Sound is important to life, but straight up noise can be the bane of our existence. What’s the difference? Sound is crucial to communication, while noise is background sound that is unnecessary and often unpleasant. In fact, the reason we call it noise is because it’s something we don’t necessarily appreciate. The word comes from Latin and is derived from the term for ‘nausea’. If you’re anything like me, there is definitely a nauseating effect that happens when you’re overwhelmed by too much noise.
But not all noise is bad, even if it’s not necessarily a welcome ‘sound’. Used correctly, noise can actually assist in getting more rest and being overall healthier. The use of white noise, as offered with sound machines, can create an environment much more conducive to rest, concentration, and focus. There are a number of ways you can make use of white noise to have a better, happier, and more productive life, and units like the Brookstone sound machine can help you find that inner peace and the healthier way of living.
But to understand how a sound machine can work for you, you need to first understand how sound is made, what white noise is, and exactly how it can work for you.
The Construction of Sound
When it comes to sound, trying to define it without an illustration is difficult, and since you can’t ‘see’ sound, it helps to have a comparison. Enter into the equation the way light works! Since light and sound both travel in waves, it’s easy to compare the two so you have a visual representation of how sound is constructed. Light waves are measured in two ways – length (the width of the wave) and amplitude (the height of the wave). The wavelength determines the color of light, and the height determines the intensity. For light, that’s brightness. Longer wavelengths appear on the red end of the spectrum, with shorter wavelengths toward the blue and purple end of the spectrum. Sound is similar, with the same measurements of wavelength and amplitude. The shorter the wavelength (or higher the frequency), the higher the pitch of the sound.
The more amplitude, the more power or volume you get from the sound. Therefore, someone with a bass or baritone voice will show longer wavelengths on a recording device, where as a soprano will have a resulting shorter wavelength with a higher frequency. Much like light, sound is classified with colors.
White noise is defined similarly to white light. With white light, all the colors, or frequencies, in the rainbow come together and blend (remember, when you feed a beam of white light through a crystal prism, it refracts the light and creates a rainbow, breaking those frequencies up so you can see the different colors). White noise is the same – it’s a combination of all the audible frequencies of sound at an equal intensity and volume, randomly gathered together into one single sound.
So, consider that the human ear tends to hear frequencies between about 20 Hz and about 20 kHz. That’s approximately 20,000 different frequencies (or pitches). Take all 20,000 of these and put them together in a way that you can’t tell one from another, and none of the pitches are louder than the other. That’s what white noise is. The resulting sound is literally very similar to what you hear when you flip the television to a ‘static’ channel – an unused channel with ‘popcorn’ that hisses.
Related: 45 Sleep Tips
Sleep – Essential to Health
Sleep is the most important thing in caring for yourself. Without sleep, your body can’t renew, and your brain can’t function properly. Lack of sleep can lead to a lot of issues, both physical and psychological, and making sure you get not only enough sleep but restful sleep is essential to remaining healthy in body and mind. White noise can be beneficial to sleep, so you can actually reduce bouts of insomnia and improve a number of aspects of your health. Consider that proper sleep, according to decades of study, lead to benefits such as:
- Overall better heart health
- Reduction of stress and anxiety
- Lowered possibility of experiencing depression
- Improvement in attention span
- Better memory retention
- Higher capacity mentally
- Reduced dizziness and vertigo, with fewer falls
- Faster healing, whether from injury or illness
- Greater productivity, both in personal and professional ventures
- Longer life span
Decades of study have gone into determining the optimal sleep conditions, especially the right amount of rest required for your health. The average person needs to get approximately 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night for optimal health and functionality. And while this is flexible for some people, overall, those who sleep less than 6 hours a night or more than 9 hours a night on average both suffer greater health risk than those who receive a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, as you age, sleep needs change, and you could experience difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep. The circadian rhythm, or sleep cycle, can get interrupted or stilted by life, and stress or anxiety can make sleep harder to come by. That means you have to work harder at making time and setting routines that assist in getting you the optimal amount of sleep.
