What Is White Noise and how to include it into your routine?

As stress levels are soaring and quality sleep has become a rare luxury for many, the quest for a solution to restfulness is more needed than ever. That’s why white noise has become increasingly popular in the past few years.

Key takeaways

  • White noise is a type of sound that combines all the different tones we can hear into one steady, constant sound.
  • It’s mostly used for better sleep or improved focus and concentration, soothing babies, relaxation, and stress reduction.
  • There are also other types of noises such as pink, brown, blue, and grey.
  • It typically ranges from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz (20 kHz), all played at the same intensity. It doesn’t have a specific frequency like a single note of music but rather covers the entire audible spectrum.

What it is exactly?

White noise contains all frequencies within the spectrum of audible sound at equal intensity. This means it blends high, medium, and low frequencies together to create a consistent, steady sound.

Imagine the static buzz from a radio or the consistent roar of a waterfall; these sounds are examples of white noise. Its unique properties make it a subject of interest in various fields, including sleep science, acoustics, and even psychology.

The Science Behind White Noise

This concept comes from the field of physics and is closely related to white light, which contains all the colors of the spectrum visible to the human eye. Just as white light is a blend of all colors, white noise is a mix of all the sound frequencies that humans can hear.

Frequency and Amplitude

White noise frequency

In the context of sound, frequency refers to the number of sound vibrations or cycles per second, measured in Hertz (Hz). Amplitude, on the other hand, relates to the volume or loudness of the sound. In white noise, every frequency from the lowest to the highest that the human ear can detect is represented at the same amplitude, creating a unique sound profile.

Different Types of Noise

White, Blue, Brown and Pink Noise

Beyond white, the spectrum of “colored” noise includes several variations, each with its unique characteristics and applications. Learning about these differences can help individuals choose the sound that best suits their needs.



Pink noise is similar to white one in that it contains all the frequencies that humans can hear, but the power of these frequencies decreases as they get higher. This results in a sound that is softer and more even. Pink noise is often compared to natural sounds like falling rain or leaves rustling in the wind. It’s believed to be beneficial for sleep and memory enhancement.


Brown noise, also known as red, takes the principle of decreasing power across frequencies further than pink. It emphasizes lower frequencies more, producing a deep, rumbling sound that many find calming and grounding. It’s likened to the sound of a strong, steady waterfall or the deep roar of the ocean, making it useful for masking lower-frequency sounds that might be disturbing.

Blue and Violet

Blue and violet noise are the opposites of pink and brown ones, with power increasing at higher frequencies. They are brighter and have a hiss-like quality. While not as commonly used for relaxation or sleep, blue and violet noise can be helpful in certain types of sound masking and tinnitus management.


Grey noise is a variant designed to sound equally loud at all frequencies to the human ear, taking into account the human auditory system’s sensitivity to different frequencies. It’s a psychoacoustic concept that aims to create a balanced perception of noise. It can be used in sound equalization and testing of audio equipment.

What is it Used For?

White Noise - Sleeping

Its properties make it useful in various scenarios, from personal well-being to professional settings.

Sleep Enhancement

The most common application of white noise is to improve sleep quality. Its ability to mask environmental noises allows for a more disturbance-free sleep environment, beneficial for both falling asleep and maintaining uninterrupted sleep.

Focus and Productivity

Many people use this type of noise to create a distraction-free background, enhancing concentration and productivity, especially in noisy environments or when performing tasks that require deep focus.

Baby Soothing

New parents often turn to white noise to help soothe and calm babies. The consistent sound can mimic the comfort of the womb, aiding in faster and more restful sleep for infants.

Tinnitus Management

For individuals experiencing tinnitus, white noise can offer relief by masking the persistent ringing or buzzing sounds, providing a temporary escape from the discomfort.

How to Incorporate White Noise into a Bedtime Routine?

White Noise Bedtime Routine

Here are some practical steps to effectively include white noise into your nightly routine:

Choose the Right Source

Start by selecting an appropriate source that suits your preferences and needs. This can be a dedicated white noise machine, a smartphone app, or even naturally occurring sources like a fan or an air purifier. Consider features such as sound options, volume control, and timers when choosing your device.

Set a Consistent Volume

Establish a comfortable volume level that masks unwanted background noise without being too loud. The ideal volume is often likened to a soft conversation or the sound of a shower, providing enough sound to distract from interruptions without becoming a disturbance itself.

Begin the Routine Before Bedtime

Introduce white noise into your environment about 30 minutes to an hour before you plan to sleep. This helps create a peaceful setting and allows your mind to associate the sound with the process of falling asleep. During this time, engage in other relaxing activities such as reading or meditation to further signal to your body that it’s time for rest.

Use a Timer

If your white noise machine or app has a timer function, consider using it to turn off the sound automatically after you’ve fallen asleep. This is especially helpful if you prefer not to have the sound playing throughout the entire night. However, many find that leaving it on helps prevent disturbances from waking them later in the night.

Make It Part of a Larger Sleep Hygiene Practice

Incorporating white noise into your bedtime routine is most effective when combined with other good sleep hygiene practices. This includes maintaining a regular sleep schedule, ensuring your bedroom is a comfortable and inviting space, and avoiding stimulants or screen time before bed. Together, these habits can create a holistic approach to improving sleep quality.


Can it be harmful to hearing?

When used at moderate volumes, white noise is generally not harmful to hearing. However, listening to it at high volumes over extended periods can potentially lead to noise-induced hearing loss. It’s crucial to keep the volume at a comfortable level, especially if using it for prolonged periods, such as during sleep.

Does it have any cognitive effects?

Some studies suggest that white noise can have cognitive effects, such as improving concentration or memory recall in certain tasks, particularly in individuals with ADHD. However, these effects can vary widely from person to person, and more research is needed to fully understand its cognitive implications.

Can white noise help with tinnitus?

White noise can be beneficial for some individuals with tinnitus by helping to mask the ringing or buzzing sounds. It provides a constant external sound, so it can make the tinnitus less noticeable, offering temporary relief. It’s always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice and treatment options for tinnitus.

Is there a best time to use white noise for sleep?

The most effective time to use it for sleep is during your entire sleep cycle, starting from when you first go to bed until you wake up. Using white noise consistently throughout the night can help prevent disturbances from sudden changes in background noise levels, promoting uninterrupted sleep.

Can it become addictive?

While white noise isn’t addictive in the traditional sense, some people may become habituated to its presence for sleep. This means they might find it difficult to fall asleep without it if they’ve used it consistently as part of their bedtime routine. Yet, this dependency is more about habit formation than actual addiction.

Are there any people who should avoid using it?

Individuals with certain sound sensitivities or conditions like hyperacusis (a heightened sensitivity to everyday sounds) may find white noise uncomfortable or even distressing. Additionally, if someone finds that it disrupts their sleep rather than helps, it might not be the best tool for them. Personal preference plays a significant role, and what works for one person may not work for another.


White noise is a unique and versatile tool that can help create a more conducive sleep environment for some individuals. While research on its effectiveness offers mixed results, the personalized nature of sleep and auditory sensitivity means that white noise can be a valuable part of a broader strategy aimed at achieving restful sleep.