Using White Noise to Aid Sleep

White noise aids sleep.

Not all Sound is Noise

Real white noise isn’t particularly nice or soothing to listen to and sounds a bit like the static you might encounter when skipping to a blank channel on an old-fashioned television (for those of you who haven’t experienced that think of radio space between channels with an analogue signal). There are, however, some more therapeutic sounds that are commonly referred to as white noise that will provide a more suitable ambient tone. Here we will give a brief outline of how noise masking works and how you can use it to aid sleep.

The brain is wired to tap into certain sounds (although it can also be conditioned to do so with some sounds more than others). This is the reason why many people are able to live near to railway lines but not be able to sleep if they can hear the muffled activities of their neighbours. When you use a background noise let’s be clear about what you are doing. In effect, you are masking the unwanted sound from those external sources that bother you with additional sound that you generate yourself (usually with an electronic gizmo or device). Unlike your neighbours, any sound you generate you have complete control of. Most will contain a wide frequency range and, as a result, a wide range of intrusions are masked to varying degrees.

White Noise as a Solution to Background Sound

The solution is not foolproof, is not ideal and is very much a last resort. In the hierarchy of nuisance control removing or minimising the noise at it’s source is always the more preferable option to masking noise. However, noise masking is becoming more popular, particularly in relation to soundscape design. As town planning becomes more and more problematic in densely populated areas architects are introducing some pretty unsophisticated design features; for example, by adding a water fountain into a shared courtyard space to mask traffic noise. In open-office environments fans or air conditioning can also minimise disturbance. The principle is the same. Of course, in these situations masking can generate additional problems and, in some circumstances, can present an ethical or professional dilemma.

When it comes to masking in practice and devices, in order for sleep to be uninterrupted, you need to steer clear of using recordings using your mobile device or music players. Unless you are using them to monitor noise you should keep these sort of distractions out of the bedroom. However, there are some simple purpose-made electrical devices that provide a suitable masking sound; and which are ideal for the sleeping environment. Ideally, in order to be effective, they should generate sound without it being generated via an electronic loop. The Marpac device, for example, generates a tone through the use of a fan. Alternatively, the LectroFan has a range of pre-set tones that do not repeat. Both have been tried and tested with good results and may also be useful to those suffering from problems like tinnitus.

They are available from the following links:

Marpac Dohm DS Dual Speed Sound Conditioner
LectroSound LectroFan – Fan Sound and White Noise Machine

We hope this information helps. Find out more about taking your own action to tackle noise nuisance.

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