- 1 Best All-Around White Noise Machine
- 2 Best Budget White Noise Machine
- 3 Best White Noise Machine for Travel
- 4 Best White Noise Machines With Added Features
- 5 The Best Free White Noise App for Androids
- 6 The Best Paid White Noise App for Androids
- 7 The Best Free White Noise App for iPhones
- 8 The Best Paid White Noise App for iPhones
The Best White Noise Machines, Sleep Apps, and YouTube Videos for Great Sleep Anywhere
If you don’t have the superhuman ability to sleep through a sledgehammer breaking concrete, a yappy dog down the hall, or sirens blaring at all hours, white noise is a lifesaver. Getting a decent night’s sleep in a noisy world can be tough, especially when you’re traveling and trying to catch Zs in an unfamiliar environment. Luckily, there are plenty of free and inexpensive white noise machine resources for those who’d rather not resort to earplugs or are uncomfortable sleeping in noise-cancelling headphones. Read on for a complete rundown on white noise 101 and our picks for standouts across devices and platforms. Then, go to bed.
The FAQ on White Noise
What does white noise do to you?
Human brains are wired to focus on sudden noise, which can interrupt whatever else we’re in the middle of doing—like sleeping. Generally speaking, people have different thresholds for tolerating the effects of noise—and the ability to ignore it. The concept of white noise is simple: constant noise drowns out sudden disruptions. People use white noise machines for a multitude of reasons. They can help with relaxation and combat anxiety, block out distractions while studying, and promote restful sleep.
Is it good to sleep with white noise?
White noise is an excellent way to get a full night sleep—and one that doesn’t involve taking anything internally to catch your Zs. The benefits of 7 to 9 hours of rest and hitting REM cycles are tremendous, for everything from reducing stress to improving memory and alertness to preventing disease. On the most basic level, you’re bound to be less grumpy if you aren’t running on fumes. White noise is a valuable tool in your arsenal of getting a good night’s sleep.
Can white noise be harmful?
Yes, it can be—if it’s played at a decibel above what’s recommended as safe. In general, noise above 85 decibels can cause hearing damage for adults. Keep sound machines within a 65 to 70 decibel range. For children, white noise machines shouldn’t be louder than 50 decibels.
Should white noise stay on all night?
It’s up to you; there are no negatives to keeping white noise on all night (as long as it’s played at the recommended decibel level). If you have trouble falling asleep but then stay in slumberland until your alarm goes off, you might want to set a timer on your white noise machine so you don’t have to wake up with it still going. If you’re using white noise machines for babies and don’t want the little one waking up at 3 a.m. from a car horn, it’s best to keep the white noise going on all night.
What’s the difference between white noise, pink noise, and brown noise?
Each noise color sounds different to the human ear. White noise is like TV or radio static or an intense rainstorm; pink noise sounds like steady rain or a whirring fan, and brown noise is akin to the rumble of waves coming to shore. White noise contains all frequencies audible to the human ear played with equal intensity. It’s similar to white light, which is a mix of all the colors of the spectrum. Pink noise is a mix of the same frequencies as white noise, but with less power at the high end. It takes the intensity down a notch for a more balanced overall sound. Brown noise also has the same frequencies as white noise, but with no detectable sound at the high end of the spectrum, and it’s deeper than pink noise at the low end of the spectrum. When it comes to sleeping devices, white noise is the term generally used to cover all sounds—it’s sort of an off-hand term for “pleasant noise to cover up unpleasant noise.”
The Best White Noise Machines
Best All-Around White Noise Machine
Best Budget White Noise Machine
This white noise machine delivers lots of features for its $15 price point. While a few Amazon customers mention too much range between volume settings and that defaults need resetting after it's plugged back in, overall it's a great value, with a 4.1 rating. There are five nature sounds in addition to straight up white noise and a timer that can be set for 15, 30 or 60 minutes. It’s great for travel—it comes with a 110-240V AC adaptor to use internationally—plus it’s battery operated and compact at about 4 inches wide. The buttons are on top rather than the front, which makes it easier to turn off if you’re semi-awake and want to snooze in silence a little longer. Snooze buttons were invented for a reason.
