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Why does white noise help you sleep and are there other noises? –LifeSavvy

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Have you ever had trouble falling asleep due to disturbing noises like traffic or noisy neighbors? If so, you may have heard of white noise as a way to block out those distractions and help you sleep better.

But what exactly is white noise and how does it work? Here’s what you need to know about the science behind white noise and its benefits for sleep, as well as other types of sonic tones that can help you get a good night’s rest.

What is white noise?

A baby sleeps with a white noise machine.

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White noise is a term that refers to a specific type of sound that is commonly used to promote relaxation, concentration, and sleep. This type of sound is created by combining different frequencies at random. The term “white” noise comes from the fact that this sound contains all the frequencies of the audible spectrum, just as white light contains all the colors of the visible spectrum.

“White noise spans the audio spectrum and contains all frequencies, so one sound doesn’t overpower another,” said Dr. Michael Breus, Ph.D. and founder of TheSleepDoctor.com.

While white noise is often associated with sleep, it can also be beneficial in a variety of other settings. For example, many people use white noise to help them focus while studying or working, as it can help drown out distracting background noises.

By playing white noise while you sleep, it can help mask outside sounds and create a calmer, more restful environment.

How do sonic tones help you sleep?

Sleeping woman in bed with alarm on mobile phone

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Noise can have a significant impact on the quality of our sleep. When we hear sudden or unexpected sounds, our brain can become more alert, making it difficult to fall and stay asleep. However, when we hear constant, low-level noise, it can have a calming effect and help us relax. This is where sonic tones come in.

Sonic tones are different types of noise that have different frequency distributions and can have different effects on our brains. While white noise is the most well-known type of sound tone, there are other colors of noise that can also be used to promote better sleep.

“Remember, white noise is a combination of all audio frequencies, which protects your body from being startled by loud noise,” Dr. Breus said. “White noise reduces the frequency gap between what you hear and a sudden loud noise.”

Each sonic tone represents a different set of frequencies, including brown noise, pink noise, and others.

What other types of noise can help you sleep?

A woman sleeps with headphones on

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The type of noise you use to help you sleep will depend on your personal preferences. The differences between each are subtle, so it’s best to try them out for yourself to see which one works best for you.

pink noise

Pink noise is similar to white noise but has a lower frequency range. It sounds more like a low rumble and is often compared to the sound of rain or waves crashing on the beach. Because it operates at a lower frequency, pink noise can help you sleep better if white noise is distracting or bothering you.

brown noise

Brown noise has an even lower frequency range than pink noise and sounds like deep, rumbling thunder. It can help promote relaxation and reduce stress levels, making it a good option for those who have trouble falling asleep due to anxiety or racing thoughts. It can also help people who suffer from ringing in the ears.

purple noise

Violet noise, also known as purple noise, is a type of noise that has more energy at higher frequencies than at lower frequencies, resulting in a spectral shape opposite to brown noise. Although different from brown noise, violet noise is also used to treat ringing in the ears.

How to use noise to sleep

A woman sleeps with headphones on

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There are many ways to incorporate sonic tones into your sleep routine. One option is to use a white noise machine (Dr. Breus likes iHome’s Zenergy), which can produce different types of noise to help block out outside sounds. Many sound machines also come with pre-recorded nature sounds, such as the rain forest or ocean waves, which can be relaxing to listen to before bed.

Another option is to use a sleep app on your phone or tablet. These apps often have a variety of sonic tones to choose from and may also include guided meditations or relaxation exercises to help you fall asleep faster. Some popular sleep apps include Calm, Headspace, and Sleep Cycle.

If you prefer to listen to music before bed, consider choosing songs with a slower tempo and lower frequency range. Classical music or background music can be excellent options to promote relaxation and improve the quality of sleep.


A splurge-worthy purchase that combines a noise machine with a sunrise lamp.

It’s important to note that while sonic tones can be helpful in promoting better sleep, they may not work for everyone. Some people may find that they are more sensitive to noise and prefer complete silence when sleeping. If you consistently have trouble falling asleep, talk to your doctor to find out why.

Noise can have a significant impact on our sleep, and incorporating sonic tones into our nightly routines can be a helpful way to promote relaxation and improve overall sleep quality. The next time you have trouble falling asleep due to outside noises, consider trying white noise or another type of sound tone.


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