“White Noise” would have been a great name for an ‘80s rock band. Sort of a cross between Whitesnake and Quiet Riot.
Instead it’s music to the ears of many insomnia sufferers. And like a popular rock band, white noise has a large fan base.
A recent article from Columbia News Service reports that there are 20 white noise-related groups on Facebook. And demand was so high for the eight-sound White Noise iPhone application that a new version with more than 40 sounds was released.
But not everyone relies on such high-tech sounds to help them fall asleep. Many use a simple box fan or an oscillating fan. The article describes one woman who relies on the sound of a hair dryer.
There also are a variety of sound machines available for purchase. Some only generate a constant white noise. Others offer soothing sounds such as rain or ocean waves.
Consumer Reports recently reviewed three models. All three of the units blocked out at least some unwanted sounds.
InventorSpot has a glowing review of a classic white noise machine. And the New York Times recently reported on a “smart” sound machine that responds to disrupting noises by increasing its sound output.
So what exactly is white noise, and what’s the big deal about it?
White noise is a combination of the many frequencies of sound. It’s a soothing noise that can help you relax and fall asleep. It can be a simple treatment for some people who have insomnia.
It also helps raise your “arousal threshold.” This means that you can sleep through noises that would otherwise wake you up. The white noise helps cover up disturbing sounds such as a train whistle or a noisy neighbor. It can be a solution for some causes of environmental sleep disorder.
Research shows that white noise also may benefit other groups of people. A 2008 study concluded that it could be helpful for college students.
A 2005 study found that white noise may reduce sleep disruptions for intensive-care unit (ICU) patients. A 2002 study reports that it may help people with acute stress disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder.
It also can help shift workers who must sleep during the day. A focus group of night-shift nurses found that many used white noise to improve the quality and quantity of daytime sleep.
White noise also may help babies fall asleep. A study of 20 newborns found that infants were more likely to fall asleep within five minutes in response to white noise.