mechanically create a white noise sound. Some people prefer one type of sound over another. If you opt for a digital recording, make sure the manufacturer says it has a clean loop, meaning it is not obvious when the recording ends and begins replaying.
  • Volume Control: Being able to control the volume of your white noise machine is essential. Check the manufacturer’s specifications for the lowest and highest available volumes to ensure the white noise machine meets your needs.
  • Sleep Timer: Most white noise machines have some type of sleep timer, but their functionality varies. Read the details about how the machines you are considering allow you to control the timer function. Some allow the user to program in any amount of time, while others have pre-set blocks of time you can choose from.
  • Other Sounds: If you have never used white noise to help you sleep before, consider opting for a white noise machine or app that also has other sound options, in case you find you do not enjoy falling asleep to white noise. White noise machines and apps often offer other broadband sounds, like pink and brown noise, in addition to soothing nature soundscapes.


Overall, white noise is a great tool if used well. Embedded in it are great benefits. You should try and get a white noise machine so you can benefit from it.

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