From sirens and car alarms to annoying hotel room neighbors, noisy sleeping environments are among the worst contributors to a restless night. Depending on your sensitivity to noise while sleeping, environmental noise can wake you up, cause you to shift between sleep stages, and even elicit a brief rise in your heart rate or blood pressure. Fortunately, there’s a simple solution that can quickly take loud sleeping environments from nightmare to dreamland — white noise machines.
What is white noise?
Most have heard the term “white noise” before, but many still aren’t sure what it means. White noise is a type of noise produced by combining sounds from every audible frequency in equal amounts. By combining all of the audible frequencies, it makes it hard for your brain to detect specific sounds among all the noise. This is why white noise can be a helpful way to drown out sounds that wake you up in the night or prevent you from falling asleep in the first place.
“White noise works by reducing the difference between background sounds and a ‘peak’ sound, like a door slamming, giving you a better chance to sleep through it undisturbed,” the National Sleep Foundation explains.
Besides white noise, you might also hear about other noise colors like pink noise, where the noise’s power decreases as the frequency increases, and brown noise, which is stronger at low-end frequencies and doesn’t have high frequency sounds like white and pink noise. All of these noise colors can be helpful for sleeping. Though white noise is the most common, pink and brown noise options are available on many of today’s noise machines.
White noise can be a helpful way to drown out sounds that wake you up in the night or prevent you from falling asleep in the first place.
Why white noise machines?
While fans, air purifiers, and earplugs do an okay job of drowning out noise pollution, sometimes you want something that offers a bit more, which is where white noise machines come in. There are tons of white noise machines on the market, ranging from simple to complex and across various price points, though most are pretty affordable. And they’re not just good for when it’s time to hit the pillow. Many people find white noise machines to be an effective tool for drowning out noise pollution and staying focused during the workday.
Our top 8 white noise machines
Every noise machine is different, so it’s important to find one that’s a good fit for you. Before shopping, make sure to narrow down your “must haves”, whether that’s portability, price, aesthetics, or the number of sound choices. From there, you’re more likely to find a white noise machine that you love. And of course, if you’re not up for buying a machine but are still interested in white noise, you could give a white noise app a try.
Here are eight of our favorite white noise machines on the market today:
Price: $49.95 (Prime)
Rating:6/5 on Amazon.com
The 411: The Lectrofan High Fidelity White Noise Machine is a high-rated and simple white noise machine with twenty sounds in total, including ten ambient noise options and ten fan sounds. In addition to white noise, there are pink noise and brown noise options, and highly specific volume control. Another great thing about this machine is that it’s small and doesn’t take up too much space.
Price: $49.99 (Prime)
Rating:3/5 on Amazon.com
The 411: The Marpac Dohm All-Natural White Noise Sound Machine is a classic white noise machine known for its simple design and ease of use. It’s essentially a fan, but because it’s covered, there isn’t a cool breeze as with a standard fan. Producing noise machines since 1962, Marpac has been around for more than 50 years now and touts itself as “the original white noise machine.” This one runs at two different speeds, and can be further personalized with various options for tone. Many people are drawn to this machine for its lack of bells and whistles, but this simplicity also means it has no timer or alarm presets, so once it’s on, it’s on.
Price: $62.40 (Prime)
Rating:1/5 on Amazon.com
The 411: The Sound + Sleep sound machine is equipped with smart technology that adjusts white noise volume throughout the night based on potentially disruptive noises nearby. This is one of the most advanced sound machines out there. It offers 30 sound options (such as “crickets and wind,” “sitar,” “quiet thunder,” and “rainfall”) and is also equipped with a programmable timer, so you don’t need to keep it running all night long if that’s not your thing. There’s also an audio jack, which is helpful if you want to listen through headphones.
Price: $19.99 (Prime)
Rating:3/5 on Amazon.com
The 411: The Big Red Rooster sound machine is an affordable and simple white noise solution with a sleek design. It has a programmable timer and offers six standard sound options: “rain,” “brook,” “ocean,” “thunder,” “white noise,” and “summer night.” The Big Red Rooster is a great option for travelers because it’s small and portable and can be powered either with AA batteries or an included AC adapter.
Rating:7/5 on Amazon.com
The 411: Priced at just over $10, the HoMedics Portable Mini Sound Spa is an amazingly affordable white noise solution for travelers and others who are on the go. It’s battery operated, has a programmable timer with three settings, and offers just four simple sound profiles: “everglades,” “ocean,” “rain,” and “white noise.”
Price: $37.99 (Prime)
Rating:4/5 on Amazon.com
The 411: The Avantek White Noise Sound Machine offers twenty sound options, which is a great variety, but you do need to cycle through them to find what you’re looking for. It also has a programmable timer that reduces volume gradually before shutting off. One great perk of this white noise machine is its memory function — as soon as you turn the Avantek on it remembers your last sound choice, volume level, and timer setting. The machine works with either a power adapter or USB cable, and is small enough to be portable and travel-friendly.
Price: $16.83 (Prime)
The 411: The Conair Sound Therapy Sound Machine is a cheap and portable sound machine with ten sound options, including “ waterfall” and “tropical forest”. It can be operated with an adapter or batteries, has a 60-minute timer, and is one of the simplest noise machines you can get your hands on. This could be a great option for people who are interested in trying out a white noise machine but don’t want to spend a ton.
Rating:2/5 on Amazon.com
The 411: Known for its excellent sound quality and sleek design, the Wave Premium Sleep Therapy Sound Machine offers six sound options: “fan,” “white noise,” “ocean,” “rain,” “stream,” and “summer night.” It has three different timer settings, adjustable volume controls, and is lightweight and compact enough for travel. It also has a USB port that you can use to charge your phone or another device.
Have a white noise machine that you swear by? Let us know in the comments below!