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White noise machines help block out environmental sounds, which can help some people sleep. Some people also use white noise machines to help them focus or to soothe infants.

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White noise machines emit sounds designed to help people relax or fall asleep. White noise has a fixed frequency and tone, which may mask disturbing sounds such as snoring and thunderstorms.

People may use portable white noise machines to block sounds while traveling or working.

White noise machines may promote restful sleep, improve cognitive ability, and help children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) focus on tasks.

A small study from 2020 found that listening to white noise at 75 decibels helped elementary school students with ADHD focus in class and engage in better sleeping practices at home, even if the white noise was only played during class.

Writing about how white noise may improve sleep for those in noisy environments, the authors of a small 2021 study stated that white noise machines helped reduce sleep disturbances.

A 2016 study looking into the effect of white noise on people in coronary care found that white noise machines also helped the participants block out environmental noise. White noise also reduced the time it took them to fall asleep and increased the quality and length of their sleep.

Additionally, a 2017 study found that using white noise in learning exercises helped adults with no health or cognitive conditions recall and retain new words better than those who did not listen to white noise. This suggests that white noise machines may improve cognitive performance.

A person may wish to consider the following factors when purchasing a white noise machine:

  • Non-repeating sounds: Some people may find it easier to sleep if a white noise machine plays non-repeating sounds.
  • Volume and tone control: A person may wish to purchase a machine that allows them to set the volume and tone of the sounds.
  • Sleep timers: Some individuals may wish to purchase a white noise machine that features a sleep timer. These machines will automatically stop playing sounds after a set amount of time has passed.
  • Headphone connectivity: People who share bedrooms with others may wish to purchase a white noise machine that has a headphone jack or Bluetooth connectivity.
  • Image projection: Some machines project images onto the wall while playing sounds. This may be beneficial for infants and young children.
  • Price: A person should consider their budget when purchasing a white noise machine. More expensive machines may play a wider range of white and ambient sounds, such as ocean noise.

Medical News Today chooses products that fit the following criteria:

  • Budget: MNT chooses products that will suit a wide range of budgets.
  • Features: MNT chooses products with different features, such as image projection, headphone connectivity, and sleep timers.
  • Noise variety: MNT chooses products that offer a wide range of white noise, fan, and ambient sound options.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

Best for snoring: LectroFan High Fidelity White Noise Sound Machine

This white noise machine helps block out environmental noises such as snoring. It produces non-repeating sounds, including 10 different fan sounds and 10 ambient noise variations.

This model has precise volume controls so people can set it at their preferred level. It also has a sleep timer. People can power this white noise machine with an AC adaptor or USB cable.

Reviewers say this portable white noise machine effectively blocks unwanted sounds at night, especially snoring.

However, there is not a display to tell people which sound is currently playing.

The pros and cons a person can consider include:

Pros:

  • blocks unwanted environmental noises, especially snoring
  • produces over 20 repeating sounds
  • has volume controls
  • has sleep timer

Cons:

  • no display screen
  • uses repeating sounds
  • some users report it is not durable past 2 years of use

The LectroFan High Fidelity White Noise Machine costs $49.95.

Best small machine: LectroFan Micro2 Sleep Sound Machine

This white noise machine claims to be one of the smallest on the market, measuring 2 by 2.1 inches and weighing 6.4 ounces. It is suitable for small spaces, such as office cubicles, and use while traveling.

This product uses a USB connection and rechargeable lithium batteries for power. It can also connect to devices via Bluetooth.

The LectroFan Micro2 Sleep Sound Machine includes five fan noise settings, four white noise settings, and two ocean noise settings.

According to reviews, the sound quality is good, considering the size of the speaker. However, they say the sound quality is slightly worse when connecting their music to the machine.

Reviewers also state that this product helps them sleep and block out noise while traveling.

The pros and cons of this product may include:

Pros:

  • fits in small spaces
  • great for travel
  • 11 different noise settings
  • rechargeable
  • portable

Cons:

  • sound quality decreases when connected to Bluetooth

The LectroFan Micro2 Sleep Sound Machine costs $34.95.

Best for small budgets: HoMedics White Noise Sound Machine

This product is a very affordable option that will suit smaller budgets. It is compact and portable, so people can take it wherever they go. It includes six sounds: white noise, thunder, ocean, rain, summer night, and brook.

This product includes an auto-off timer so people can choose to turn off the sounds after 15, 30, or 60 minutes. People can either plug this product into a wall outlet or use four AA batteries, which are not included, to power it.

Reviewers say this product has a good volume range and is very easy to use. However, it may not last as long as some of the more expensive options on the market. Some reviewers have also had difficulty keeping the batteries in the battery compartment.

Pros:

  • affordable
  • compact and portable
  • auto-off timer
  • easy to use
  • range of environmental sounds

Cons:

  • reports that it is less durable than more expensive models
  • no batteries included
  • users report problems with the battery compartment

The HoMedics White Noise Sound Machine costs $24.01.

Best for automatic sound adjustment: Adaptive Sound Technologies Sound + Sleep SE Special Edition

This product is one of the more expensive white noise machines available. It has adaptive sound technology, which automatically adjusts the volume to drown out any environmental noises while switched on.

This white noise machine includes 64 non-repeating sounds. People can also use the device to play their own music. It includes a sleep timer that turns the machine off automatically after 30, 60, 90, or 120 minutes. It also has dual USB power ports and a headphone jack.

Reviewers say this product effectively blocks background noises, with one reviewer saying that it helps with their tinnitus.

Others say that the noises help their dogs relax during fireworks and storms.

Some users have noticed that not all sounds are immediately available and that they have had to perform factory resets to be able to use all 64 sounds.

