White Noise and Sleep

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December 12, 2021
3 min read

Have you ever noticed your baby sleeps more soundly when the vacuum is going or washing machine is on?

Babies LOVE white (background) noise and it will become a very positive sleep association for your baby.

But why is white noise so soothing for babies?

If  we consider the concept of the 4th trimester; this helps us to understand where the most effective settling techniques are derived. Different measures like swaddling, shushing, patting, rocking a newborn – to essentially return us to the feeling of being in the womb – are extremely effective.

If you think about what a baby is hearing when in the womb – it’s similar to listening to things when under water. This is the theory behind white noise as a settling technique. As your baby grows, it remains a positive association, helps your baby link their sleep cycles and drowns out external and household noises.

It is inexpensive, easy and portable.

There are many free apps available that create these sounds; portable USB charged and plug in machines can also be purchased. These offer true white noise but also nature sounds such as rain, ocean sounds and more. Either option, white noise or nature sounds, are fine to use.

Whichever you use, it should be played at a medium level (around the volume level of a shower running) and when your baby is crying, it can be turned up so they can hear it over their cries, then turned down when calm and settled. It should be played for every sleep, for the entire duration of sleep, even overnight, and it’s amazing how many parents tell me they now love white noise too and their sleep has benefited!

It’s never too late to introduce white noise

However if your baby is over 1 year old then I recommend first considering some nature sounds as it is an easier transition from having no noise at all.

When do you need to stop using white noise?

It’s perfectly safe to continue to use white noise throughout childhood and adolescence, but if you do want to start weaning your toddler or child off, then simply turn it down bit by bit every night until they no longer need it.

Other colour noises

More recently, research has popped up regarding different forms of white noise, including pink, brown and black.

White noise covers all audible frequencies of sound.

PINK noise is deeper, like having a bass rumble. Rain or a heartbeat are examples of pink noise, with a deeper feel to it.

BROWN noise moves deeper still, like the sound of a waterfall continually crashing, or a deep rumbling of thunder.

BLACK noise is the exact opposite – an absence of sound, like one would hear in outer space. Some adults prefer absolute silence to sleep, but babies often find this quite disconcerting.

Of all the background noise colours and frequencies, only white noise has scientific data that supports it.

Won’t my baby get addicted to white noise?

The short answer is YES…. but the long one is it doesn’t matter.  As discussed above it’s inexpensive, easy and portable.

Learn more about the Dr Golly Philosophy here.

Shop the Dr Golly Sleep Program age appropriate routines here.