So you’ve secured the best sheets in all the land, your cozy pajamas are on deck, and your mattress is top-notch—but you still can’t manage to doze off peacefully. Bringing the best white noise machine into the mix might be the fix you’ve been searching for. Whether the wall clock in your living room seems to grow exponentially louder the second you lie down, or dead silence magnifies that internal voice spewing off your mental to-do list—a white noise machine has the potential to finally bring on some solid shut-eye. With so many options on the market, Glamour editors wanted to figure out which ones deserve a spot on your nightstand—so for Sleep Month, we put them to the test. From portable devices to free apps, these are the eight best white noise machines of 2020—along with expert answers to your burning questions around the popular technological sleep aids.
What is a white noise machine?
A white noise machine is a device designed to drown out unwanted sounds that might keep you up at night, or trigger distraction during a deep sleep session. Sometimes they mimic nature sounds like waterfalls or wind, but the most popular sounds are uninterrupted white, pink, and brown noise—which vary in frequency, and allow “unwanted noises that do occur to become less noticeable and thus less disturbing,” explains Sam Nicolino, President and CEO of Adaptive Sound Technologies. “As an analogy, a tiny ink spot on a blank sheet of paper grabs your attention, but the same ink spot on a speckled sheet is not even seen.” So while you can’t control whether a horn honks or your partner starts snoring to high heavens, a white noise machine can help drown out surprise sounds and keep you snoozing through the night.
How do white noise machines work?
Back in the day, your family may have used a good ol’ fashioned fan to get to sleep, but these days there’s a range of white noise machines to consider—from new-age devices with electrically-generated sounds, to command-able smart speakers, to decades-old classics with tiny fans inside. “There are two types of white-noise machines–electronic and electromechanical,” says Steve Cummings of YogaSleep. “The former produces sounds with electronics (most are circuit boards), and electromechanical options have real physical parts, driven by electricity, that make the sound. In our case, there’s a real fan inside which resonates out of a dome-shaped shell.”
The plethora of machines on the market deliver a range of repeating or non-repeating sounds, and are available in different sizes, volumes, and price points. “The general theory is that sound machines, essentially, fill in the troughs of silence and minimize the startling effect by reducing the arousal effect of abrupt sounds,” says Cummings.
Where to buy white noise machines
Amazon has a wide selection of top-rated white noise machines, with thousands of impassioned reviewers detailing their best features (and shortcomings), and Bed Bath and Beyond is a good option if you’re looking to shop in-person.
Is a white noise machine good for babies?
Being a new parent comes with countless challenges, but getting your baby to fall (and stay) asleep might be the biggest one of all. A 1990 study on white noise and sleep induction found white noise can get babies to fall asleep faster, and some devices are designed with little ones in mind, such as the Hatch Baby Rest Sound Machine and Night Light. Check with your pediatrician on recommended volumes for your child, and be prepared to keep the machine around for the long haul. “If you want to introduce a white noise machine into your baby’s bedtime routine, prepare to keep it around for 3-5 years,” pHd board certified sleep specialist Michael Breus advises. “Kids do not adapt well to change, so if you use a noise machine and they get used to it, you will need to bring it on trips, etc. It’s no different than a teddy bear.”
So, you’re ready to experience white noise for yourself. We tested and narrowed down the eight best options to shop now, based on various needs. Read Glamour editors’ takes on why these machines worked for them, and get ready for game-changing snoozes ahead.
Sleep is a $70 billion industry—we throw our money at a dreamier night’s rest, promise ourselves we’ll prioritize it, and then gripe when we’re still, inevitably, so tired. Despite our collective obsession with sleep, we seem totally unable to get more of it. In fact, we’re clocking fewer hours than ever. So, this month, we’re taking a look at what’s getting in the way—and what to do about it.