Typically, when it comes to sleep we equate noise with disruption. In the case of white noise, it’s just the opposite. White noise can not only help you fall asleep, but it can also help you stay asleep.
What is White Noise?
White noise is a combination of several frequencies of sound. Technically, white noise is sound that remains consistent across all hearable frequencies. It is the kind of sound that kills background noise and helps create a calm environment. When a noise wakes you up in the night, it's not the noise itself that wakes you up, but the sudden change or inconsistencies in noise that jar you. The consistency of white noise creates a masking effect, blocking out the sudden changes in noise that can cause you to wake up during the night.
We can use light as an analogy to dig deeper into how this works. Imagine being in a dark room and you switch on a flashlight. You immediately notice the light source. But what if the room is already brightly lit? The flashlight is now barely noticeable because it has been “masked” by the brighter lights in the room.
Alternatives to Traditional White Noise
White noise can be used as a general description for any type of constant, unchanging background noise. It’s become a term for a diverse range of sounds including:
- nature sounds – rain, ocean, crickets chirping, campfire
- machinery noises – air conditioning, washing machine
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