A good night's sleep can be elusive. If you toss and turn or wake up frequently in the night, a white noise machine could help you sleep more soundly and get the rest you need.
The best white noise machine (also known as a sound machine) can help you fall asleep and stay asleep by cloaking different intrusive sounds from outside your room. When I lived in an apartment complex with questionably thin walls, sound machines drowned out environmental noises like crying babies, revving engines and barking dogs.
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If you're reading this article, you're probably trying to find ways to get better sleep, or to help someone else improve their sleep. To help everyone get more shut-eye and snooze more deeply, I tested a selection of white noise machines. If they can send me -- the self-proclaimed lightest sleeper ever -- to dreamland, there is hope they can help you get a good night's sleep too.
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A favorite on Amazon, the Homedics Sound Spa strikes the perfect balance of quality and budget -- that is, it's a good value. This white noise machine has a timer you can set for 15, 30 or 60 minutes and plays six calming nature sounds and sleep sounds. Choose from the soothing sound options of white noise, brook, thunder, summer night, ocean and rain. You can plug the Sound Spa into a wall outlet or use batteries to take it on your travels, which brings me to one of the best features -- that it's incredibly portable. This white noise sound machine is lightweight and thin, so you can slip it into a carry-on or personal item with no problem.
What I love: The Homedics Sound Spa is inexpensive, easy to use and portable. It produces high-quality sound for the price (although the rain setting has an obvious loop), and it has enough sound settings for the average person.
What I don't love: When the Sound Spa is turned on, there's a little green light on top of the machine. I'm pretty sensitive to light when falling asleep and while sleeping (I'm a very light sleeper), so this green light felt very bright and unnecessary to me. If you want pitch-black darkness, the Homedics Sound Spa is probably not the right choice for you, or you can try covering up the light.
Unlike many models, the LectroFan doesn't have sounds of birds chirping, ocean waves, water falling or other nature sounds going on, and I think that's a good thing. It means that people who buy a white noise machine for white noise are getting exactly what they want. The LectroFan has 20 total sounds -- 10 white noise sounds and 10 fan sounds. It's only got three buttons on the front: power, volume control and sound selection. The adjustable volume control is pretty sensitive, and I've never had a problem finding just the right volume to mask outside sounds on any given night -- I've used the LectroFan on and off for about six months, both at home and while traveling.
What I love: I really adore the simplicity of the LectroFan. Its small size and portability add to that. This is the perfect white noise machine for people who don't need much in the way of sound options, but do need to bring their white noise machine when they travel.
What I don't love: There's not anything to really dislike about the LectroFan, unless you're looking for something with nature sounds. If that's the case, definitely look elsewhere.
If you want a white noise machine that's much more than just a white noise machine, the Sound Plus Sleep SE from Sound of Sleep is the one you need. It may cost more than most people would want to spend on a white noise machine, but you definitely get your money's worth: I've been using it for more than six months, and not only does it put me to sleep (and keep me asleep), but it also helps me focus while working from home and drown out distracting sounds.
What I love: The sheer range of sounds you get with this white noise machine. I use the pink noise setting to fall asleep and the meditation or rainfall settings to focus while I'm working. I also love the acute volume control and sleek design. It doesn't look out of place on my nightstand or my desk.
What I don't love: There's nothing I dislike about the Sound+Sleep SE. It's expensive for a sound machine, but it's well worth the price if you have trouble falling asleep at night -- you can't put a price tag on feeling well-rested.
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Honeywell makes trustworthy, high-quality products, and the Dreamweaver Sleep Fan is no different. This small bedside fan doubles as a sound machine, but it doesn't actually use white noise -- it uses pink noise, a softer type of ambient noise that's been shown to increase time spent in deep sleep and improve memory. When I was living in a busy apartment complex, this fan-and-pink-noise combo helped drown out the sounds of cars and passers-by.
