Sleep Sounds

What is White Noise?

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Sounds for Deep Sleep Team
What is White Noise?

What is white noise?

White noise is the sound of all sonic frequencies playing together at an even volume at the same time, ranging from 20 hertz (low end) to 20,000 hertz (high end). If you’ve ever heard an FM radio tuned to the wrong channel or seen a TV on the wrong channel you’ve likely seen a jumbled mess of white, grey, and black pixels and heard the harsh sound of this white noise. White noise is often used as a sleep aid to help block out distracting sounds that might startle you awake in the middle of the night.

Other noise colors (Brown Noise, Pink Noise, Red Noise, etc)

There are many different colors of sound, but the most effective for falling asleep are brown noise, red noise, and pink noise. Each three of these sounds create a warm and full background sound that mask other noises, create a calming atmosphere, and help achieve sleep faster and longer.

Brown noise

Brown noise is a lower-pitched and warmer type of white noise. While all frequencies of sound are present just like in white noise, the volume of these lower frequencies is greater than the volume of the higher frequencies.

Red noise

Red noise is effectively the same as brown noise, though a technical definition of red noise will give a more detailed breakdown of the specific frequencies and volume that is different.

Pink noise

Pink noise is in between white noise and brown noise. It’s louder on the low end than white noise but louder on the higher end than brown noise.

Other colors of sound: Blue noise, grey noise, violet noise, black noise

The other colors of sound including blue, grey, violet, and black are not very helpful as a sleep or focusing aid, so we won’t spend much time on them here.

Blue noise has very little low end frequencies but increasingly more high end frequencies the higher up you go. It’s much brighter and thin sounding that white, brown, or pink noise.

Gray noise is highly randomized white noise that sounds the same as white noise to the listener, but technically is made up of random volume levels at different frequencies.

Violet noise has very little low end frequencies. As you go up to the higher frequencies the volume of the sound increases 6.02 DB per octave (source). Violet noise is also known as purple noise.

Black noise is essentially another term for silence, or the lack of noise. However, intermittent white noise can break through black noise.

Benefits of white noise

1. Improve sleep

White noise can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer because it drowns out sudden noises and creates a calming atmosphere around you. Scientific studies are inconclusive as to whether sleep is objectively better when using white noise. Some studies show that it helps, but others disprove the same thing. However, millions of people find it to be personally helpful to them, proving it has some clear value to offer.

In addition to white noise, there are several other core colors of sound, including brown noise, red noise, pink noise, violet noise, grey noise, and blue noise. We’ll talk about those later.

2. Drown out noise

Like we’ve already mentioned, white noise is a powerful tool to mask distracting noises like traffic, noisy neighbors, car doors slamming, and the other various distractions that happen around the clock.

3. Focus

White noise can help you focus for studying, working, or reading by drowning out the sounds around you and creating a calming atmosphere.

4. Soothe a crying baby

White noise can help babies fall asleep faster by soothing them but can also help keep them asleep longer by masking sounds from siblings or parents who are still awake. As cited in Healthline here, one study has shown that when white noise was used on a group of babies falling asleep, 80% of them fell asleep within five minutes, while the control group fell asleep within spontaneously. Keep in mind that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping the volume at 50 DB or less and setting the noise machine no closer than 7 feet away from the baby to protect their long-term hearing.

5. Mask tinnitus

In addition to helping with sleep or focus, white noise can help mask various forms of tinnitus. According to the Mayo Clinic, your doctor may prescribe using a white noise sound machine or in-ear white noise device to help treat tinnitus, depending on the situation.

6. Get some privacy

Masking noise is also beneficial for creating more privacy if you live in a space with thin walls and doors where sound travels far.

7. Build a sleep ritual

Create a habit to help yourself fall asleep faster by using the same or similar sounds to fall asleep each night. Maybe you prefer falling asleep to pure white noise, or perhaps you enjoy tropical waves or the rich textures of gentle ambient music.

8. Calm dogs

White noise can help calm dogs by masking the sounds happening outside your home, such as the sounds of other animals outside or a neighbors dog barking.

