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Many sleepers rely on devices known as ‘white noise machines’ to fall and remain asleep. White noise machines generate high-pitched static, or white noise, that consists of randomized frequencies. These machines are compact and designed to rest on floors or bedside tables. Most of today’s models also include other features, such as headphone jacks and alarm functions.
In addition to white noise, white noise machines may also produce other colors of noise. These include static noises that decrease in volume for each added octave, such as pink and red/brown noise; and static noises that increase in volume per octave, such as blue and violet noise. Some also come with ambient and natural sounds. White noise machines are safe for children; they can be used to lull infants to sleep, as well.
Read on to learn more about machines that produce white noise and other noise colors. Below you’ll find our picks for the best white machines sold today. Our choices are based on verified customer and owner experiences, as well as intensive product research and analysis.
Our Editor’s Pick is the Sound + Sleep Sound Machine, a high-fidelity white noise machine that comes loaded with recording options. Users can choose from white, pink, and brown noise, as well as a wide selection of natural and ambient sounds. A total of 10 sound profiles and 30 unique listening experiences are available.
The machine also includes a noise-reduction timer, which can be programmed in 30-, 60-, 90-, and 120-minute increments; gradually lowering the volume enhances the white noise sleeping experience for some. The machine’s buttons will automatically dim to minimize sleep disruption, as well. A headphone jack is included for private listening.
The Sound + Sleep weighs roughly two pounds and measures less than five inches tall. The machine is backed by a one-year manufacturer’s warranty.
The Dohm from Marpac – first sold as the ‘Sleep-Mate’ in the 1960s – is a pure white noise machine that produces natural, fan-based noise. The machine does not have a timer, making it suitable for sleepers who prefer to listen to white noise all night. Users can also adjust the volume between two speed settings, as well as the tone of the noise. Four exterior color options are available.
In addition to the Dohm, shoppers may select the Dohm for Baby, which shares many of the same characteristics and functions. Dohm Classic and Dohm for Baby Classic models are available at slightly lower price-points, as well.
All Dohm and Dohm for Baby models are available for less than $50, making them a high-value option. These machines are backed by 101-night sleep trials and one-year warranties; Dohm offers free shipping within the contiguous U.S.
Most high-quality white noise machines cost at least $40, but the Big Red Rooster is widely available for less than $20. However, this machine offers the same sound and performance quality as many higher-price competitors. These include a white noise option, as well as five natural sounds: rain, brook, thunder, ocean, and summer night. Users can also set a sleep timer in 15-minute increments up to one hour.
The Big Red Rooster is very small and compact, weighing less than 10 ounces and measuring less than three inches high; this makes it great for travel or in-office use. It can be powered using AC outlets or three AAA batteries.
In 2018, the Big Red Rooster was the top-selling ‘Sound Therapy’ product on Amazon.com. Amazon Prime members qualify for free one-day shipping when they order a Big Red Rooster from that website.
The S-5000 from Sound Oasis is made for sleepers seeking an extensive sound and noise selection. The machine produces a total of 145 different sound possibilities; users adjust the mix settings for 24 individual sound profiles to create their own customized sounds. The machine also has exceptional sound quality, large due to two front speakers and a rear subwoofer, as well as adjustable bass and treble controls. A headphone jack enables private listening.
In addition to the sound library, the S-5000 features an adjustable alarm clock and a 30-, 60-, and 90-minute sleep timer, as well as an nap timer for shorter durations. An international AM/FM radio and dual voltage adapter for international use are also included
The Marpac Rohm – not to be confused with the Dohm, our Runner-Up Pick – is a compact and affordable white noise machine that is ideal for travel. The machine comes equipped with a USB charging port, making it easy to power up while on the road. It can also be attached to a lanyard for convient, on-the-go movement. The Dohm measures less than two inches high and weighs roughly five ounces.
The machine offers ‘Bright White Noise’ and ‘Deep White Noise,’ as well as a ‘Gentle Surf’ option. There is no timer, making the Dohm suitable for those who prefer listening to noise or sounds all night. Marpac backs this machine with a 101-night sleep trial and a one-year warranty; free shipping is available to customers in the contiguous U.S.
White noise has proven very useful in helping newborns, infants, and toddlers fall asleep. The Rest from Hatch Baby is a comprehensive sleep system that combines light and sound therapy in a device that can be accessed using any cell phone or other smart device. The Rest comes with a tabletop unit that produces white noise and also generates pleasing images and patterns using a light display. Parents can turn the machine on and off remotely without entering their child’s room (and potentially disrupting their sleep).
The Rest is also designed to help children sleep as they grow. The white noise is ideal for infant sleep as well as breastfeeding, the nightlight can help toddlers get to sleep more easily, and the ‘time-to-rise’ alarm is great for kids attending preschool and early elementary school.
