White Noise. It’s not just a horror film, you know. To parents in the know, it is one of the most effective ways to help a baby sleep. But why? And what kinds of noises do we mean? And how do you go about using white noise as a sleep aid? Well, hopefully this post will tell you all that you need to know!
What is white noise?
To put it simply, it is a sound that drowns out background noises. White noise is usually low in volume and is similar to the sound a television set used to make back in the days before 24 hour viewing. Another way to put it is that it sounds a lot like the static that you can get on the TV. The Term ‘white noise’ is also used to describe other other types of constant sounds, such as extractor fans, washing machines, vacuum cleaners and other machinary. In terms of a baby sleep aid, white noise can also come in the form of nature sounds, a beating heart, or whooshing sounds that emulate the noises heard in utero.
Why is white noise used as a sleep aid?
As already mentioned, white noise drowns out other background sounds that may keep a person awake. So rather than hearing chatter from a television downstairs, you hear a constant, unchanging sound instead. White noise helps the brain to blend all background noises into one sound so that there is less to concentrate on, and thus aiding sleep.
For babies, white noise replicates many of the sounds they have been hearing in the womb. If you think about it, all of that blood rushing through arteries, voices from ‘the beyond’ and other gurgles all add up to quite a noisy environment. Many newborn babies are not used to life being so quiet, and so white noise provides a little familiarity for them as they settle in. White noise blocks out stimulation in a room, making it easy for babies to feel safe, secure and able to sleep.
How to use white noise for babies
White noise has been proven to be highly effective in aiding sleep and helping to calm and soothe babies, but there are a few things to consider before you go out and spend lots of money on various devices and instruments.
- It needs to be loud. Newborn babies are born with only near perfect hearing. The middle ear is filled with fluid and the whole hearing system is immature too. This means that white noise, to be effective, needs to be loud enough to be heard- and loud enough to drown out other sounds in the house too. If the gadget you’re thinking of buying seems a little quiet, chances are it is in fact too quiet.
- It shouldn’t be too loud! I know we’ve said it needs to be loud, but if you can’t hear yourself think then the volume is too high! White noise should be at a level in which YOU can sleep through it too.
- You don’t need to invest in toys, CDs or apps to achieve white noise. Depending on which room you are in, a radio, vacuum cleaner or fan will work just as well. Choose a device that does not switch itself off- toys and CDs will all come to an and, but a radio set to static will not. Leading to the next point…
- Make it continuous. Studies have shown that babies sleep longer when white noise is present and often wake when it ends. Make sure you keep this in mind.
- Don’t worry about your baby becoming ‘over reliant’ on white noise. Many babies sleep well with white noise for up to a year, and as they get older you can start to wean them from it gradually.
Other benefits of using white noise
If you sleep in with your baby, you may find that YOU sleep better with white noise too. This is due to the fact that other background sounds- including those gurgles and burps that come from your baby!- are blocked out. You may also find that your baby cries less due to feeling calmer while white noise is present. If it’s warm, using a fan for white noise has a double benefit of keeping the room cooler too.
White noise is not a new invention, and gadgets are really not necessary if you want to use it as a sleep aid. Instinctively, we as parents Sssshhhh our babies when they cry, and this is really all that white noise is. As long as it is louder than the cry, your baby will eventually be calmed by it and it may just prove to be a bit of a magic wand when it comes to sleep!
Do you use white noise to get your baby to sleep? We’d love to hear your experiences.