Have you ever felt that is was too quiet to sleep? Maybe you grew up in the city where there was constantly noise, or you’re used to a fan blowing at night. Maybe you’re a concert buff, and need something to distract from the ringing in your ears every Saturday night. Enter: white noise machines.
White noise machines emit white noise in the form of frequency, but also sometimes in the form of fan noises or nature sounds. This can help to mask sounds that might wake you or keep you from falling asleep, like a dog barking or a car horn.
Think of it like turning on a flashlight. When a flashlight is turned on in a dark room, it can be shocking. When you turn on a flashlight in a room that is already lit, the effect is much less startling. That’s what white noise machines do, but with sound.
We’ll get into this more scientifically down below, but let’s compare these top-rated sound machines, first. We took things into consideration like their sound, volume, cost, how they look aesthetically, and any additional features they may have.
|AT A GLANCE||PRICING||HEADLINE|
|See on Amazon||A versatile white noise machine with six sound options, volume controls, and an auto-off timer.|
|See on Amazon||The Dohm is a tried and true white noise machine that's been around for many years. It emits a soothing fan noise that's adjustable.|
|See on Amazon||The LectroFan has a simple, compact design and emits both white noise and fan sounds.|
After testing these machines on the Slumber Yard team (sometimes unwillingly), we decided our favorite was the HoMedics Sound Spa white noise machine. We liked all of the noise options, we like how small and easily portable it is, and we didn’t mind the look of it. It was also super reasonably priced.
The LectroFan was a close second, though, because we did like some of the sound options (but not all of them), and we thought it looked the best. It has to be used with an outlet, though, so it’s not as easily portable.
The HoMedics white noise machine is a #1 best seller in Amazon’s sound therapy products, and has over 8,500 customer reviews. This machine is best for traveling, and includes nature sounds along with white noise.
This was the least expensive product we reviewed, costing only about $17 on Amazon. Like we said, prices may change, though, so be sure to check for current offers.
TheHoMedics has six different sound options to choose from.
Our favorite was ocean, but we honestly felt soothed by all of them. The white noise and the ocean settings sounded similar in that they had the same tone, but different movement. We think the settings of this machine are very nostalgic. Whether you vacationed by the beach every summer or went camping, this machine has a sound that can take you back and put you at peace. We noticed that only white noise and rain did a good job of covering up other noises effectively, though.
The HoMedics has a little knob to control the volume, and it gets pretty loud. We only turned it up about halfway while we slept with it.
This machine is pretty small, about as long as your iPhone 6. It’s pretty modern and techy looking, though, so it sticks out a bit. It can be powered by either its provided adaptor and an outlet, or four double A batteries (not included). It’s so small you could easily fit it into your suitcase, and it could help you sleep better while traveling in foreign places that don’t have your normal bed and environment sounds.
It also has a timer so it will automatically turn off. You can set it for 15, 30, or 60 minutes.
The Marpac Dohm has a 4.2 star rating on Amazon with over 11,000 customer reviews, and is an Amazon’s Choice product. Marpac also owns the Yogabed, which is one of the few mattresses that has a removable and machine washable cover. Anyways, this is a very established product that has been coined the “original” sound machine, and has been on the market since 1962.
We got this machine for around $47 on Amazon.
The Dohm emits a fan-based white noise sound. It’s a true mix between white noise frequency and a fan. It has two speeds to choose from, and then you can adjust the volume within those two speeds by twisting the top of the machine. We do wish the volume could get just a bit higher, because we found when the machine was louder, it did a better job of masking other noises.
As for aesthetics, you can definitely tell this machine was made in the 60’s. It is the biggest machine of all three, and was a bit of an eyesore on our nightstand because it just doesn’t blend in well. It is available in four different colors, though, those being white, black, tan, or grey, which might give it a better chance of blending in with your room.
The LectroFan has a 4.5 star review on Amazon, with around 4,800 customer reviews. Unlike the Dohm, this sound machine doesn’t have any moving parts, and has 20 different sounds to choose from.
