White noise and sleep – what gives?

White noise and sleep – what gives?

by Ashley Tan 26 Feb 2020

There are days when catching a good night’s sleep seems like an impossible feat. After we’ve exhausted methods like listening to a playlist of classical music, attempting to change our sleep cycle and counting what seems to be an endless supply of sheep, what else can one do? Turns out that listening to white noise might just be the answer to your night-time woes. 


Is it really true that listening to white noise can yield better rest at night? According to Joseph Ojile, M.D., medical director and chief executive officer of the Clayton Sleep Institute, white noise serves as a form of anti-noise. This means that it distracts your brain but doesn’t compel you to focus on it, and thus enables you to fall asleep more quickly.


White noise can also drown out other distracting sounds. As asserted by Christopher Winter, M.D., a fellow at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and medical director at the sleep centre at Martha Jefferson Hospital, white noise can drown out disruptive sounds that might have otherwise kept you up, such as your partner’s snoring, or the revving of car engines from a nearby street.   


Although there have been several sleep experts who have affirmed the benefits of listening to white noise before going to sleep, the data used to substantiate these claims is limited. In fact, there are several others who have also spoken less than favourably about the effects of white noise. Popular Science reported that some individuals felt that white noise actually increases their sensitivity to other distracting sounds that it was trying to cover up, thereby making falling sleep an even more challenging process. 


Ultimately, the best way to determine whether listening to white noise will assist you in getting a restful sleep is to try it for yourself. Who knows – the sound of waves crashing on the shore might be relaxing to you in the day, but turn bothersome at night.