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Is White Noise A Good Idea For Sleep?

Outside noise is sometimes unavoidable when raising little ones. Maybe you’re children are sharing a room and/or they don’t go to sleep at the same time. Maybe you’re in a situation where you have a newborn and a barking dog that is too loud. Or perhaps you have a partner that is a loud sleeper.  Using a sound machine could be an option that helps you drown out the outside noise keeping anyone in your family awake. Keep reading if you haven’t used any type of sound machine and need some information or if you just want to be up to date on the newest research about noise and sleep!

White noise is used to help people fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer because it masks outside noise that can prevent some people from sleeping well. It mimics the sound of the womb so it can be very helpful for newborns. White noise blocks outside noises that can wake you up in stage 1 or 2 of sleep. Some examples of white noise are TV static, whirling fans, and a humming conditioner. It emphasizes all sounds equally and can be a bit harsh to some people and may be better used short term, not long term. Research shows that the use of white noise long term may cause damage brain synapses. Most people don't know that there are more sounds than just white noise.  Quite honestly, true white noise is rarely used in sound machines, its often pink or brown noise, sometimes blue noise.  So let's talk about the other "colors" of sound.  

Pink noise is similar to white noise, but it emphasizes lower tones. It sounds much gentler and less abrasive and has a mix of high and low frequencies. Examples of pink noise are fans, steady rainfall, and the heartbeat sound. Pink noise has been said to help with memory recall and processing and can increase time in deep sleep. Pink noise may be better than white noise.

Brown noise goes even lower than pink noise. It cuts higher octaves in favor of darker bass tones. Think of brown noise like a deeper version of pink noise, with even more bass tones and low-frequency concentrated energy. Examples of brown noise include the low roaring noise, waterfalls, and thunder.  Brown noise is my favorite sound to use for sleep.

Blue noise has an energy that is mostly concentrated at the high-frequency end, with very few deep tones to balance it out. An example of this is the hiss of a kinked water hose. If you’re not sensitive to high-pitched sounds, blue noise does a great job of heavily masking outside noises. However, it can be harsh at loud volumes.

Using a sound machine that plays some kind of noise to improve the quality of sleep can be very helpful but you don't need to use any noise if you or your child are not light sleepers and/or you don't have any outside noises that cause wake ups.  Sound machines are not necessary for everyone.  

If you choose to use a sound machine there are some guidelines that you need to follow to ensure that no damage is being done to you or your children. Make sure that you do not have the volume higher than 50 decibels.  The noise should never feel uncomfortable to listen to.  Have the sound machine seven feet away from the bed. You can also put the machine on the floor or put it outside the room at the doorway.

As always, feel free to contact us today with any questions! We are here for you and all your sleepy time needs!

About the author

Shannon Glenn

Shannon Glenn is the owner and founder of Sleep Well Children Consulting and a Certified Pediatric Sleep Specialist. She is dedicated to helping parents assist their children and babies in developing healthy sleep habits. With a B.A. in Psychology, Shannon has worked extensively with children and their families for over 15 years in a variety of settings.  She has been offering sleep solutions for over six years.  

Why didn’t we try this sooner?! As we speak he is sound asleep in his crib – and has been since 7:15 pm.

Karianne Wanggaard

Sleep Well Sleep Specialists

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Working with Shannon, I went from 2-3 wake ups every night to 1 or 0. She aligned the plan with my preferred sleep cycle. She was always coaching, never judging. Shannon was great, I have referred MANY people to her! That's the best testament to her work that I can give.

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