There are few things in daily life I resent more than trying to fall asleep to the sound of environmental noise. Environmental noise happens when people talk, watch TV, play party music, or snore within earshot of somebody trying to catch some shut-eye. Environmental noise has been scientifically demonstrated to decrease sleep intensity, increase stress hormone secretion, reduce cognitive performance, increase tiredness, and may be a long-term risk factor of high blood pressure and heart disease (link). What’s the best way to combat environmental noise before bed? Noise of a different variety. Enter the sound therapy known as white noise. White noise refers to sound that contains frequencies with equal intensities. In layman’s term, white noise produces an even, consistent sound that is effective at drowning out disruptive noises that interfere with the quality of sleep. People who rely on the sound emitted by their fan or essential oil diffuser to fall asleep at night are utilizing white noise. In my experience, white noise is the easiest and cheapest method (it’s free) to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. And its benefits are backed by science.
In this study, broadband sound (a type of white noise) was administered to 18 healthy subjects. Researchers found that sleep onset latency (the time it takes to fall asleep) decreased by 38%, as well as the frequency of arousals from sleep during the night. Participants were also asked to rate their subjective sleep quality and they affirmed having slept better with the white noise. the authors of the study concluded, “These findings suggest that broadband sound administration might be helpful to minimize insomnia symptoms in selected individuals. “
Another study tested the effect of white noise on patients admitted to a coronary care (a hospital unit specializing in the care of patients with heart problems). The researchers discovered that patients for whom white noise was administered got more total sleep and stayed asleep longer than the control group. They concluded, “The use of white noise is recommended as a method for masking environmental noises, improving sleep, and maintaining sleep in the coronary care unit.”
One beautiful thing about white noise therapy is the great variety of options available to the user. iOS and Android applications enable the user to download free and premium white noise tracks while YouTube is a gold mine of white noise publications. Here I present you my two favorite white noise tracks, free to use on this website or download on your phone. The first track emits the sound of a smooth fan, ideal for the majority of people seeking to get a better night’s sleep. The second track is a little deeper and rougher but is equally effective at drowning out environmental noise. It is a personal favorite and I used it to fall asleep for years before switching to the smooth fan.
“Smooth Fan” White Noise Track:
“Deep Sounds” White Noise Track:
Sometimes before bed I play white noise in the background due to sheer force of habit even in the absence of environmental noise. White noise has helped me sleep faster and deeper wherever I am in the world.