White Noise - Does noise help you fall asleep?

Noise-related problems falling asleep and staying asleep are widespread, because our sense of hearing is always active even while we are asleep. Here you can find out how the famous "white noise" affects our body and brain and whether noises such as white noise, pink noise and brown noise can improve relaxation and sleep.

Table of Contents

  1. Hearing during sleep
  2. What is white noise?
  3. What effect does white noise have?
  4. How does white noise affect sleep?
  5. Tips: White noise for better sleep
  6. White, Pink & Brown - All noise signals at a glance
  7. Conclusion

Nocturnal neighbors, barking dogs or the constant snoring of your peacefully sleeping partner - nocturnal noise and disturbing ambient noise are a common reason for waking up at night, sleep disorders and difficulty falling asleep. An increasingly popular way to make it easier to fall asleep and to reduce the disturbing effect of nocturnal noise is to listen to what is known as white noise. How can or should this work?

1. Hearing during sleep

Our ears never sleep! Not only does the brain work at full speed at night, many of our senses also remain active. The sensitive ear in particular reacts constantly to acoustic stimuli from our environment during sleep and while falling asleep. Persistent noise, sudden noises or other strong acoustic signals also cause the nervous system to be activated at night and can thus counteract a peaceful and undisturbed sleep.

The decisive factor here is how an occurring noise is ultimately processed and evaluated in the brain. The brain is quite capable of filtering out certain tones from a sound environment and hiding less important signals. But just when a sound stands out in an otherwise quiet environment, the brain is quickly put on alert, which hinders the process of falling asleep or wakes us up.

smartsleep Schlafmagazin: White Noise Geräusche zum Einschlafen - Frequenzbereich, Hörbereich und Hörschwelle des menschlichen Gehörs

Human hearing covers a frequency range of approx. 20 to 20 000 Hertz. Depending on which sleep phase we are in, the sensitivity of our hearing to stimuli can vary. In deep sleep, we don't really perceive many sounds at all, because the body focuses on regeneration and recovery. In the REM sleep phases, on the other hand, the sense of hearing is more sensitive, because during this time our brain is already very active and then reacts faster and more strongly to acoustic stimuli in the environment. In order to fall asleep easily and stay asleep undisturbed, a basically quiet sleeping environment is usually recommended.

2. What is white noise?

White noise can be described as a monotonously sounding and artificially generated noise that consists of a combination of tones of all frequencies that humans can perceive with the same intensity. This means that many different sounds are layered on top of each other, creating a dense, undefinable noise that sounds something like a rushing waterfall or when the radio or television is not tuned to a station.

smartsleep Schlafmagazin: White Noise Geräusche zum Einschlafen - Störbild Rauschen

3. What effect does white noise have?

Although the constant white noise is constantly being picked up by the ears, it is usually rated as of little relevance in the brain and after a short time most people no longer consciously perceive it. Due to the constant but not too demanding impulses to the ear, our brain increasingly relaxes and then simply fades out the monotonous noise, which reduces the hearing threshold for other (disturbing) noises. Because white noise creates an overall "loud" sound environment, from which sudden noise then stands out less. This makes us less sensitive to the sounds that we perceive as negative and allows our brain to calm down more easily.

4. How does white noise affect sleep?

Numerous scientific studies show that white noise can lead to more calm and relaxation and is effective against stress symptoms such as headaches or inner restlessness. This not only promotes our resistance to stress and our ability to concentrate during the day, but also improves the conditions for a peaceful sleep.

Especially during the process of falling asleep and later in the night, white noise can help to neutralize disturbing noise from the sleeping environment and prevent sleep interruptions caused by sudden sounds. In this way we can protect our brain from stress, promote peaceful falling asleep and also support sleeping through the night.

5. White noise, pink noise, brown noise – an overview of noise signals

smartsleep Schlafmagazin: White Noise Geräusche zum Einschlafen - White Pink Brown Noise Frequenzbereiche

Whether we really find the monotonous sounds pleasant and helpful varies from person to person. White noise is very popular as a sleep aid because it sounds uniform and very dense overall. But there are other noise signals that have a similar positive effect on our body, brain and nervous system and help you sleep better. They differ primarily in the frequency spectrum used.

White Noise

White noise includes tones of all frequencies from a frequency range of approx. 20 to 20 000 Hertz superimposed at the same volume. An indefinable noise of high, medium and low tones is created, which can be compared to the noise of heavy rain, waterfalls, a humming machine or the well-known "TV interference signal".

Pink Noise

Pink noise is very similar to white and differs only in that the high frequencies are used more quietly than the low ones. Pink noise sounds a bit deeper and less intense than white noise, which some people find more pleasant and calming.

The sound of splashing rain, for example, is comparable. With the window open it sounds similar to white noise, with the window closed it sounds more like pink noise.

Brown Noise / Red Noise

Brown or red noise sounds even deeper overall than pink or white noise and is created by further reducing the volume of tones in the high and medium frequency ranges. The comparatively deeper and darker sounding noise is often compared to the sound of calm ocean surf or a thunderstorm.

6. Tips: White noise to improve sleep

smartsleep Schlafmagazin: White Noise Geräusche zum Einschlafen Frau schläft besser mit Rauschen und Kopfhörern

You can benefit from the proven positive effects of the noise signals especially in the evening or while falling asleep. You can find special sounds to fall asleep on YouTube, Spotify, in our sleep SOUNDS! and other platforms, or you can use a special "noise generator". To help you fall asleep and stay asleep effectively, we have put together a few tips for you to use.

By the way: You can find out here whether music can have a positive effect on falling asleep.

#1 speaker vs. Headphones

If you want to fall asleep listening to music, a podcast or one of the noise signals, it is of course recommended to use a speaker instead of headphones to prevent uncomfortable pressure on your ears or headphone cable confusion during the night.

Insert #2 sleep timer

Use a sleep timer to automatically stop playing videos or audio tracks or reduce the volume after a certain period of time. So you can slowly fall asleep without worry and no longer have to use your smartphone, laptop or speakers later in the night.

#3 Adjust volume properly

The volume at which the white, pink or brown noise sounds pleasant to you is individual. Make sure it's not set too loud, but not too quiet either. Noise that is too loud can still be perceived as disturbing during sleep, whereas too low a volume can mean that we can no longer perceive the white noise and the positive effects are missing.

7. Conclusion

  • Our hearing is also very active during sleep, which is why noise that occurs at night is a common reason for problems falling and staying asleep
  • White noise is a monotonous sound that can calm the body, brain and nervous system and mask distracting noise
  • White noise has been shown to help reduce stress, make it easier to fall asleep, and promote staying asleep
  • In addition to white noise, pink noise and brown noise also have a positive effect on stress perception, relaxation and sleep

Greetings and see you soon!

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