Pros:

  • adaptive sound technology with automatic volume adjustment
  • 64 non-repeating sounds
  • sleep timer with adjustable automatic shut off
  • USB power ports
  • may help with tinnitus

Cons:

  • expensive
  • not all sounds are available straight away

The Adaptive Sound Technologies Sound + Sleep SE Special Edition costs $99.95 for the black model and $129.95 for the white model.

Best for children: Munchkin Sound Asleep Nursery Projector and Sound Machine with LED Nightlight

This product aims to help infants and young children get to sleep. As well as white noise, it includes the sounds of a heartbeat, ocean noises, two lullabies, and two Mozart compositions.

It can also project three different images onto the wall, including rainforest and ocean scenes. People can set this machine to turn off automatically after 15, 30, or 60 minutes.

Reviewers say this product effectively keeps infants and young children asleep, and their children like the images the machine projects. It is also small and compact.

Some users say the images are not smooth and tend to shake every few seconds.

Pros:

  • provides ambient sounds, lullabies, and Mozart compositions
  • projects images onto walls
  • automatic shutoff
  • compact size

Cons:

  • projected images on walls can be shaky

The Munchkin Sound Asleep Nursery Projector and Sound Machine with LED Nightlight costs $32.99.

Best dual sound machine and digital clock radio: HoMedics SoundSpa Dual Alarm Digital FM Clock Radio

This 2-in-1 alarm clock and white noise machine allows people to fall asleep to white noise and wake up to music from a favorite radio station. White noise options include eight nature sounds: ocean, brook, rainforest, thunder, rain, fan, and campfire.

The time displays in blue light on a screen with a swivel projector that can be turned on and off. The time projection radio automatically adjusts to daylight savings time with advanced automatic time setting technology.

The product comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Pros:

  • dual alarm clock and white noise machine
  • eight nature sound white noise options
  • swivel screen projector
  • advanced automatic time setting technology

Cons:

  • dim lighting disappears when adjusting
  • users report that sounds are on a short loop

The HoMedics Soundspa Dual Alarm Digital FM Clock Radio costs $38.32.

The table below looks at how the best white noise machines compare.

LectroFan High FidelityLectoFan Micro2 SleepHoMedics White Noise Sound MachineAdaptive Sound Technologies Special EditionMunchkin Sound AsleepHoMedics SoundSpa Dual Alarm
Best forblocking snoringsmall sizesmall budgetsadaptive sound technologyinfants and childrenmultiple functions
Proover 20 repeating soundssuitable for travelaffordableuses 64 non-repeating sounds
features soothing sounds and light projectionsfeatures eight nature sounds
Conno display screenlower sound quality with Bluetoothproblems with durabilityexpensiveimage projections can be shakysounds are on a short loop
Price$49.95$34.95$24.01$99.95 or $129.95$32.99$38.32

People can use white noise machines to block environmental sounds while sleeping, working, or traveling.

Although each white noise machine may have different instructions for use, people generally need to:

  1. Plug in the machine or insert batteries and turn it on.
  2. Cycle through the sounds.
  3. Set the volume and tone frequency.
  4. Set an auto-off sleep timer.

If a person uses headphones, they should connect them to the white noise machine.

Although white noise can be beneficial, people should be careful about the volume of the white noise from their machine — particularly if they use it to soothe infants.

A 2014 study in the journal Pediatrics found that white noise machines regularly emit noise high enough to cause hearing damage in infants. This noise level may also affect certain aspects of development, such as speech and language development.

As a result, parents and caregivers should use white noise machines:

  • at the lowest volume setting
  • for short periods
  • at a distance, placing the machine as far away from the infant as possible

White noise machines with sleep timers allow people to automatically switch off the noise once an infant falls asleep.

Adults should not increase the volume of a white noise machine to more than 70 decibels. Any sound over 85 decibels can damage hearing over time.

A range of white noise apps is available on smartphones and other smart devices. People may prefer an app as a more travel-friendly alternative to a white noise machine.

Learn about the best white noise apps here.

Alternative methods for masking disturbing noises during rest or sleep include headphones for sleeping and earplugs.

In addition to masking noise, people can try other methods for inducing sleep, such as:

  • going to bed at the same time each day
  • doing something relaxing before bed, such as taking a warm bath
  • using blackout blinds or curtains to block light from the room
  • minimizing background noises and disturbances
  • soundproofing the bedroom if they live in a noisy environment

If a person cannot sleep due to another member of the household snoring, they may find earplugs helpful.

If possible, people can reduce the chance of snoring by avoiding alcohol before bed and sleeping on their back. Sleeping on one’s side or with the head slightly elevated may also help.

Learn more tips on how to improve sleep here.

Below are some frequently asked questions about white noise machines.

Is it better to sleep without a white noise machine?

It is a matter of personal preference to sleep with or without a white noise machine.

White noise can help people fall asleep quicker and may provide more restful sleep. Some people may use a white noise machine to block out environmental sounds during work or travel.

What is the best white noise machine?

There is no one best white noise machine.

People should consider their individual needs when purchasing a white noise machine. Some people may prefer a portable machine, while others may prefer a product that offers a wider range of sounds.

Is rain white noise?

Many white noise machines include rain sounds. However, rain is pink noise because it generally has a lower frequency than white noise.

White noise machines can help improve sleep quality and focus in adults and children. Many white noise machines are available with various additional features, including sleep timers, nature sounds, and portability.

However, although white noise machines can be beneficial, they may cause hearing damage if a person uses them for long periods. They can also exceed the volume limits that experts recommend for infants. Therefore, people should use white noise machines at low volumes and place the device far away from the bed or crib.