Benefits and Uses of White Noise
When it comes to things like sleeping, concentrating and relaxing, one of the last mechanisms you’d think of to achieve these goals would be the addition of noise. However white noise is helping people do exactly those things. As contrary as it may seem, white noise has quite a few uses and benefits.
For light sleepers who awaken to every little sound that makes a bump in the night, white noise for sleeping may be just what the doctor ordered. To get technical, it’s not really the noise of the “bump” that’s disturbing the sleeper, it’s the sudden change in the volume around them that’s waking them. By adding constant wall of sound, it’s essentially blocking the little bumps in the night. Adding sleep sounds keeps things consistent and blocks out those unwanted sounds that disturb us.
White noise for babies does everything mentioned above, plus it takes things one step further.
Newborn babies need noise… loud is normal to them. The volume inside the womb is around 75 decibels, which is about how loud a lawnmower is. After birth when they enter our world, peace and quiet can be very stressful to them. That’s why so many parents swear by using baby sleep sounds. That addition of white noise is amazingly calming to newborns. (I discuss this in greater detail in my article, “Quiet is NOT Calming for Babies”)
This may be a little misleading. White noise won’t stop someone from snoring, but it will stop the people who must sleep next to a snorer from having to hear it all night. Yes, the wonderful sound blocking qualities described above work wonderfully well for blocking out that nightly disturbance so many of us must face.
People living with ADHD sometimes have a difficult time concentrating or remaining focused on a specific task. However researchers have discovered that exposing people with ADHD to white noise actually helps them become more focused. This often has the opposite effect for non-ADHD people. Scientists aren’t exactly sure why white noise has this effect, but some suspect that just as ADHD medication increases dopamine production in the brain, the constant sound of white noise may also trigger a similar reaction. As a parent and spouse of people with ADHD, I have seen for myself that white noise does indeed help. I talk more about this in my article, “White Noise Helping Those With ADHD.”
In the Office
In my former life I worked at a TV station, and each of us had a small little TV on our desk to monitor ourselves, and the competition. But they served another useful purpose… they helped give us a little privacy. In our cramped quarter, cubicle environment, it was next to impossible to have a conversation on the phone without the whole department hearing it. However, when you turned up the volume on your TV set just loud enough, it’s noise would drown out your voice. Today many office workspaces have embraced this concept (though not quite in an obnoxious way as cranking a TV set). You’ll find a lot of office spaces that either play pure white noise, or sounds like the ocean or rain as ways of blocking out all the other sounds of the office, and as a way to give co-works a form of privacy from one another.
You may have also experienced this in doctor’s offices or waiting rooms. Noise = privacy… at least when it comes to our conversations.
Again, the idea of adding noise may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to relaxation. But then, that depends on the type of noise you’re talking about. Nature Sounds and nature sleep sounds can be a great way to find a little calm and inner peace. Be it a thunder storm, or waves crashing on the shore, or the peaceful sounds of a babbling brook… the sounds of nature tend to have a calming and relaxing effect on many of us. (And cue the reoccurring theme here… they also block out unwanted noise!)
So whether you’re looking for a little help finding sleep, peace and quiet or focus, a little extra sound provided by white noise may be the surprising missing component that will get us there.