What Is White Noise?

Serene sound for peaceful sleep.
What Is White Noise?
Tom Greenspan
December 21, 2022

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Are you struggling to fall asleep or unable to enjoy stable sleep at night?

Well, you may require an auditory tool to produce white noise, a type of sound that is created by combining all frequencies of sound together. As a result, you get a steady, constant sound that can be used to mask or block out ambient noise.

Notably, white noise has been found to be effective in promoting relaxation, improving sleep quality, and increasing concentration levels. So, in this informative article, we will explore all about white noise, its benefits, and how to use it effectively to improve your daily life. 

Whether you're struggling with sleep or simply looking for a way to improve your focus, white noise may be just what you need.

What Is White Noise?

White noise is a form of noise that encompasses all sound frequencies equally across the audible spectrum. It is also known as broadband noise due to its ability to span multiple sound bands. 

Interestingly, researchers have found that white noise sounds have the potential to reduce crying in infants, enhance work performance, and mitigate symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Moreover, numerous researchers are currently investigating how white noise can help achieve deep sleep.

White Noise Vs. Brown Noise

Brown noise, also called red noise, is a type of broadband sound similar to white noise. It includes every octave of the sound spectrum, but the power of its frequencies lower with each octave. This reduction is two times more than in pink noise, which results in a deeper sound. 

According to research, people often find brown noise similar to rainfall or a shower. The same study also suggested that brown noise may assist in reducing symptoms experienced by individuals with tinnitus and enhancing cognitive performance. However, its effects on sleep quality are yet to be discovered. 

White Noise Vs. Pink Noise

Like white noise, pink noise is a form of broadband sound comprising elements from across the audible spectrum. Pink noise incorporates each octave, but its frequency power decreases by three decibels with each higher octave. This causes pink noise to have a lower pitch than white noise. 

The sound of pink noise has been compared to that of a waterfall by researchers. They also indicate that pink noise can enhance deep sleep among older adults and improve cognitive performance.

Other Colors Of Noise

Apart from the aforementioned types of noise, there are other types of color noise. However, they have nothing to do with sleep.

1. Gray Noise

Gray noise generates noise at higher and lower frequencies but not so much in the middle frequencies. It is comparable to white noise, but it is more balanced.

2. Violet Noise

Also known as purple noise, this color noise is the opposite of brown noise. The volume of violet noise increases as the frequency increases. It is one of the higher-pitched color noises and is often used to treat tinnitus, which causes loud ringing in one or both ears.

3. Blue Noise

Blue noise becomes more powerful as the frequency increases. It has a slightly sharper tone than pink and white noise, and it sounds like the hissing sound produced by a water spray.

Does Playing White Noise Help Fall Asleep Faster?

A recent analysis of various studies examining the impact of white noise on sleep produced contradictory results. Many question the reliability of existing evidence and suggest further research is necessary before endorsing white noise as a sleep aid. They also note that white noise can sometimes disrupt sleep and affect hearing. 

However, listening to white noise and using white noise machines has been common since the 17th century. Earlier research in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s found that white noise helps infants sleep and affects adults' sleep stages.

Moreover, recent studies found that white noise helped individuals fall asleep faster and sleep longer, including those living in high-noise areas and critically ill patients. But it is unclear whether white noise improves sleep by synchronizing brain waves or just masking background noise.

That said, noise during sleep can lead to heart rate changes indicating semi-awakenings. Plus, noise from transportation like cars and planes can lead to poor sleep and health issues. As such, white noise may reduce sensitivity to such unpredictable noises during sleep.

How To Choose A White Noise Machine?

1. Sound Quality 

Look for reviews to see what others think of the sound quality. Some machines use a digital recording, while others create a white noise sound mechanically. Also, make sure the recording has a clean loop.

2. Sleep Timer

Most machines have a sleep timer but do check the details on how to control it. Some machines offer programmable timers, while others have preset options.

3. Cost

Albeit a secondary factor, remember to consider your budget. Some apps are free or low-cost, while machine prices can vary greatly.

4. Volume Control

Being able to adjust the volume is important. So, check the manufacturer's specifications for the available volume range.

5. Machine Or App

Decide whether you want a stand-alone white noise machine or a white noise app. A machine may have better sound quality, but an app can be more convenient for traveling.

6. Other Sounds

Consider a machine or app with other sound options if you don't enjoy white noise. Many offer other sounds, like pink and brown noise or nature soundscapes.


Unsurprisingly, white noise has gained popularity as a sleep aid and a way to improve focus in noisy environments. While some studies suggest that it can improve sleep and cognitive performance, the evidence is mixed and further research is necessary to fully understand its benefits and potential drawbacks. 

This makes it all the more important to consider various factors like sound quality, sleep timer, volume control, and more while selecting white noise machines. It's also worth exploring other sound options in case white noise isn't effective for you. 

While white noise may not be a magic solution for all sleep or concentration problems, it can be useful for some individuals. And as with any sleep aid or health intervention, it's important to consult a healthcare professional to determine what's best for your unique needs.