There is plenty of proof in how using white noise to aid in sleep is beneficial. For example, studies have been performed by the Johns Hopkins Hospital Sleep Disorder Center, as well as a study of how white noise can help patients sleep better in the noisy Intensive Care Unit of a hospital. In fact, even a survey by Consumer Reports in 2008 shows the way that white noise can be successful in treating issues with sleep.
And it’s not like we’re just discovering the detriment of lack of sleep as we get older. In fact, we should be concerned about sleep habits from the time of infancy through childhood and adolescence as well. All people, regardless of age, can benefit from using white noise. Consider how we train infants to fall asleep to the music of a mobile. However, when that music shuts off, it’s easy to wake that child up with simple sounds in the quiet around them. Even the shutting of a bathroom door could carry into the nursery and wake them. If you have white noise running in your infant’s room through the night, you won’t have unnecessary noises interrupting their sleep, which will help you get more hours of sleep.
In addition, teenagers actually need more sleep than the average individual, but they get less. With physical maturity and hormonal growth and production, teenagers experience growing pains as well as stress and changes in thought patterns, all of which can affect their ability to sleep. Add to that the pressure of growing up and taking more responsibility, as well as social pressure and the need to do well in school, and it’s a recipe for disaster. A white noise machine can help shut down the frantic mind of an adolescent in a way that lets them fall asleep and sleep more soundly for longer.
Other severe sleep conditions show promise in improvement with white noise as well. Insomnia can cause a great deal of suffering, leaving the mind foggy and the body exhausted. White noise has shown vast success at treating insomnia. It also assists with conditions such as tinnitus, which causes your ears to ring or buzz, which is especially notable in the lack of background noise as you lie down to sleep.
Avoid TV and Music
For those who struggle with sleep, it’s definitely not unheard of to play music or leave the television running as you fall asleep. However, there are several issues with this decision that can actually work against you rather than for you, including the variations in sound from these options.
First, the volume changes in music or television, based on the intensity of the scene or the chorus of the song. That means that, while you might be lulled asleep to start with, it’s quite likely that the change in volume will awaken you several times throughout the night. In addition, the flashing of the screen on the television takes away the peaceful, dark environment our bodies are trained to want when it comes to falling asleep. This alone can cause more harm than good, but there are other factors to consider as well, especially with television.
With both music and TV, you run into lyrics or conversations and action. These things, while seeming like background rumbling that blocks out additional noise, actually require part of your brain to stay tuned in, with or without your conscious permission. So, you never fully ‘turn off’ with these things running, which means your sleep is, at best, restless. Above and beyond that, the blue light that comes from your television has a negative impact on your ability to produce melatonin, which is the natural chemical your body makes to help you fall asleep. Without it, you’re going to have a very difficult time falling and staying asleep.
Using something like the Brookstone sound machine will help because it’s white noise that is regulated in terms of volume, without the flashing screen or the language that keeps your mind focused on the action and not on getting to sleep.
The Color of Sound
As we said before, sound can be categorized by color in a similar way to light, and the spectrum literally mirrors much of how the spectrum of visible light works. The various frequencies of sound are grouped together and labeled, much the way red and blue light (and variations in between) are categorized. The colors relate to the frequency and pitch of the sound, and in some cases, depending on what you’re trying to do, you may find that one of these other colors of noise is more soothing to you than white noise.
Think about the fact that every frequency of sound is incorporated into white noise, just like white light includes every visible color. In many cases, we wear sunglasses and do things to protect against the brightness and intensity of white light. For some, white noise is similarly disturbing overall, creating too harsh a background noise to be soothing. However, when you separate out different frequencies into groups, you get more natural sounds in most cases. That’s where other colors of sound come into play. And you’ll discover that what a lot of people consider to be white noise is truly only one color. A lot of the ‘pleasant’ noises we hear are labeled as pink noise.
To give you an idea of what pink noise sounds like, it’s been described as similar to the low thrumming sound of a rainstorm outside, falling on wood and glass without the harshness of hail or thunder. So, you can figure that pink noise is at the lower end of the sound spectrum, with lower frequencies that are less imposing. In actuality, we’re more susceptible and sensitive to higher pitches (such as the piercing sound of a baby’s cry, which helps us respond quicker), so the lower tones are less distracting and more soothing. Another benefit of pink noise is that, as the frequency (and pitch) increases, the amplitude (or intensity and volume) decreases, which means that the tones stay level across the board, without the higher pitches sticking out from the blend. A study published in 2013 showed that pink noise actually helped people achieve a deeper sleep than white noise.
