Best White Noise Machines
Minimizing disruptive sound and noise is an important part of sleep hygiene. Even though some people are more sensitive to sounds when trying to fall asleep or stay asleep, virtually everyone benefits from a quieter and more audibly consistent sleep environment. A white noise machine can be one way of trying to improve the soundscape of your bedroom.
White noise has both a technical definition and a common use. Most commonly, the term is used to refer to stable sounds that are used to drown out other background noises. White noise machines produce these sounds in various ways and generally for less than $100. For many people, a white noise machine can be an essential tool in cultivating a more comfortable sleep setting.
In this guide, we’ll introduce you to our top picks for the best white noise machines for both adults and children. We’ll review what white noise is and how it may help your sleep. We’ll also cover the main functions of white noise machines and the biggest considerations when shopping for one.
Our Top 5 White Noise Machines for Adults
For a quick breakdown of our top choices for the best white noise machines for adults, consult the table below. Many of these may also be helpful for children, but they do not have child-specific features or sounds.
|Big Red Rooster Sound Machine||AC||6 Natural Sounds||Yes||$19|
|Wave Premium Sleep Therapy Sound Machine||AC||6 Natural Sounds||Yes||$29|
|Dohm Classic||AC||Fan / Rushing Air||No||$46|
|Marsona 1288A Programmable Sound Conditioner||AC||16 Sounds With Tone Controls||Yes||$115|
|LectroFan||AC / USB||10 Fan (Digital) / 10 Ambient Sounds||Yes||$49|
Our Top 5 White Noise Machines for Children
Some white noise machines are built specifically for use with children. Our top picks of these options, the best white noise machines for children, can be found in the table below.
What Is White Noise and How Can It Help With Sleep?
What Is White Noise?
There are two ways to think about what white noise is. The first is the technical definition that relates to sound volume and frequency. Frequency is the number of vibrations of a sound wave per second, and a system of colors is used to describe how sound volume changes in accordance with changes in frequency. For example, blue noise increases in volume with an increase in frequency while brown noise decreases in volume with an increase in frequency. The technical definition of white noise is a sound that keeps the same volume despite changes in frequency.
The truth is, though, that this technical definition isn’t what most people are thinking about when considering a white noise machine. Instead, they are thinking about the more common-use definition that refers to a stable, steady sound that often feels like background noise. In truth, this is often “pink noise” since true white noise can be irritating to the ears. But again, white noise in regular parlance is in reference to consistent and often soothing sounds with little variation. As we discuss white noise through the rest of this article, we’ll be using this everyday meaning rather than the scientific definition.
There are many different types of white noise that can take many forms. Some common categories and examples of white noise include:
- Sounds from nature: things like a babbling brook, a waterfall, ocean waves, singing birds, chirping crickets or insects, leaves rustling in the wind, and others are popular types of soothing white noise.
- Sounds from machines: noise like from a washer and dryer, dishwasher, fan, furnace, or the hum of an engine can be a type of white noise.
- Sounds from ambient environments: this is a broad category that can include things like a crackling fireplace, the low chatter of a cocktail bar, quiet but consistent traffic, the buzz of a stadium, and similar sounds.
How Can White Noise Help With Sleep?
There are two main ways that white noise can help people sleep. First, it can help to block or drown out other noises that might interrupt someone’s sleep. For example, if you live in an apartment building where noise carries from apartment to apartment or if you have occasional noise from planes flying overhead, a more regular sound from a white noise machine may help to reduce the amount of those noises that you actually hear.
Second, many people find white noise to be soothing. This is especially true of many of the natural sounds like a rainstorm or flowing river, but it can also apply just to the simply hum of a fan. These soothing sounds can cultivate calm and comfort to make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
In both of these ways, white noise can play a role in improving the auditory environment of your bedroom as part of building good principles of sleep hygiene.
What Are the Functions and Features of White Noise Machines?
All white noise machines produce a stable background sound, but there can be significant variation in how they work and in the features that they offer. Some of the different aspects of white noise machines include:
- Volume: you can expect any white noise machine to offer several volume levels. Depending on your home environment and needs, you may want a machine that has a broader volume range or more refined volume settings.
- Size: white noise machines are not normally very large, but some are much more compact than others. They can also be very different in terms of weight. The biggest impact with regard to size relates to where you plan to place your machine and if portability of it is a concern for you.
- Types of Sounds: some white noise machines just make a single noise, such as a hum of a fan, although that noise can be modulated to different levels. Other machines offer a choice of various sounds such as nature sounds or other soothing ambient noise.
- Child-Oriented Sounds: some white noise machines, particularly those targeted toward children, may also have sounds tailored for kids including lullabies or other soft, soothing sounds.
- Timer: some people only want white noise for part of the evening, such as when they first go to sleep. For this reason, some white noise machines have a built-in timer so that the sounds shut off after a predetermined period of time.
- Alarm: a few white noise machines have programmable alarms that can be used to help wake you up with different sounds.
- Smooth looping: when a sound track finishes and starts over again, it can be helpful to avoid any obvious break in the sound. For this reason, many white noise machines have continuous looping to make sure this process happens smoothly and without any noticeable gaps.
- Power options: the majority of white noise machines work on AC power and need to be plugged in to work. Some, though, may also have options for battery power (for backup and/or for portability) and some even can be powered using a USB input.
- Headphone jack: a feature of some white noise machines is a headphone jack that can be especially useful for couples when only one person likes to hear the white noise.
What Is the Best Way to Choose a White Noise Machine?
When shopping for a white noise machine, there are multiple considerations to take into account. Thinking these through in advance can help you narrow down your choices and pick a product that is most likely to fill your particular needs. Some of these considerations include:
Who will use the white noise machine? If only adults will use the machine, then you can forego options that might have more child-directed sounds. If a couple is going to use the machine, then it is important to consider whether a headphone jack is needed or whether both people want to hear the white noise.
Where will the machine be used? A smaller, lighter, and generally lower profile white noise machine tends to make more sense for people who expect to travel and use their machine in different places. A battery option can also be a good feature for travelers who may not always have easy access to an outlet. For a machine that will only be used in a home bedroom, the location where you plan to put the machine (such as on a nightstand) may influence the size that is viable.
What sounds are most likely to be helpful? Some sleepers do well with just a basic fan-like sound while others like to have more options to choose from. Consider how much having different sound choices matters to you and factor this into your decision-making about a white noise machine.
What is your budget? Though almost all white noise machines can be purchased if your budget is around $100, there are also many lower-cost models. Remember that your needed budget will be affected by the style and features that you are looking for.
What Are Alternatives to White Noise Machines?
For some people, a white noise machine just doesn’t work as an option. Perhaps they don’t have the space to set one up or just can’t afford the cost at this time. Other people may travel too often to be able to carry an extra device with them. If you find that a white noise machine isn’t right for you, you can consider other options:
- Earplugs: though they won’t provide any soothing sound, they can block out environmental noise and minimize sound-based disruptions to sleep.
- A fan: you may already have a ceiling fan or small fan that you can run in your bedroom to provide the sound of the motor and moving air.
- Apps: many smartphone apps have been created to generate white noise. These tend to offer a broad range of sounds and other features, and they do not require investing in any equipment.