It is perhaps inherent of us to believe that babies, being humans, and possessing the natural instincts of hunger and sleep will fall asleep on their own, right? Wrong! While babies learn the routines associated with sleep, it often requires creating the right environment for them to fall asleep independently. After all, they spent months in the womb- where sounds are no exception. The womb is actually a relatively busy environment where the baby acclimatizes to the outside world through muffled sound waves as they pass through the amniotic fluid. However, even beyond that, they hear the heart beating, the gurgling of the stomach, and even blood passing through the umbilical cord. The American Academy of Pediatrics says the recommended noise level for infants is 50 dB, in hospital nurseries but research has alluded to the fact that the decibel level in the womb is an approximately 80. Thus, contrary to popular belief, a still and silent environment is thought to be disorienting to babies. I suppose now that the internal noise factor is understood, we can better understand why the benefits of noise machines that emanate white noise, brown noise, etc are of importance as parents work towards creating a sleep routine for their new baby.
A study from the University of Sussex explains that the brains of humans, “continue to process sensory stimuli even as they sleep and white noise helps to minimize the patterns or sudden changes in environmental noises that our brain would pick up on.” Some kinds of “noise” that scientific research has proven to be effective at masking sounds from our environment while helping babies sleep are: 1) Nature Sounds- The brain’s cognitive response to nature sounds is shown to result in deeper relaxation. These sounds can include the falling of rain, crashing of ocean waves, wind through the trees, or a gentle evening breeze. Dr. Harvey Karp, creator of the Snoo has found that “Sound doesn’t start boosting sleep until it gets to 60 to 65 dB.” This is the sound frequency associated with most nature sounds which make it an ideal type of noise for babies.
2) Brown Noise- This sound pitch lowers the higher frequencies and resembles the mighty roaring of the ocean or heavy winds. Sam Nicolino, a sound engineer describes this sound as “having more bass which is more pleasant to listen to.”
3) White Noise- This is generally used as the “catch all phrase” for noise used to mask sounds that may be common during the day but startle you at night and affect the sleep transition cycles. Too much sound and excitement is shown to create excess stimulation and stress for the baby resulting in lack of sleep, sleep regression and an increased time to transition sleep cycles.
4) Womb Sounds- Since this was the environment that babies were created in, then why not mimic that in the outside world as well? Some sound machines have incorporated the thud of the heartbeat and other bodily sounds that help to comfort the baby.
It is important to note that these noises and sounds should not be used excessively and safety standards regarding the volume of the sounds, and the distance of the noise/sound machine from the child should be adhered to at all times.
Naimah Shaw is the mother of five beautiful children and the owner/content creator of the parenting blog, This Beautiful Life. There you can find product reviews, articles and conversations about food, homeschooling and motherhood. We are pleased to have her as a regular contributor to Fade Away Sleep Sounds.