When talking about the lower end of the spectrum, it’s also worth discussing brown noise, which is actually not named for the color, despite how it sounds. The way random particles move within a liquid is called Brownian motion, and this is where the name comes from. Basically, brown noise is a more extreme version of pink noise, with even greater amounts of bass and lower frequencies for lower pitches. It’s been compared to natural sounds like the powerful, deep wind noise of a tornado (not to be confused with the squeal of high speed straight winds).
The idea of gray noise is mainly to combat disruptive hearing conditions, so it doesn’t have a particular definition, since it’s catered to the hearing curve of each individual in need of such treatment. The calibration of this gray noise depends on the patient and the condition, but in general, these tones are used to treat tinnitus, so that the ringing and buzzing don’t bother as much, or even conditions like hyperacusis, which is a condition in which the patient has trouble with hypersensitivity to normal ranges of sound.
Though it also isn’t defined by the federal telecommunications standards (as pink, brown, and blue noise are), green noise is often recognized by others. These sounds are labeled ‘green’ for two reasons – first, they fall midrange in frequency (around 500 Hz), and green is the middle of the rainbow spectrum; and second, because these are the most common sounds in nature. Most of the ambient sounds in life fall in this range, especially those found outdoors away from technology and busy cities.
Just like the visible light spectrum, blue noise is at the opposite end from pink noise. Blue and purple noise are a conglomerate of higher frequency sounds, so they have higher pitches. You can compare then to sounds such as the way a spray comes out of a water hose with a higher pitched hissing. While pink noise stays even by decreasing intensity with increased frequency, blue noise works the opposite, so higher pitches are more intense and louder, making them more overwhelming. Purple noise is the extreme end of the scale of blue noise, much the way brown noise is a lower pitched version of pink noise.
Another type of noise you might have heard of is orange noise. This is some of the more unpleasant sound you can experience, and it references dissonance. In other words, when you find that something is in discord instead of in harmony, or you experience a clashing set of tones that can cause headache or even nausea, that’s orange noise. Think of it as chaos, much like the sounds you hear with each individual in an orchestra is tuning separately, and the sound waves are not harmonious at all.
Much like black is the complete absence of light and color, black noise is defined as silence – the complete absence of sound. The problem is, black noise is more theoretical than actual, since even in an empty space with no distractions, you’re still breathing, and that’s a noise you can’t get rid of. Still, the idea of black noise would be what you find in a vacuum with no movement or sound.
Benefits of White Noise (and Other Colors)
Sleeping grows more difficult over time, partly because of the changes to our body and due to the stress of life. But there are other factors, as well, including the technological advances that create consistent but disruptive noises. Think about the fact that the same things we enjoy – cars that make getting places easier, computers and televisions that provide entertainment and communication, phones that ring, and plenty of other things – are also disruptive to our sleep. You may even have trouble staying asleep as people move around the house through the night, with the water running, doors opening, and floors creaking. Even weather can make it harder to sleep.
When you take into account that all of these frequencies and more are included in the white noise used by devices like the Brookstone sound machine, you can see how that white noise would help reduce the effect of anything else around you. Those noises would simply blend into the background and literally disappear so that you can easily get some rest without interruption. In addition, the soothing sound of white noise – or pink and brown noise – in the background has shown that it eases the mind, allowing the spinning thoughts that sometimes plague us when we lie down to calm and quiet so we can get to sleep.
Best of all, unlike television and music, there’s nothing that calls your attention included in white noise. All frequencies have the same amplitude, or intensity, so nothing stands out, allowing you to stop focusing on external factors.
However, the use of white noise or other colors of noise can have even greater benefits in life than just to help you sleep.
More Reasons For White Noise
If you can make your life better in several areas using the same technique, doesn’t it make sense to put forth just a little effort or investment to do so? White noise machines, like the one from Brookstone, don’t’ just help you sleep better and longer. In fact, white noise is beneficial in many ways you might not have even considered before, and in some cases, people have managed to cut back on or quit taking medication entirely for certain conditions by using white noise.
