Is it safe to use white noise to put your infant to sleep?

The most recent research on utilising white noise and sound machines to put your infant to sleep may be found here. Pink noise, too? What the heck is that?

Since we successfully sleep-trained our first child, I’ve been a proponent of white noise. We even bring our white noise machines for both kids when we travel cross-country to see relatives, and I once had to make a last-minute dash to Walmart to replace one that had broken during the trip. After understanding that studies suggest this more natural sound spectrum may aid in children’s sleep, I’m now considering upgrading to a machine that contains what’s known as pink noise.

However, other parents, like my in-laws, insist that their children developed good sleeping habits since their family never limited noise around them and the infants learnt to sleep through anything.

Who then is correct? You must be aware of the following.

White noise’s benefits

Contrary to popular belief, most newborn babies do better sleeping with background noise than they do in silence.

Robyn Stremler, a nurse, sleep researcher, and associate professor at the University of Toronto, claims that because the baby spent so many months in the womb, they would have heard a type of shushing, swishing sound within. White noise can be used to simulate it.

Newborns who sleep in rooms with white noise are more likely to do so within five minutes and to sleep for longer lengths while it’s on, according to a tiny research that was published in the BMJ (previously known as the British Medical Journal).

According to Wendy Hall, a sleep expert and retired professor from the School of Nursing at UBC, not all babies will require that noise as they develop into toddlers. It appears to be a temperamental issue. She claims that some children might be put to sleep during a boisterous dinner party and would fall asleep. «Yet, a lot of the families I work with tell me that they have a child who is an exceptionally light sleeper and who wakes up at the slightest sound, even when they are sound asleep.»

White noise can be used to cover up sudden noises that wake children up, such as yelling siblings or loud traffic, if you live in a tiny place or a noisy neighbourhood.

Is pink noise better than white noise?

The entire audio spectrum, from extremely low to very high noises, is included in white noise. White noise can be heard, for instance, in the whir of a fan or the static from a radio between stations. Pink noise, which has fewer high frequencies and is frequently found in nature—wind, rain, or a heartbeat—includes less of the high frequencies. But, it’s crucial to search for constant noises, like as rain, as opposed to recordings that have noise bursts, such as sporadically whooshing ocean waves, whale sounds, or insect chirping, which could jar a baby awake.

Pink noise, which is more soothing than white noise’s hiss, is preferred by certain people who find it difficult to fall asleep when exposed to white noise. There is a lot of data to support the idea that pink noise has some advantages. According to studies, pink noise helps people fall asleep more rapidly, stay asleep longer, and shift into deeper non-REM sleep.

According to a 2012 study in the Journal of Theoretical Biology, for instance, individuals’ brainwaves shifted and they spent more time in deep sleep when pink noise was present in their bedroom. According to one study, listening to pink noise while you sleep improves adult memory. Nonetheless, Hall highlights some crucial limitations: These studies are smaller and focus on adults rather than children. They also contrast pink noise with silence rather than with white noise.

The danger of hearing damage exists regardless of the type of noise you select, if any. The maximum decibel level of some white noise devices, which is 85, is as loud as a hair dryer, according to a study by experts at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. Babies are at danger for hearing loss over time if the machine is on that loud. Researchers advise parents to keep the machine as far away from the baby’s bed as they can and to keep the noise down, preferably below 50 decibels (about as loud as a regular conversation). Hall also asserts that pink noise is probably safer.The human ear is less sensitive to low-frequency noises than it is to high-frequency sounds, thus because it is at the lower end of the frequency spectrum, it is less likely to damage hearing.

The SickKids researchers also advise configuring the white noise machine to turn off once the baby drifts off to sleep, but Hall argues that this is unreasonable because infants who drift off to sleep with noise will need to hear the sound throughout the night. If that sound isn’t there, she says, «Your child will wake up looking for it.» When you play white or pink noise before bed, babies develop a sleep association with it, which means they’ll always require it to doze off. According to Stremler, that’s not always a bad thing because it’s very normal for infants to associate anything with sleep that occurs right before bed.

She explains that many things, like being rocked, breastfeeding, and twirling Mom’s hair, children can associate with sleep. Pink and white noise don’t require much parental involvement, thus they aren’t as unpleasant in comparison.


White noise facilitates new-word learning from context
Noise as a sleep aid: A systematic review
[Auditory threshold for white noise]
Noise pollution
Swaddling: Is it Safe for Your Baby?


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