Best White Noise Machine for Travel
Our pick for best overall noise machine is this little guy’s much bigger older sibling, but we’re hard-pressed to find anything better for travel. It’s powerful despite its size—just under 3 inches wide and less than five ounces, it fits in the palm of your hand. Features include 10 sounds, a swivel design that allows you to point it in the direction of your pillow, and a wireless Bluetooth speaker with a built-in microphone. It’s also rechargeable and lasts for 16 hours using white noise or about six hours for other audio. The volume adjusts at one-decibel increments, too, so you don’t have to deal with it being louder than necessary. It’s available in white or black with silver detail, and comes with a USB power cable. Make space in your carry-on for this dream machine.
Best White Noise Machines With Added Features
The Sound+Sleep machine has 30 non-looping recordings, excellent sound, and the smarts to gauge the level of noise in your environment and adjust accordingly. It also has a higher price tag than our other picks. The main reason to shell out extra cash for the Sound+Sleep machine is for its high-fidelity speakers and quality of sound. It has other plusses too, including the ability to connect to earbuds or a sleep pillow, a timer ranging from 30- to 120-minutes, and an auto-dimming front panel. This is the white noise machine you need if you're visiting an all-night kind of city like Manhattan, Hong Kong, or Mumbai.
The Best White Noise Apps
The Best Free White Noise App for Androids
It’s hard to overlook nearly 45,000 reviews and a five-star rating when considering the awesomeness of an app. Android users go ga-ga for this freebie, and we bet you’ll have a clue as to why the word “generator” is in its name. The average joe (or Josephine) can play DJ and create custom white-noise mixes by adjusting the sound effects. Even better: You don’t need to be a soundboard master to play. It’s a snap to start with chirping birds and add in, say, a babbling brook. The downside is that free means ads at the bottom of the screen, but the timer is a bonus. You really can't put a price on free sleep.
The Best Paid White Noise App for Androids
The Atmosphere Android app has an average five-star rating from about 45,000 users, and customizable sound mixes—with more than 100 recordings available. Atmosphere is a 2.0 white noise app, following the trend toward pink noise rather than high-octane white noise (see above for the difference). The catalog of sounds has options including coffee shop chatter, the whoosh of a passing train, and standard nature sounds, like a beach and forest. There’s also a timer to safeguard against accidental phone battery drains. Not bad for a mere $2.49. Note, this app has a free option with fewer features and is also available for IOS.
The Best Free White Noise App for iPhones
The Rain Rain Sleep app has been around for ages, and fans stand by the adage of "don't mess with what works." It comes with 35 versions of—you guessed it—rain recordings, with choices such as “rain on a tent” and “rain dripping” and “rain in the car” to lull you to sleep. The best feature (which other apps charge for) is the custom mixing to adjust volume and dream up your ultimate rain-sound fantasy, like a crackling campfire with rain in the background. Like most freebie apps it includes ads, but with this, they’re fairly small and at the bottom. There’s also a fade-out timer and options to control sound fade and balance. This app is the second best thing to taking a nap during a real rainstorm.
The Best Paid White Noise App for iPhones
Sleepers who want fun features like noise mixing tools that are easy to figure out but don’t want to compromise on quality of sound should take a look at White Noise. There are 40 tracks to try out in the full version (there’s also a free and pro option available), plus more than 20 alarm sounds with fade-in and background playback, which allows you to listen to frogs croaking or cats purring while using other apps. Another perk: The platform gives hopeful white-noise-mixing stars a place to show off and share recordings with other users. The full version of the app is $1.99, and is also available for Android. Sleep tight!
And Three YouTube Videos With White Noise
There’s a slew of white noise YouTube videos that show actual white noise machines and feature a recording of their sounds. We can’t knock it (it’s free, it works), but there are plenty of YouTubers out there creating more artful programming, paying attention to details like sound quality and visuals. Each of our picks below checks boxes for examples of white, pink, and brown noise, respectively. And all are either 9 or 10 hours long, which should get you through the night. Shuteye ahead!
Rain Sounds delivers powerful white noise, and has more than 71M views.
The pink noise in Gentle White Noise for Sleep, which has 464K views, comes from a heater fan, and is much softer and more soothing than the first.
Celestial White Noise, with 35M views, has a deep, intense drone, great HD sound, and a dreamy stardust image to gaze at while you drift off.
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