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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 are physical devices that emit sounds designed to help people relax or sleep. White noise is a type of sound that has a fixed frequency and tone, which masks disturbing sounds such as snoring and thunderstorms.

Some people may also use portable white noise machines to block out sounds while traveling or working.

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

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

A 2017 study found that the use of white noise in learning exercises helped adults with no health or cognitive conditions recall and retain new words when compared with adults who did not use a white noise machine. This suggests that white noise machines may improve cognitive performance.

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

How we choose products

Medical News Today chooses products that fit the following criteria:

  • Budget: We choose products that are available in a wide range of budgets.
  • Features: We choose products with different features, such as image projection, headphone connectivity, and sleep timers.
  • Noise variety: We choose products that offer a wide range of white noise, fan, and ambient sounds.

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 white noise 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 when they play sounds. This may be beneficial for infants and young children.
  • Price: A person may wish to consider their budget when purchasing a white noise machine. All machines offer white noise, but more expensive machines often play a wider range of white and fan sounds, as well as ambient sounds, such as ocean noise.

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.

LectroFan High Fidelity White Noise Sound Machine

Best for snoring

This white noise machine helps block out environmental noises, such as snoring, so that people can sleep without any disturbances. It creates non-repeating sounds, including 10 different fan sounds and 10 ambient noise variations.

This model has precise volume controls so that people can set it at the perfect level for them, and it also has a sleep timer. People can power this white noise machine with an AC adaptor or USB cable.

Reviewers say that this portable white noise machine effectively blocks out sounds such as snoring, storms, and other environmental noises. However, there is not a display to tell people which sound is currently playing.

The LectroFan High Fidelity White Noise Machine has a list price of around $45.

LectroFan Micro2 Sleep Sound Machine

Best small machine

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

This product uses a USB connection and internal 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.

Reviewers also state that this product helps them sleep and block out noise while traveling. However, when connecting their own music to the machine, they say that the sound quality is slightly worse.

The LectroFan Micro2 Sleep Sound Machine has a list price of around $35.

HoMedics White Noise Sound Machine

Best affordable machine

This product is one of the most affordable white noise machines available. It is compact and portable, so people can take it wherever they go. It includes six different sounds: white noise, thunder, ocean, rain, summer night, and brook.

This product includes an auto-off timer so that 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 that this product has a good volume range and that it 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.

The HoMedics White Noise Sound Machine has a list price of around $20.

Adaptive Sound Technologies Sound + Sleep SE Special Edition

Best for automatic sound adjustment

This product is one of the more expensive white noise machines available. It has adaptive sound technology, which means that it 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 that this product effectively blocks out 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.

However, some people 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.

The Adaptive Sound Technologies Sound + Sleep SE Special Edition has a list price of around $110.

Munchkin Sound Asleep Nursery Projector and Sound Machine with LED Nightlight

Best for children

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 that this product is effective in keeping infants and young children asleep and that their children like the images that the machine projects. It is also small and compact.

However, some people say that the images are not smooth and tend to shake every few seconds.

The Munchkin Sound Asleep Nursery Projector and Sound Machine with LED Nightlight has a list price of around $35.

HoMedics SoundSpa Ultra-Portable Rechargeable Sound Machine

Best portable machine

This machine is one of the most portable options available. It contains rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, allowing people to use the machine for up to 12 hours before having to recharge it.

This product includes 12 different sounds, including fan, ocean, rainforest, thunderstorm, white noise, and campfire. This product also has a timer so that people can set it to turn off after a certain amount of time.

Reviewers say that this machine is long lasting and effectively blocks out environmental sounds. They also state that the machine holds its charge well. However, this model cannot plug into a power outlet.

The HoMedics Soundspa Ultra-Portable Rechargeable Sound Machine has a list price of around $60.

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

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

  1. Plug the machine in, or put batteries into the machine, 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 is using 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 coming from their machine — particularly if they are using it to soothe infants.

A 2014 study in the journal Pediatrics found that white noise machines regularly emit noise at a high enough level to cause hearing damage in infants. This level of noise 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 of time
  • 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, for use 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 necessary

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

People can reduce the chance of snoring by avoiding alcohol before bed and sleeping on their back, if possible. 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 individuals needs when purchasing a white noise machine. Some people may prefer a machine that is portable, while others may prefer a product that offers a wider range of sounds.

White noise machines can help improve sleep quality and improve focus in both adults and children. There are many white noise machines available with a variety of 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 of time. 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.