We often hear of the effect white noise can have on you or your child’s sleep. Who knew there are other colours of noise?? Not me. My guest blog post today is from the amazing Jerylin Gan, Ph.D. about the colours of noise.
Have trouble sleeping? A toddler who wakes whenever you accidentally step on that creaky floorboard? Just hate the sound of those damn chipper little birds at 5 am? Then someone’s probably recommended playing white noise in the background. Maybe in the form of a fan, a mp3 of a waterfall, or one of those sleep sheep stuffed animals that play a heartbeat as well.
From my experience, white noise is wonderful. Both my kiddos and husband will wake at the drop of a hat. But you know what I’ve found works better for me? Pink noise. That’s right. There’s more than one colour of noise!
There’s white, pink, brown, gray, and violet noise (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colors_of_noise). The difference between the colours is how loud certain frequencies are. Low frequencies sound low to human ears; high frequencies are higher pitched. “Noise” is when you play a lot of frequencies at the same time. White noise is when all frequencies are played at the same volume. Pink noise is when lower frequencies are played slightly louder than the higher frequencies. Brown noise is when lower frequencies are played a lot louder than higher frequencies.
And though it’s hard for most people to tell the difference between the different colours of noise, they’ve been shown to have different effects on people. What might be soothing for one (e.g. the sound of a vacuum to my friend’s baby) might sound awful to another individual (e.g. the sound of a vacuum to me). So experiment! Try to see if you like white, pink or brown noise. See which noise might help you sleep better. See which noise will help you concentrate on a task!
Jerylin Gan, Ph.D.
You may wonder who is Jerylin Gan, Ph.D.? Well, let me fill you in. Jerylin is currently an amazing stay at home mom with a passion to ensure her children are getting the much-needed rest they require. Jerylin has a BA in Molecular and Cellular Biology from UC Berkeley, PhD in Neurobiology and Behavior from the University of Washington, Seattle and she did further training at Cornell Medical School. She is my go-to person when looking at the science behind a number of studies we see popping up on social media.
Hands up if this sounds familiar…. Your fussy baby finally falls asleep for her afternoon nap and you sit down for a much needed moment to yourself only to hear a car with a broken muffler roaring down the street. Just like that, Sleeping Beauty is wide awake and mad NOT a good combination.
Or maybe you live in the country and you’re awoken at dawn by a wailing infant who has adorable (but ridiculously loud) birds chirping outside her window.
Environmental noises are a fact of life that you can’t do much about; but, there IS something you can do about your baby’s ability to sleep through the noise. In my experience, white noise machines can be a lifesaver when it comes to helping babies fall asleep and stay asleep.
There are lots of options out there. You can get sound machines in most department stores, drug stores, and online. You can also use things you may already have in your home. For example, we use a fan pointed away from our son. We keep the fan on all year long. And although it might seem unnatural to create noise when you want your baby to go to sleep, remember: it wasn’t exactly soundproof in the womb!
Your child is actually quite used to noise by the time he’s born because he’s been listening to you talk, your stomach gurgling, and the sound of the family and the TV and the car radio while in utero.
Believe it or not, complete quiet can actually be more confusing to a newborn than background noise.
One of the biggest benefits of the white noise machine is that it helps babies fall back to sleep if they wake up. This means their nap times will last longer and they will be less likely to fully wake in the night.
The main concern parents have about trying this is usually about their child becoming addicted to white noise, and that’s a valid point.
My experience is that there’s absolutely no need to worry about this. White Noise machine IS NOT being used as a sleep prop like a soother or being rocked and sung to. It’s there to block out noises that you can’t control that might be waking your child.
Personally, I still use white noise for myself and our 3-year-old. If I do not have white noise on, my sleep is more interrupted.
If you want to wean your child off the white noise machine, simply turn the volume down a little every night until you’re not using the sound at all. If you want to wean your child from the fan turn the speed of the fan down then slowly move the fan out of the room.
If you have more questions about your child’s sleep feel free to call 403-652-7111 to seek your free 15-minute consult.