Where to find white noise and how to listen to it


Podcasts offer 2-12 hours recordings of white noise, nature sounds, and sleep music. Podcasts are great for several reasons: They are free, can be downloaded and listened to offline, include a built-in sleep timer to turn off, and can be accessed from smartphones, laptops, tablets, smart speakers, smart watches, smart tvs, etc.

Sounds for Deep Sleep (hi, that’s us! 👋) makes 10-hour sound machines you can listen to on your favorite podcast apps. Listen on Amazon Music, Apple podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, Audible, or wherever you get your podcasts. Listen to a growing collection of 28 high-fidelity nature sounds, classic sound machines, and sleep music. New episodes come out every Tuesday.

Other top white noise podcasts include Relaxing White Noise, TM Soft’s White Noise sleep sounds, and 12 hour sound machines.

Smart speakers

You can listen to podcasts and sound machine apps on smart speakers like Amazon Alexa, Google Echo, and Apple HomePod.

  • Amazon Echo (Alexa): You can enable the skill for TMSoft’s white noise, SleepJar, or Sleep Sounds: White Noise.
  • Google Echo: You can use Google Home’s in-app feature to listen to one hours of white noise and nature sounds. This article from The Verge shares indepth instructions.
  • Apple HomePod (Siri): Ask Siri to play a white noise podcast like Sounds for Deep Sleep to start listening through the Apple Podcasts app.

YouTube channels

Watch relaxing videos to create a calming atmosphere on channels like Sounds for Deep Sleep, Relaxing White Noise, Calm, New Bliss, Nature Soundscapes, Calmed by Nature, Ambient Worlds, etc.

Mobile apps

Headspace (iOS, Android) is an app and platform that offers mindfulness meditation, sleep sounds, stories, music, and other media to help you handle emotions, find peace, and sleep better. While Headspace mainly focuses on meditation, they also offer white noise and nature sounds for sleep.

Calm (iOS, Android) is an app that offers mindfulness meditations, sleep sounds, music, stories, and more, similarly to Headspace. In addition, they have an excellent collection of premium sounds for sleep.

TMSoft White Noise (iOS, Android) is one of the first white noise apps that appeared on the app store, quickly reaching the #1 spot. They offer a collection of 50+ sounds and give you the ability to mix and match sounds.

BetterSleep (iOS only) is an app that offers sleep tracking, sleep recording, 300+ sleep sounds, and 250 meditations and hypnosis for sleep. Formerly known as Relax Melodies, this app has a beautifully playful design and lets you mix and match your own sounds to create a customized soundscape.

Portal (iOS) is an app that offers spacial audio and high-definition videos for sleep and focus. Portal is the most beautifully designed app on this list, in our opinion, and lets you escape to another part of the world straight from your iPhone.

Physical Sound machines

Standalone sound machines are simple speaker systems that plug into the wall and let you listen to a handful of sounds stored on the device. Our two favorite physical sound machines are the Dohm® Natural Sound Machine by Yogasleep and the Homedics white noise speaker.

The Dohm® Natural Sound Machine ($49) claims the title of “the original white noise machine” loved since 1962. This machine plugs into the wall and runs a real spinning fan inside of it to create a natural white noise sound. It offers two different speeds and the ability to fine-tune the sound volume and tone.

The Homedics white noise speaker ($18) is a simple digital speaker that includes 6 built in sounds including ocean, white noise, rain, thunder, summer night, and brook.

Box fan, AC unit, or AM/FM radio static

Listen the old-fashioned way by plugging in a box fan, window AC unit, or tune the radio to a random channel with white noise. However, if you do use the radio note that interference might cause startling sounds in the middle of the night from interference.

Other Sleep Sounds

Sound masking is an excellent tool for getting deeper sleep. In addition to white noise you can also mask noise and fall asleep with music and nature sounds, too.

  • Sleep Music: Fall asleep to ambient instrumental music to soothe yourself to sleep.
  • Nature Sounds: Fall asleep to the sounds of the earth like ocean waves, rain, thunderstorms, wind, snow.
  • ASMR Sounds: Fall asleep to the sounds of random sounds that soothe you like an airplane cabin, coffee shop ambience, box fan.

Listen to free 10-hr nature sounds for sleep in your favorite podcast app.

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