Most of us are well aware that a good night’s sleep is key to overall health and well-being. However, many of us do not regularly receive the restorative rest our bodies require as a result of nighttime environments inhibiting proper sleep. One of the most common sources of interruption? Noise.
In most cases, noise and sleep do not go hand in hand. A partner’s roaring snore, the slam of a door, or an infant’s piercing cry are all familiar sounds that leave us tossing and turning at night desperate for just a few moments of silent relief. Believe it or not, however, there exists a type of noise that many find soothing and conducive to a peaceful night’s sleep: white noise.
White noise is a sound that combines every frequency within the range that humans are able to hear, typically between 20 hertz and 20kHz, in equal amounts. Its name comes from the way white light works, being that white light is composed of all of the difference colors combined together. White noise is also at times used to describe any type of constant, unchanging background noise. This covers a variety of sounds including nature noises like rain and crickets chirping, machinery noises such as those emitted from a washing machine, and even ambient sounds such as a cheering crowd or the crackling of a fire.
While it may seem counterintuitive to block out noise with more noise, white noise is successful in creating a quiet sleep environment by blending external sounds (like a door slam or barking dog) into the overall fray of frequencies, thus enabling your brain to pay less attention to the disturbance. This can be compared to people having a conversation. When only two people are speaking, you can usually discern what each person is saying with relative ease. As three people engage in conversation, you are likely still able to pick out one distinct voice and follow their speech. However, if you are in a room with hundreds or thousands of people talking at once, it is impossible to pick out one voice, much like it is impossible to pick out a single frequency contributing to white noise.
To improve sleep, you might consider purchasing a white noise machine, which generates the sound of white noise on an endless, repeating loop. Other easy sources for white noise include fans, a radio or boom box set between stations, or MP3 tracks of white noise or nature sounds downloaded from the internet. If you’re wondering if falling asleep to the sounds of your television serves the same purpose, the answer is no. When falling asleep to a television show or music, your brain may still pay attention to the sounds and words, therefore interfering with sleep.
For those seeking additional resources for eliminating external noise, consider installing soundproof windows. In fact, these windows have the ability to remove 95% of existing noise, providing serenity and comfort necessary for a good night’s sleep. Further, it is recommended that you keep your sleep environment dark and cool in addition to keeping it quiet. These simple adjustments will have you drifting off in no time.