What I love: There's a little night light on top of the unit that has three levels; if you like to sleep in pitch-black darkness, tap it three times to turn it off completely. If you like a little bit of light, the Dreamweaver can be your white noise machine, night-light and fan all in one.
What I don't love: It seems like the fan collects dust pretty easily, but that's what fans do. It's nothing a quick wipe-down can't fix.
CNET's Vanessa Hand Orellana tested this noise machine, and I'll share her comments here.
The Hatch Baby Rest is a sound machine, night-light and alarm in one. As a sound machine and night-light it's pretty straightforward. You can turn the sound and light on from the device itself, change the type of sound or color of the light and raise or lower the volume and brightness. To do anything more complicated than that you'll have to pair it with the app.
If you have the Rest Plus, the app also serves as a baby monitor (audio only) to [let you] either listen in or talk to your baby. And it'll still play the sound even when your phone screen is in standby mode.
There are similar products out there that offer similar features for less -- the Rest retails for $60 while the Rest Plus (which also has a digital clock and baby monitor) is $90 -- but what drew me to use the Rest was the level of customization in the app and the sleek design. It didn't clash with my baby's nursery, the one room in the house that I put a lot of creative effort into. It looks like a little candle and doesn't take up much space on your bookshelf or countertop.
You will need access to an outlet to plug it in, although the Rest Plus can actually hold a charge if you want to move it somewhere else during naptime.
The Hatch Restore is a great multifunctional white noise machine that also serves as a sunrise alarm clock (something you should consider if you hate waking up to abrupt and invasive alarm sounds).
What I loved most about the Hatch Restore is its ease of use: With the Hatch Sleep app, you can set up an entire bedtime routine with multiple alarms so you can have separate ones for weekdays and weekends. You can also adjust volume, light intensity and sounds. For example, here's what I set up on my Hatch Restore:
- A bedtime routine that starts with 20 minutes of reading -- the Hatch Restore softly illuminates my room with peach-colored light.
- A 10-minute wind-down guided meditation. You can choose from several in the Hatch app, plus more with a premium subscription.
- Pink noise that continues until my alarm goes off.
- A 30-minute sunrise alarm that culminates in the Mountain Alps sound -- I wake to what sounds like an early winter morning.
You set all of this up in the app, but you don't need your phone nearby to start your bedtime routine: You can simply tap the button on top of the Hatch Restore to get things going. Without a premium subscription, you have access to more than 20 hues of light and 31 sleep and wake sounds. If you'd like to explore more hues and sounds, you can subscribe and unlock additional content for $5 a month or $50 a year.
2 more great white noise machines
While these two white noise machines aren't my top choices, they still offer value and might be right for you.
Dohm proclaims itself the first company to manufacture white noise machines, and the Dohm Classic is apparently the original sound machine for sleep. The Dohm Classic is super simple, much like the LectroFan: It only produces white noise, and the only controls are on/off, high and low. Once you choose high or low, rotate the cap to adjust the sound to the perfect level for you.
If you're really looking for simplicity, the Dohm Classic embodies it. To me, this white noise machine feels a little limited for the price, and the sound quality isn't as great as some of the others on this list. However, it comes from a reputable brand and has nearly 4,000 positive reviews on Amazon, so it's worth looking into if you want a trustworthy product at the middle of what seems to be the price range (about $15 to $90) for white noise machines.
The Snooz White Noise Sound Machine is a good choice for people who want an authentic fan sound. Most white noise machines come with a fan sound, but if you're used to falling asleep with a fan, you can tell the difference.
That's where the Snooz comes in: This sleep machine is a simple acoustic enclosure with a mechanical fan on the inside. Obviously, this means the sound doesn't loop, so that's a bonus. By rotating the body of the machine, you can alter the pitch of the fan sound to find one that best drowns out the sounds keeping you awake.
I, for one, would probably just prefer to sleep with a fan because I sleep warm anyway. It's kind of pricey for a white noise machine with such limited sound options, but the Snooz could work well for people who like fan sounds but don't want cold air.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.
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