Beginners Guide to Noise Machines: What and Why?

Anyone with children, or who has trouble sleeping or relaxing, knows the benefit of having a noise machine turned on in the bedroom. But what if you don’t have kids, what are these seemingly magical machines, and are they still useful? We’re big fans of noise machines — sometimes called white noise machines — and as such, we thought we’d give you a quick introduction to exactly what they are, how they work, and who they’re good for.

What Is a Noise Machine?

In essence, a noise machine is like a radio which isn’t tuned to a specific frequency, only the noise machine’s job is to produce just the right level of targeted sound to help you relax.

Sounds counter-intuitive to have a noise machine turned on while you’re trying to sleep, doesn’t it? But for people who have a hard time drifting off because of stress or other distracting ambient sound, the constant crackle of white noise can be incredibly effective. And in case you were thinking that there’s no way you could fall asleep listening to the sounds of the deadly ‘Ring’ tape, know that some noise machine produce other sounds, too. Crashing waves, blowing wind and sounds of the city are all common tracks on modern noise machines.

What Are Noise Machines Used For?

Plenty of parents love white noise machines for their ability to send babies off to sleep. The constant sound can also help to block out unwanted ambient sound from outdoors, neighbours or elsewhere in the house.

Many people use noise machines to help reduce stressful thoughts, and as a medical intervention, noise machines have been shown to provide relief for those suffering from conditions such as tinnitus. By giving your mind something else to focus on, something constant, the sound of the noise machine eventually becomes welcome, and is then itself tuned out, bringing peace and more restful sleep.

White, Pink, Brown and Blue Noise

Most people have heard of white noise, it’s what we call the sound that comes from radio or the TV when we’re not tuned to any channel. White noise gets its name from a comparison to white light, although the easiest way to think of white noise is as a random signal, containing all frequencies of sound audible to humans.

You might also read about other colors of light, including pink, blue, green, grey, violet and brown (sometimes called Brownian). These all sound similar to the white noise you’re familiar with, only they contain extreme levels of one particular frequency. To your ear, this makes them sound higher pitched, more bassy or harsher.

Noise Machines For Better Sleep

The most common reason people invest in a noise machine, is to help them sleep, and as well as being able to put out seemingly random static noise, some noise machines can mimic the sound of crashing waves, city streets, howling winds, thunderstorms, rainforests, a sleepy train journey, or just about anything else you can think of. The reason they’re so popular with the insomniac crowd, is that they quickly become a welcome distraction. Whether you prefer sounds of the natural world, or the equally natural, if a little more intense, sounds of the color spectrum, is up to you.

Are Noise Machines Only Good For Sleep?

Absolutely not. Noise machines are great for whenever you need to tune out the ambient noise around you, and tune in to what’s going on inside your head and your body. Many people love to turn on the noise machine to a gentle low while studying, or while practicing yoga or meditation. As a stress reliever, the noise machine brings you back inside your head, and affords you the chance to regain control over your internal world.

What To Look For in a Noise Machine

One of the key features of a great noise machine, is randomness. As soon as you become aware that you’re listening to a repeated track, the illusion is over and you can kiss your relaxation goodbye. Many high-end noise machines do a great job of mimicking or producing truly random colored noise. Those same high-end noise machines also feature soundscapes from the natural world which seem to give you a direct connection to the rainforest or the idling city; no skipping, no looping can be detected.

Another great feature to look out for is the range of settings and soundscapes. Some noise machines only produce static noise, while others are programmed with the kind of soundscapes we’ve mentioned. We recommend giving all of the tracks available on your noise machine a try, so that you can figure out which ones work best for you. It may be that you enjoy rain sounds or brown noise for bedtime, and rainforest or white noise for during your yoga sessions. Experiment, and see what’s what.
Personal preference is a big deal when it comes to choosing a noise machine. We recommend checking out a few soundscapes on YouTube first, to get a sense of which kind of ambient noise is going to work best for you. After that, it’s sweet dreams.