Amazon Prime members qualify for free one-day shipping and free returns when they order a Hatch Baby Rest Night Light and Sound Machine. This product is backed by a one-year warranty.
‘White noise’ is a catch-all term for any type of random sound signal that masks louder background noises. In most cases, white noise takes the form of soothing natural or ambient sounds. White noise is considered a sleep aid because it drowns out other, more disruptive sounds that prevent people from falling and/or remaining asleep.
Many adults rely on white noise machines to fall asleep each night, and some models are designed specifically for young children. White noise machines are also a popular travel accessory that can be used on airplanes and other forms of public transport, and in hotels, guest rooms, and other places with outside noise potential. A wide range of white noise machines are currently available at different price-points; some newer models are equipped with additional, high-tech features.
This guide will explore how white noise machines work, provide shopping tips, and list a few of our top-rated models. First, let’s look at the science behind white noise.
Every sound we hear has two distinct components: the frequency, or the number of vibrations the sound wave produces per second (measured in hertz, or Hz); and amplitude, which measures the size of the sound waves. Whenever a frequency is halved or doubles, this is known as an octave.
Noise is categorized by colors that represent different audio signals and textures. Some of these colors — such as pink, blue, and brown — refer to sound waves that increase or decrease in volume, depending on changes in the frequency. White noise, on the other hand, maintains the same volume regardless of frequency and randomly combines every possible frequency that is audible to the human ear. The result is the telltale ‘shh’ sound that is commonly associated with white noise.
Technically speaking, most instances of ‘white noise’ are actually ‘pink noise.’ White noise matches any frequency, meaning that it may sound extremely high or extremely low. As a result, white noise on its own is too harsh for most human ears. Pink noise, on the other hand, gradually decreases in volume (measured in decibels) per octave, creating a more balanced listening experience. Most describe pink noise as white noise with a lower, bass-like quality.
Additionally, ‘brown noise’ (also known as ‘red noise’) is a deeper variant of pink noise, decreasing in volume at a faster per-octave rate. ‘Blue noise’ and ‘violet noise’ are the exact opposite, increasing in volume as the frequency rises. ‘Grey noise’ is a bit more complex; it increases or decreases in volume depending on the frequency, and sounds equally loud at all frequencies as a result. Black noise, as the name implies, refers to complete silence.
The table below includes a detailed breakdown of the five most common noise colors.
|Noise Color||How Frequency Affects Volume||Example|
|White||Volume remains constant regardless of frequency||High-pitched static|
|Pink||Volume decreases by 3 db per octave||Thunder|
|Brown/Red||Volume decreases by 6 dB per octave||Waves or low wind|
|Blue||Volume increases by 3 dB per octave||Hissing or high wind|
|Violet||Volume increases by 6 dB per octave||Kettle whistle|
|Grey||Volume decreases between 100 and 1,000 Hz, and increases between 5,000 and 10,000 Hz||Static with volume that remains constant|
|Black||No volume whatsoever||Silence|
Despite these technical specifications, the term ‘white noise’ is generally used to describe any soothing natural or ambient sound that is used to drown out distracting background noises, such as vehicles on the road or noises from elsewhere in the house. This allows people to focus less on exterior sounds and fall asleep more quickly.
Three common examples of white noise include:
In addition to aiding adults, most white noise machines are also designed for babies, infants, and young children. Some models feature softer, more soothing sounds as well as lullaby melodies, that specifically cater to young ears. White noise machines are also a popular travel accessory, and some models are designed for mobility with more compact sizes and dual-voltage capabilities.
Although specs vary by brand and model, most standard white noise machines sold today are designed for the following:
With few exceptions, white noise machines cost $100 or less when purchased from the original manufacturer or authorized retailers. Some white noise machines come with warranties that cover up to five years, while others do not come with any warranty coverage.
White noise machines are a great solution for dealing with noise pollution while on the road. In fact, one study found that air traffic noise contributes to increased hypertension and even learning difficulties in children.
If you travel often on planes and trains, or stay in noisy hotels, going beyond the earplugs can really help. You have plenty of options, too. Most noise machines have a headphone jack that you can plug in anywhere.
Having a white noise machine can be highly beneficial to anyone who lives in noisy sleep spaces. Traffic, construction noises, loud housemates or neighbors, partners who snore — these problems can all contribute to a lousy night’s sleep. Sleeping in a developing area only increases the risk of this, and cities often don’t take enough action with noise ordinances to make a big difference.
Take, for example, how the New York Times used a noise meter to measure noise levels in buildings across the city. Many had dangerous decibel levels, which can contribute to hypertension, stress, and heart disease. This problem may be especially acute in areas with lots of urban development. White noise machines are a great way to mitigate this problem and potentially even help your mental and physical health.
