If you struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep, you might want to try a sound machine. “Sound machines can help improve your bedroom environment and promote better sleep if noise is disrupting your sleep,” said Kathryn Palmer, a sleep medicine specialist at Banner Health Clinic in Colorado.
Sound machines provide constant noise that can help block out noise caused by partners, pets, neighbors, traffic, airplanes and other sources. So, if these outside noises disrupt your sleep, a sound machine could be helpful. Some people with ringing in the ears, or tinnitus, find that sound machines make their symptoms less noticeable.
What kind of noise could help you sleep?
If you decide to try a sound machine, think about the type of sound you prefer. Sound machines can provide noise in two broad categories: white noise and pink noise.
White noise is like the sound from a TV or radio that isn’t tuned to a station, or from a fan. Just as white light is a mix of all frequencies of light, white noise is a mix of low, medium and high frequency sounds. You need to be careful with your white noise volume levels. High levels—above 50 decibels—can cause restless sleep, lead to hearing loss, and harm your brain functioning.
Pink noise has lower pitches and is less harsh than white noise, and it may sound more natural. The sounds of falling rain or a soft wind through trees are examples of pink noise. “One study found that pink noise may help older adults get deeper sleep and possibly improve memory,” Palmer said.
If you prefer white noise, you may be content with the sound of a fan or static from a radio. If you like pink noise, you’ll have a bigger selection of sounds to choose from with a sleep machine. You can also download apps that can play sounds from your phone.
If you’re shopping for a sound machine, you might want to consider:
- How many sounds it offers
- If you can adjust the volume to make sure it doesn’t exceed recommended levels
- Whether it has a timer if you don’t want it to play all night
Are sound machines safe?
There’s no risk from using a sound machine regularly, as long as you keep the volume low enough to be safe. But if you use a sound machine every night, you might have trouble sleeping if you can’t use it, for example, if it breaks or if you’re traveling. And if you prefer silence when you’re sleeping, you won’t benefit from a sound machine.
These other strategies can also help you get the rest you need
A sound machine is just one tool that can help you sleep better. “Maintaining good sleep habits is the key to a good foundation for sleep,” Palmer said. Here are some other ways you can get better rest:
- Keep a regular sleep schedule with a consistent bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends
- Develop a routine to help wind down
- Avoid naps during the day to help strengthen your drive to sleep
- Exercise regularly, which may help you fall asleep faster and improve the quality of your sleep
- Avoid cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine and large meals in the evening since they can contribute to poor sleep
- Set your bedroom to the temperature you like
- Use a comfortable mattress
- Reduce lights before bedtime
- Avoid electronics at least 30 minutes before bedtime, and in the middle of the night if you wake up
- Try not to watch the clock at night
The bottom line
A sound machine might help you get better sleep, especially if noisy partners, pets or neighbors are disrupting your rest, or if you have tinnitus. If you’re struggling to sleep well, a sleep medicine specialist could help. Reach out to Banner Health to find an expert near you. To determine your risk for sleep apnea, take our free sleep assessment.
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