Why Does White Noise Help People Sleep?
By Colin Lecher
On its face, flipping on white noise before hitting the sack must be the most counterintuitive idea out there. Want to sleep better? Simple solution: make a bunch of noise. Sweet dreams ahoy.
White noise, if you’re using the technical definition, is a consistent noise that comes out evenly across all hearable frequencies. Say you’re a musician. To play a middle C note, you play something that’s about 261.6 hertz, the unit of frequency. White noise is just an equal amount at every frequency, from low to high, that a human being can hear. To keep the music analogy going, it’s a gigantic band all playing a slightly different note. (Machines pushed to the limit, like fans, are especially good at hitting these notes.)
When a noise wakes you up in the night, it’s not the noise itself that wakes you up, per se, but the sudden change or inconsistencies in noise that jar you. White noise creates a masking effect, blocking out those sudden changes that frustrate light sleepers, or people trying to fall asleep. …