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5 Negative Effects of White Noise From Sleep Expert

Are you a helpless insomniac like myself that needs help falling asleep? According to the CDC, one-third of residents in the United States admit they do not get to enjoy the recommended 7 hours of sleep on average. In this survey, almost two-thirds of those interviewed said that music is what they turn to whenever they have trouble falling asleep.

Whether your solution lies in blackout shades, or state-of-the-art weighted blanket, or a Calming App or even an extremely dark mask, there is no limit to what we can do to catch some sleep. White noise is one of the most effective solutions that insomniacs like myself turn to induce sleep.

This type of noise can emanate from soothing sounds such as an air purifier, white noise machine, sound conditioner, or even a fan.

White noise balances out surrounding sounds, leading to a more peaceful and calmer sleeping atmosphere. The relaxing and soothing nature of white noise makes it effortless to enjoy a comfortable and stress-free sleep. Just like with any other good thing, white noise has injurious effects.

So what are the negative ramifications of white noise? Could it be true that it does more harm than good to both babies and adults?

In this primer, we delve into the negative effects of white noise.

5 Negative Effects Of White Noise

Hearing Problems

Image Source: Terry Cralle

1. Hearing Problems

Background noise, if overdone, makes hearing speech challenging for both young ones and the older folks.

Too high white noise levels that surpass the safe decibels can cause severe harm when it comes to hearing. This can inflict grave damage to the ears particularly if they had not been exposed initially.

For this reason, it is wise to make sure that the noise levels remain within the safe range for both babies and adults. To be the safe side, you can maintain the sound levels to be almost the same as that of a soft shower – roughly 50dB to 65dB.

2. Speed and Language Development Issues

Another potential negative effect of white noise has to do with developmental issues. According to this 2014 study by AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), white noise could cause developmental issues, especially in infants when it exceeds the safe levels.

In the study, the organization analyzed fourteen white noise machines customized for infants. In the end, they established that exceeding the recommended levels not only caused hearing problems but also led to speech and language development challenges.

Based on their findings, the researchers recommended that machines need to be placed not less than 7 feet away from your young one’s a bed/crib. On top of that, we need to ensure that the volume of the machine is always below the maximum volume setting.

Doing these things will go miles to making sure that the young ones do not suffer from any developmental issues caused by a white noise machine.

3. Heavy Reliance On White Noise For Sleep

Although users of white noise machines tend to respond positively to peaceful sleep and naps, over time, they can have trouble falling asleep if the machine is faulty or unavailable. Over-reliance on these machines can be detrimental to the sleep quality of users.

The disruption caused by an unavailable or faulty machine can do more harm than good to a user who is used to the machine.

4. Brain Issues

For the past fifty years, scientists focusing on the brain have researched and learned many things regarding brain plasticity. Part of what they have been seeking to establish is how inputs such as sensory alter the functioning, structure, and chemical composition of the brain. According to the researchers, there is evidence that a rewiring process takes place in the brain negatively once it is fed with random info like white noise.

In this review article, the researchers noted that white noise’s background buzz which some quarters opine reduces perceived signs and symptoms of tinnitus can be injurious to the central auditory system.

Notably, the effects on the brain come about if the machine’s noise levels exceed 60 db. Some of the putative neural effects that touch on the auditory system include:

  • A decrease in neural inhibition
  • Minimal cortical representations
  • The brain taking too long to process changing signals

Just like with other negative effects of white noise, an effective way of avoiding this is by making sure that you keep the sound level to the recommended levels. Doing so will go miles in protecting yourself from getting your brain harmed by the white noise machine.

5. Restlessness

Although white noise can make you fall asleep for the better part of the night, when you exceed the recommended levels, it could increase restlessness during sleep. Activities such as shifting, moving, and twitching between different sleep stages characterize the negative effects of white noise.

The constant turning and tossing could result in a subjective feeling of poor sleep satisfaction. It can also lead to more measurable feelings of changes in mood and sleepiness the subsequent day.

Sound and Sleep: More You Should Know

Sound and Sleep

Image Source: Terry Cralle

Sound has both negative and positive effects on your sleep. It depends on factors such as noise level, type of sound, personal preference, and a host of others. For instance, gentle background noise such as white noise boasts the ability to diffuse a noisy street. Creaky pipes or a partner’s snoring, on the other hand, can cause uncomfortable and sleepless nights.

During the day, sound can have trivial effects. However, during nighttime, it can become bothersome especially when we’re sleeping. Even though you’ll not wake up fully because of noise, some noises can disturb you slightly and come in the way of your sleep cycles.

Some of the potential sources of sound that steal your peaceful sleep include:

  • Urban city noise
  • Traffic
  • Pets
  • Appliances
  • Television
  • Audio sound systems such as home theater

According to this research study, that appeared in the Noise and Health journal, there is evidence that a relationship exists between noise/sound and sleep. Even low-level noises can have a negative impact not only on your sleep but also general health.

Of great importance to note is that the severity and intensity by which noise affects sleep is individual. Some folks are sensitive compared to others. It is also important to note that brain rhythms have a role to play when it comes to an individual’s tolerance to noise.

In general, noise or disturbing noise is highly likely to keep us awake in the second stage of sleep. It is at this non REM and light cycle that we spend roughly half of our sleep in.

Did you know that age also has a role to play when it comes to sound disruptions? Senior citizens and children are the most susceptible in terms of sound disruptions.

What about emotional noises? Well, according to research, these are the more influential. For example, mothers easily get up courtesy of their infant’s movements. Our brain shows more activity towards hearing our name compared to beeps when we’re sleeping.

An effective way of using sound to your advantage is by tapping into the benefits of white noise. It creates a gentle and consistent soundtrack especially if bumps during the night disturb you. This is beneficial to both kids and the older folks.

Although we cannot avoid some type of noise, limiting the possibility of distracting sounds such as clunks and thumbs when we sleep is necessary. Turning to white noise is an efficient solution. However, the caveat to it is that you should maintain the volume as the recommended levels to avoid having to grapple with the negative effects we have highlighted in this primer. When you do that, you’ll enjoy waking up satisfied, refreshed, and relaxed in the morning.

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Wednesday 23rd of March 2022

For 99% of normal people who put white noise to normal levels none of this applies to us.