Do Sound Machines Really Help Improve Sleep? Here's What the Experts Say
These ultimately limit the interruptions you would otherwise have while you rest.
Whether you're a night owl or morning bird, a good night's sleep can do wonders for your day ahead. Getting to the point of drifting off for the night can still be challenging, though, especially if you like the temperature in your room to be just right or you need some soft noise in the background. While a rainstorm or leaves rustling in the wind can help with the latter, Mother Nature doesn't always provide the soundtrack we need when we need it. Luckily, a sound machine can also produce calming sounds on demand to help you get some rest. "Sound machines typically use continuous noise of various kinds, like white noise, pink noise, or broadband noise," says Dr. Frida Rångtell, PhD, a sleep educator and science advisor at Sleep Cycle. "These types of noises all have different characteristics but a similar aim: to improve sleep." Here, our medical experts explain more about sound machines and how to use them to your benefit.
Sound Machine Benefits
One of the biggest benefits of using a sound machine is that it will help limit interruptions while sleeping. "By minimizing the onset, and the interruptions in sleep, it is presumed that the duration of the restorative components (REM sleep and non-REM) will improve," says Dr. Gregory L. Hall, MD. "Deep sleep, which is the most restorative and a component of non-REM sleep, shortens with age and its reduction has been liked to poor health including obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and more." In turn, using a sleep machine can boost how long you sleep consistently through the night and decrease the amount of time it would actually take to fall asleep in the first place.
Dr. Teofilo Lee-Chiong, MD, the chief medical liaison for sleep and respiratory care at Philips, does note that how people interpret sound is truly a personal experience and preferences for specific types, pitches, and intensities (like loudness) can change over time. "While some individuals may find certain sounds soothing and help them sleep better—to aid us when meditating, to momentarily distract us from worries and anxious thoughts, or to make the darkness less isolating and frightening—others may prefer silence when sleeping," he adds.
Common Sound Machine Noises
While it is up to personal preference, there are different sounds that can be relaxing to listen to when going to sleep. White noise, for example, is characterized by a balanced frequency of sounds and is known to have a high pitch. Pink noise, on the other hand, is "proportionately decreased as the pitches increase in an effort to better 'balance' what is actually heard," Dr. Hall says. "Pink noise, therefore, has a lower, and some say, more soothing, tone." Another common sound people like to hear as they drift off to sleep? Brown noise, as this has a mellow tone with its lower frequency. Dr. Lee-Chiong explains that your penchant for any type of noise will fall back on you as an individual since sounds are linked to memories and familiar, calm moments in life.