Do White Noise Machines Work?

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White noise can drown out other sounds around you, from busy streets to the creaks of an old house. Many people who use white noise say it helps them fall asleep and stay asleep.But do white noise machines really work? We’ve investigated so you don’t have to!

Below, we break down what white noise is, why it helps people sleep, how white noise machines work, and whether they actually help people sleep. Read on for more.

What Is White Noise?

White noise is background noise generated by a sound machine. It contains all the frequencies that the human ear can hear. Many people describe it as sounding like TV static or fan sounds. Personally, I think white noise sounds like a steam radiator. 

White Noise vs Brown Noise

Brown noise operates at a lower frequency than white noise. Many listeners compare it to cars driving on the highway or an air conditioner. Brown noise is my favorite sleep aid, and I like to use it when I’m trying to take a disruption-free catnap.

White Noise vs Pink Noise

Pink noise comes out at a lower frequency than white noise but a higher frequency than brown noise. Pink noise frequently reminds people of the soothing sounds of ocean waves or heavy rain. Check out our What Is Pink Noise? article for more info.

White Noise vs Green Noise

Green noise reminds people most of nature sounds like a rushing waterfall or wind in the trees. It has a higher frequency than brown noise and lower frequency than white noise. If you prefer sounds at low frequencies and find natural-sounding ambient noise soothing, playing green noise at bedtime might help you get a better night’s sleep.

Why Does White Noise Help You Sleep?

White noise (and other sleep sounds) help you sleep by masking ambient sounds that might be disruptive

White noise might work better than high-quality earplugs because it can have a soothing, meditative effect. If you struggle with racing thoughts before bed, adding a white noise machine to your bedtime routine might help you sleep better. You might also want to try some different sounds during meditation too. Check out some more sleep tips from yoga and meditation experts here.

Do White Noise Machines Work?

Yes, if you like the sound of white noise a white noise machine will work for you! We recommend sleepers test out a playlist or phone app first to decide if they enjoy the sound of white noise at night.

A man sleeps on his side using the Sweave Eucalyptus sheets.

White noise machines will give you more volume control and may offer more sound options than apps and videos. Check out the Best White Noise Machines roundup to find the machine that will help you get a good night’s sleep.

Do White Noise Machines Work for Babies?

Yes, white noise machines can help your baby snooze! One study documented that white noise can help your baby settle down at bedtime. We recommend choosing a Bluetooth enabled white noise machine like the Hatch Baby Rest Sound Machine or one that also acts as a nightlight, like the Marpac Hushh. Keep in mind that you should play white noise at a low volume and avoid playing white noise for the entire night in your baby’s room to avoid hearing damage.

If you’re welcoming a new family member soon, take a look at our baby sleep guide for tips on how to help your child get the best sleep possible.

Do White Noise Machines Work for Snoring?

White noise machines won’t reduce snoring, but sleep experts have suggested that using a white noise machine can help you block out sounds of a partner’s snoring, especially if you choose a machine with good sound quality. If you sleep with a partner who snores, check out our best mattresses for snoring.

Do White Noise Machines Work for Privacy?

White noise machines can help you preserve some privacy by blocking out noises from your room that roommates or neighbors might hear. Choose a machine with adjustable volume settings so you can turn it up when you don’t want people to hear you. We recommend listening at a lower decibel before bedtime.

Do White Noise Machines Work for Dogs?

Yes, white noise machines can help block out noises that might upset your pet, like fireworks. Some dog owners find white noise machines also help soothe pets with separation anxiety.

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How to Use a White Noise Machine

Once you unbox your machine, choose the type of sound you prefer. Some white noise machines, like the Lectrofan, offer variations of pink, white and brown noises. Once you’re set up, just turn on your white noise machine whenever you’d like to listen! 


To learn more, check out our FAQ section below!

Are white noise machines safe?

Yes, white noise machines are safe. To avoid hearing damage, don’t play a white noise machine at a high volume (especially in a nursery).

How loud should a white noise machine be?

White noise machines should be placed about seven feet from your bed and play at 50 decibels or lower. For reference, an average conversation is about 65 decibels. If you are using the machine closer to your bed, set it at a lower volume.

Do white noise machines damage hearing?

If you play white noise too loud, you may suffer some hearing damage. Babies are especially at risk of hearing damage from white noise, so be sure to set machines at low volumes in nurseries and turn machines off once your baby has fallen asleep.

Can white noise cause tinnitus?

White noise might make your tinnitus symptoms worse. Be sure not to listen to white noise at too high a volume to avoid damaging your hearing.

Is a fan white noise?

A fan is not technically white noise, but many people find the sound of a fan just as soothing and effective as true white noise.

Why do babies like white noise?

White noise mimics the sounds babies hear in the womb, so it can be very soothing and comforting (especially during sleep training). Doctors recommend turning your white noise machine off once your baby is asleep to avoid any hearing damage.

Madison Schaper

Madison is an ex-mattress tester and current law student. When she's not studying, she puts her accumulated mattress and bedding knowledge to good use writing articles for Mattress Clarity. A few of her favorite non-work activities include trying new restaurants, reading short stories, and watching too much reality TV.