We got the LectroFan for around $50 on Amazon. This was the most expensive machine out of the three we compared. Prices may change, so be sure to check current offers.
The LectroFan emits both white noise frequencies, and fan sounds. There are 10 different settings for each, and it makes a little “whoop” sound when you go back to the first sound option per button. You can also adjust the volume for each noise.
The white noise button ranges from white noise, to pink noise, to brown noise, with some frequencies in between. The frequencies increase in speed as you go through them. After testing, most of us only liked the first two settings of the white noise, and then the 8th setting because it sounds like rain.
With the fan button, you can choose between 10 different fan noises, like industrial fan or oscillating fan. We think this is a thoughtful idea, as those who are used to the sound of a particular fan at night can choose that specific setting. We were indifferent to the fan noises, we could sleep with them or without. We noticed that the white noise did a better job of masking outside noises than the fan button, though.
We thought this machine looked the nicest on our nightstand. It’s an heptagon shape (seven sides), can fit in the palm of your hand, and comes in either black or white. It’s very modern looking, and doesn’t really draw any attention or stick out.
This white noise machine also has a timer so that it will automatically turn off, but the only option is 60 minutes.
White noise is the sound of all the different frequencies of audible sound that the human ear and brain can perceive, put together at a similar level. Carl Brazil, MD, and director of the Division of Sleep at York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, says that “White noise machines decrease distraction by covering up noises that could keep you awake,” making them a useful sleep tool.
Because white noise contains all audible frequencies, it is most commonly used to mask unwanted sounds, like barking dogs, car alarm sounds, or even howling coyotes. It’s also why nature sounds, such as rain, wind, waterfalls, or oceans, are often included on white noise players. There are so many different tones created by those forces of nature, that it turns into natural white noise.
White noise machines have also been proven to help with calming and concentration. Having a constant sound can be soothing for an individual, and the fact that is also absorbs distracting sounds can promote a state of calm mentality. We particularly found natural white noises, like rain, to be the most calming for us. White noise can improve concentration in a similar way, in that it absorbs other sounds. A constant, mild sound can help you get into your mental groove and keep your focus going for longer.
There is also pink noise and brown noise. Pink noise is a variation of white noise that sounds deeper, and with less of a high pitched hiss. Think of it as white noise that is louder and more powerful at the lower frequencies, like white noise with the bass turned up. Some natural pink noise can be found in the sound of waves crashing on the beach, steady rainfall, or leaves rustling in the trees.
Brown noise is not the notorious tone that makes you defecate, but is the sound of an even deeper pink noise. It’s not named after the color brown, but after Robert Brown, who discovered Brownian motion. Brown noise often sounds like rushing water, such as a waterfall or a strong river.
While white noise’s direct relationship to sleep is unknown, the effects are undeniable in the sleep department. These noises help you to fall asleep faster, and then stay asleep.
From our own research, we think there’s an element of childhood involved. If you grew up in the city, sometimes noises at night can be comforting. Or maybe you grew up falling asleep with the tv on or with a fan, and those noises can be soothing, too. A white noise machine can mimic these sounds without running up your electric bill, emitting blue light, or keeping you cold.
We noticed that those who didn’t grow up falling asleep with sound found the white noise to be bothersome, and liked the nature sounds instead, because they reminded them of summertime activities. Those who grew up falling asleep with sound opted for the fan or white noise frequency.
White noise machines can also be effective tools for babies and children that might have a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep. Many white noise machines are marketed for children, and can actually train your child’s brain to become sleepy. When you turn off the lights and turn on the white noise machine, it can help your child’s brain to recognize that it’s time for bed, and in turn, they will become sleepy.
White noise has also been useful to those who suffer from tinnitus—a ringing in the ears. It can cover up this noise by absorbing the sound. It is by no means a cure, but can just help with easing the noise.