The Science of White Noise: How It Affects Sleep Quality

Struggling with sleep? Read our article to learn more about how white noise enhances your sleep by promoting relaxation and extending your sleep duration.


Sleeping in a noisy environment or just can’t relax? White noise can be a powerful antidote to sleepiness nights, providing you with plenty of benefits that only improve your sleep quality. While you might only see it as a means of tuning out the extra disturbances that keep waking you overnight, white noise can actually provide you with enhanced rest, increased deep sleep, and so much more, as we’ll explore.

This article will provide you with an in-depth look at how white noise affects sleep quality, exposing its beneficial impact on you as it promotes more profound relaxation, enhances sleep onset, and more. Let’s dive into the first way that white noise impacts your sleep quality: by masking the background noise that would have otherwise kept you wide awake.

Eliminating or Reducing the Environmental Noise

White noise is beneficial if you find yourself needing to block out environmental noises that can disturb your overall sleep. From the odd honk outside your window from a passing taxicab to the neighbors next door having a party until the wee hours of the morning, white noise can effectively block out a lot of these ambient, unexpected sources of noise. If you’re a light sleeper, you know the struggle—often, all too well!

Even at night, people who lived in New York City, arguably one of the busiest and noisiest cities, were studied to see how white noise affected them. Sure enough, using white noise to block out the noise effectively improved their sleep by eliminating the source of the disturbances. Some of the noises that white noise can block out include traffic, street noise, and other sounds that may interfere with your sleep environment.

Enhancing Your Relaxation

If you're getting woken up from disturbances overnight, the last thing you'll feel is relaxed. However, white noise has been proven to enhance the feelings of relaxation that you experience when you lay down to rest, whether you're catching a quick power nap or you need to sleep overnight for a busy day in the morning. For proof of this, you can look at studies from some of the busiest environments: hospitals.

For patients in intensive care units, restful sleep is essential, and researchers have proven that the use of non-pharmacological interventions like white noise actually induces greater relaxation in these individuals (Source: Intensive and Critical Care Nursing). With interventions as simple as white noise demonstrating such beneficial results, it is no wonder people are turning to this method for better sleep! Much like increased relaxation, white noise also helps with promoting even more drowsiness, so you really feel ready to sleep.

Increased Drowsiness

If you find yourself feeling wide awake when the time comes to go to sleep, did you know you can use white noise to make you feel drowsy? It's true! There have been studies on white noise and this effect, explicitly identifying exactly how long you need to listen to white noise before you become drowsy enough to sleep.

As seen in an article published in Sleep and Hypnosis, researchers found out that just 20 minutes of classical music or even simulated white noise increased drowsiness and the ability to light sleep. That’s great news for many who want to avoid wearing headphones overnight! All you have to do is spend less than half an hour preparing yourself for sleep, and when the time comes, you'll be more than ready to lie down to get some quality rest and relaxation.

Extended and Continuous Sleep

Sleeping throughout the entirety of the night can be a challenge, especially for teens and adolescents. Fortunately, white noise can be an excellent solution for those who struggle to sleep the entire night or for longer durations. This doesn't just go for deep sleep but for the entirety of your sleep cycle. Research has actually shown that when you listen to white noise, you'll be able to improve sleep quality and encourage regular sleep cycles.

Part of this is because white noise increases your acoustic threshold, meaning that you will be less stimulated because your brain is already listening to a collection of different sounds within the white noise (Source: ScienceDirect). So, if you’re looking for longer, less interrupted sleep, then you should definitely try white noise to experience improved, regular sleep cycles.

Longer Deep Sleep

Not only can white noise improve the length of your uninterrupted sleep, but it can also promote deeper sleep as a result. If you find yourself getting up in the morning and feeling absolutely tired, then you likely will benefit from the use of white noise. White noise has been proven to trigger even deeper sleep so you can feel more rested, experience normal non-REM and REM sleep cycles, and wake up feeling refreshed.

White noise increases drowsiness, extends uninterrupted sleep, and eliminates background noise so you can relax even more, so it only makes sense that you enjoy deeper sleep. Best of all, you don't even need that much white noise to enjoy this benefit. As discussed, all it takes is a few minutes, and you'll experience the best rest you've probably had in a while!

Will You Use White Noise to Improve Your Sleep?

Will you be implementing white noise into your bedtime routine? With so many beneficial impacts as a result of using white noise, there’s no reason not to try it. We hope this article was informative and you learned more unknown facts about the transformative power of white noise!

Even if you don't struggle with your sleep but want to improve your quality of rest, you can still give this a try and implement this into your nighttime routine. Try it for just 20 minutes before bed to see how you feel. If white noise doesn't make you think too rested, you can always try other means of inducing more relaxation so your body is fully prepared for the best sleep ever.


Written by

Marie Soukup

Marie Soukup is a seasoned copywriter, editor, and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach with a certificate from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN). With years of experience working with brands across diverse industries, Marie is passionate about holistic health and crafting compelling content.

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