- ADHD – Those who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or the related ADD have significant trouble with concentrating on a single task, as if their minds and bodies never quiet from taking them a million different directions at once. The use of white noise has proven successful in treating the condition, helping to sooth patients and helping them focus on the task at hand with better clarity.
- Better Concentration – If white noise can help an ADHD patient focus, consider what it can do for you. No matter where you are – the office, the library, or at home – there are distractions to be had with other people and sounds. White noise can help you concentrate on your own agenda by drowning out the background noise and helping to ease you into the right frame of mind.
- Greater Levels of Productivity – Of course, if you are more focused with fewer interruptions, it stands to reason that you are going to be more productive, completing tasks quicker with better efficiency. So white noise can also assist in helping you do more, faster.
- Peace of Mind Anywhere – Whether you live in a house and need to have a little time to settle down after a long day at work, or you live in a noisy apartment building where it’s never peaceful because of children running around or thin walls that let you hear what your neighbors are doing more often than you’d like, white noise is a great answer. A white noise machine will cover these sounds and give you a greater sense of privacy so you can feel more at peace through the day and night.
- Clearing your Mind – Just like white noise can help your mind ease itself to sleep, it can also help to quiet the disturbances that plague you throughout the day, making it hard for you to settle and focus on anything. with the consistent sound that takes every frequency and blends it at an even amplitude, your mind automatically shuts off the background ‘noise’ of your mind so you have clearer thoughts on the task you need to focus on.
- More Successful Meditation – When you meditate, you’re trying to pull yourself out of your surroundings to focus inward, which can be hard to do if you have a lot of distracting noises around you. Using a white noise machine can help you exit your surroundings and find a quiet place inside that allows you to ground and center for a better meditational experience.
- Improved Privacy – Just like you’ll find that you feel like you have greater peace and solitude when you can block out the sound of neighbors in an apartment building, white noise can give you your own privacy from listening ears as well. If you need to have a private conversation, whether hidden from neighbors, kids, or coworkers, the use of a white noise machine can help you keep your discussion to yourself.
- Calming for Pets – Pets have anxiety, too. A number of random sounds can lead pets into a frenzy of barking or hiding out. Especially during inclement weather, when thunder and other storms are raging outside, your pets can become a bundle of nerves. Having a white noise machine can help calm your pets and soothe their nerves so that they don’t end up with their own mental and physical health issues. It also keeps your environment more peaceful and less stressful.
- Reduces Dizziness – In a number of studies that have been conducted, white noise has proven useful in reducing the effects of vertigo, helping patients suffer from fewer bouts of dizziness.
- Treatment for Tinnitus – The constant ringing or buzzing in the ears that is known as tinnitus can be detrimental to sleep. While the hustle and bustle of the day can make it easy to ignore, the quiet of the night makes it come back to the forefront of your mind. And when you have white noise to help drown it out, you’ll find it far easier to sleep.
Some people can’t use white noise as effectively because the combinations of frequencies is too bright for their sensitive hearing. If that’s the case, you can still benefit from background noise. Pink and brown noise may be more appropriate for your needs. And with something like the Brookstone sound machine, you have these various options so that you can readily choose the right sound level for you. You can also opt for different types of sound for different settings, as necessary.
What You Should Know about the Brookstone Sound Machine
Something different about the Brookstone Tranquil Moments sound machine is that the sounds are designed to work with the types of brain waves that occur during sleep and resting moments – Delta, Alpha, and Theta brain wave frequencies. These settings allow you not only to rest soundly at night but also to focus better on other tasks during the day. Best of all, these sound tracks were created based on research by Dr. Jeffrey Thompson, who is the founder of the Center for Neuroacoustic Research, meaning the expertise of the industry is incorporated into the composition and engineering of the various programs.
No two people are the same, even twins, and that means that the way your personal hearing is also unique. So, you may be more attracted to certain sounds than others. With the Brookstone sound machine, you can choose from 16 different program tracks, all digitally mastered, that are separated into categories meant to help you with various aspects of your life.
