Why Does White Noise Help Babies Sleep?

baby sleep white noise

Why Does White Noise Help Babies Sleep?

Believe it or not, white noise machines do actually help babies sleep. It’s not just a marketing gimmick.

Before being born, your baby spend months inside their mother’s womb. Inside there, it’s pitch black.

It’s also full of sounds such as mother’s voice, hearbeat, digestion sounds and many outside sounds.

According to experts it is estimated to reach as much as 80 to 90 decibels, similar to the sound of a fully-booked restaurant on a busy day.

 When your little one is born into this world, they’re taken from a dark and noisy environment into a bright and hushed world.

Although, as parents, we do this with good intentions, our babies will find the drastic shift in environment disconcerting.

The result?  They may find it difficult to fall asleep.

How White Noise Helps Babies Sleep Better

White noise, and not necessarily those coming from a white noise machine, replicate the same environment that an infant grew up in for nine months.

This can have a calming effect, especially on cranky and over tired infants.

This results in them falling asleep faster and staying asleep for a longer time.

For a better idea of how white noise helps, just think about how consistently noisy the world is.

Pause for a second and listen to everything around you.

You’ll also notice that every few minutes or so, there’s a sudden and sometimes loud, potentially disturbing noise that can wake you up, especially if the environment is mostly silent.

As your little one goes through his natural sleep cycle with periods of light sleep every 20 minutes or so white noise drowns out pretty much all the noise from the outside world.

The constant sound of white noise also masks sudden loud noises which may startle and wake your sleeping baby. 

This means that all your baby hears for much of their sleep is not how quiet the outside world is, but the noise of the white-noise machine or white noise video. 

The consistent and droning sound of the white-noise machine or  white noise video provides a calming and comforting effect by mimicing the sounds of the womb. 

That makes it easier for your baby to fall asleep and encourages them to fall right back to sleep if they wake up in the middle of the night.

How Loud is Too Loud For White Noise?

There are several alternatives to buying a white noise machine.

For example, you can download apps or a white noise video on your smartphone and/or tablet that basically does the same thing as a white noise machine.

Other more traditional methods include the “natural” noise that your air conditioner or a fan  makes at night.

But still, we do recommend using a white-noise machine or using a video, just because it’s purpose built for this.

Now that you’ve bought yourself a white-noise machine or have a video  for your little one  you might wonder, how loud should I have the volume set?

The answer to this depends mostly on what your infant prefers. There’s really no universal answer.

Some infants prefer it to be louder, while some want less noise.

Set the volume to what is comfortable for you and lower the volume if it becomes too uncomfortable. Chances are, your baby will  find the noise just as uncomfortable.

It is better for baby white noise to be too quiet than too loud. 

Check out this pure baby white noise video from Best Baby Lullabies. 

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Our Experts

Our Expert

Jane Cooke - Baby Sleep Expert