Parents may find success with using white noise machines for their children. For starters, this likely mimics the ambient noise in utero — an automatic, subconscious soother. Parents with autistic children will also find relief in white noise machines. Many children with autism report sleep problems, whether experiencing early morning waking, hyperarousal, short-duration sleeping, or excessive daytime sleepiness.
Of course, you don’t want to use too much of a good thing: some studies have shown that excessive white noise has its drawbacks. For example, overexposure to white noise has shown delayed brain development in baby rats. Rat pups who experienced this developed auditory responses at later benchmarks than their counterparts who weren’t exposed to the same level of white noise.
Another study found that such exposure may be responsible for far-reaching sensory and behavioral changes in rats — that is, excessive white noise may actually inhibit the brain’s ability to perceive the geographic location of sound. Researchers found that early and continuous overexposure to white noise may have adverse effects on brain maturation in mammals, resulting in difficulty with spatial awareness and sensitivity.
Long story short: there’s nothing wrong with a little white noise, but too much of it has the potential to cause damage.
People with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can also reap the benefits from white noise machines. As many as 50% of children with ADHD suffer from sleep problems, including experiencing higher levels of daytime sleepiness and suffering from sleep-disordered breathing.
ADHD is often associated with a wide array of sleep disorders even for adults, including restless leg syndrome, difficulty falling asleep at night, anxiety around bedtime, waking during the night, and even delayed sleep-phase disorder. White noise machines help remove auditory distractions from around the room, allowing people with ADHD to focus on getting a deeper night of sleep.
White noise machines, soft music, and other soothing sounds also help distract some people from their Tinnitus as they’re trying to sleep. Tinnitus affects between 15-20% of the population, often showing up due to an ear injury, system disorder, or age-related hearing loss. Tinnitus may manifest itself as a noise similar to ringing, roaring, clicking, hissing, or buzzing.
Professional counselors may combine white noise machines with other strategies in sound therapy to relieve the symptoms of tinnitus, such as using wearable and non-wearable sound therapy devices, going through cognitive behavioral therapy, or learning beneficial sleep hygiene practices.
Many people decide to put their white noise machine right beside their bed for maximum effect. However, if you’re trying to drown out a noise from a specific source, it’s probably best to place the machine between you and the source of the noise.
For example, if there’s a noisy neighbor you can hear from another room, place it by your door. Or if you’re trying to avoid the sound of traffic, place the white noise machine in between your bed and your window.
If this isn’t as effective as you’d hoped, experiment with different locations and see how you rest that night. By playing around with different spots, you can discover the most effective placing to help you sleep well at night. Make sure that nothing is covering the white noise machine and that cords are free from somewhere you could easily trip.
Finding the right sound setting on a white noise machine may also be accomplished through trial and error. Most white noise machines operate between 40-70 decibels. Forty decibels is comparable to bird calls or the sound of a library. Fifty to 60 decibels are like a conversation at home, background music, or an air conditioning unit from 100 feet away. Once your white noise machine hits 70 decibels, it’s similar to living room music or a vacuum cleaner.
It’s important to note that babies and children should probably have a white noise machine set lower to protect their potentially sensitive developing hearing — about 40-50 decibels. Adults can start at that level and increase it as needed. Make sure to place the machine at least three feet away from your head, both for optimal results and to prevent the noise machine from potentially damaging your hearing.
When shopping for a new white noise machine and comparing different brands and models, here are a few important factors to keep in mind:
For sleepers who prefer not to use or invest in a white noise machine, effective methods of blocking outside noise include the following:
Fans: The whirring blades of conventional fans produce ambient white noise that can effectively drown out other sounds. They also improve air circulation in the bedroom, and can create a cooler sleeping space during warmer times of the year.
Earplugs: Some people prefer to sleep with earplugs, which are normally made from softer materials like foam or silicone. Earplugs may mold to the contours of the user’s inner ear, or they may maintain a constant shape; in either case, they are usually designed to fit all ear canal sizes. Some earplugs are reusable, while others are designed for one-time use.
Most earplugs are sold in bulk, and typically cost less than $30 for a pack of 200 or less. However, it’s important to note that earplugs are associated with certain health risks, namely earwax buildup, which can lead to conditions like hearing loss, tinnitus, and earwax discharge.
White noise apps: Downloading a white noise app onto a smartphone, tablet, or other portable electronic device may be a cheaper alternative to purchasing a white noise machine. White noise apps may also allow users to play music from their personal library or streaming services while the white noise sounds play.
The table below lists five of the most popular white noise apps that are currently available on iTunes.
|App Name||MyNoise||Sleep Pillow||Sleep Fan||White Noise|
|Sound Selection||White, pink and brown noise - 12 natural and ambient options||White noise and 69 other naturally recorded sounds||4 fan sounds||White, pink, brown, blue, and violet noise - 35 natural and ambient sounds|
|iTunes Star Rating (out of 5)||4.6||4.9||4.4||4.8|