- Sleep Mode – The sleep mode incorporates 4 sound programs that are based on the frequency of Delta brain waves, which are those that are produced in your deepest sleep. You can utilize the White Noise setting, or you can opt for Rain, Celestial, or Night sound programs
- Relax Mode – When we’re relaxed but not necessarily in a deep sleep, our brains produce Alpha waves. So, the ‘relaxation’ mode with 4 different sounds helps you to relax and reduce stress, using these patterns. You can try Ocean, Storm, Unwind, and Serenity, finding your preferred sound track.
- Renew Mode – You don’t always want to ‘rest’ when you relax; sometimes, you need a peaceful setting so that you can be more productive, and the renew mode offers 4 tracks based on the Theta brain waves produced when you are actively focusing on a task and need to be at peak performance while still not stressing or growing anxious. This is also the recommended setting for meditation. Choose from Focus, Rejuvenate, Meditate, and Stream.
- Therapy Mode – Do you have tinnitus or suffer due to being in a loud environment throughout the day that leaves your ears aching or your head hurting? The therapy setting gives you another 4 options designed to treat the condition and mask the symptoms associated with them. Choose from Calm, Relieve, Soothe, and Harmony.
You can expect the Brookstone Tranquil Moments sound machine to give you the highest quality sound so that you don’t have to worry about static or other problems with the speakers. This is a high end machine using top quality materials to assure you get the best experience. The idea of having such a device is to be more relaxed and focused, and if the speakers don’t provide the best sound, it’s hard to not get distracted by it.
While some of the competitors offer a smaller unit, the Brookstone sound machine is still quite unobtrusive, measuring only 5.8 inches by 3 inches by 6 inches and weighing 1.3 pounds, which is extremely lightweight. There’s an option to shuffle through the various soundtracks to find what you want, and you have a volume control as well, so it’s easy to use.
Battery and Power
The Brookstone sound machine is convenient because it offers you the option of plugging into a wall and using main power sources, as well as the ability to run it off 4 AA batteries. This makes it extremely easy to use anywhere you want to be, indoors or out, without need to have another source of power while also ensuring you have the opportunity to save a little money on batteries if you do have an electrical outlet for it. Many of the reviews state that it has a very long battery life as well, so you don’t have to worry about traveling with it and having it run out of battery through the night.
With the small size, light weight, and ease of finding a power source between batteries and electrical outlets, the Brookstone Tranquil Moments sound machine is ideal when it comes to portability. It weighs so little you won’t notice it when you pack it in your luggage to travel to a hotel where you need to drown out noisy guests, in a laptop bag so you can have it in your office to help reduce interruptions by ambient conversations and office machines, or in your travel pack when you head out for a camping trip.
It’s also very small, so it doesn’t take up a lot of room packing. You should also make sure to carefully cover the unit with a cloth or travel bag to avoid any bumps and ‘bruises’ that could happen if you have it with other electronics and devices in your bags. The more careful you are with it, the longer it will last. The good news is, it comes with a 1 year warranty in case anything happens to it, and you can purchase additional extended warranty options.
Play, Timers, and Alarms
This sound machine offers you a continuous play, but you’ll find that it is set to gradually decrease in volume. This is excellent for some circumstances, such as children or light sleepers who only need help falling asleep but not staying asleep. You can also set a timer on it for 30, 60, or 90 minutes. It does not have a nightlight included, so if you’re using this in a child’s room, you will still want a separate nightlight. Interestingly, you can also set a program that works as an alarm, so it will not only help you sleep but help you wake up easily and with appropriate amounts of rest.
The Bottom Line
The best qualities of the Brookstone sound machine are:
- 2 wake up settings that work with the volume reduction and timer settings to assure you not only sleep well but wake up on time;
- The use of brain wave study to create 16 separate tracks that can help you with sleep, relaxation, focus, or underlying problems with hearing conditions; and
- Portability with multiple power options and small size and weight that mean you can carry it with you wherever you go.
Sleep is vital to a healthy life, and the use of white noise – and other colors of noise – can help you achieve greater rest by blocking out sounds that interrupt a peaceful sleep. You can also be more productive and have greater concentration, as well as enjoy a calmer and more private living environment with the use of a sound machine. With the multiple options provided by the Brookstone sound machine and the portability of it, you can definitely benefit from an investment into the unit.