As part of your effort to get a better night's sleep, you changed your bed sheets, you switched up your pillows and you even got a whole new mattress. Except none of those bedroom upgrades can mute your neighbor's music from playing late into the night or drown out the sound of the dog barking down the street. Maybe it's time to try a white noise machine.
White noise machines are designed to play sounds to help drown out the noises that are keeping you up out night. But white noise isn't all they play, with some machines playing any range of noises to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. So if things that go bump in the night are keeping you awake, get one of these white noise machines to help you get a better night's rest.
- Best Overall White Noise Machine: LectroFan Evo
- Best Splurge White Noise Machine: Hatch Restore
- Best Budget White Noise Machine: HoMedics White Noise Sound Machine
- Best White Noise Machine for Fan Sounds: Marpac Yogasleep Dohm
- Best White Noise Machine for Nature Sounds: Sound+Sleep
- Best White Noise Machine for Travel: Sweet ZZZ White Noise Machine
- Best Multifunctional White Noise Machine: Loftie
- Best Looking White Noise Machine: Snooz
What Is White Noise?
"White noise is essentially noise from the entire sounds spectrum and serves as a filter or a shield for auditory interruptions to your sleep," says Abhinav Singh, M.D., the medical director of the Indiana Sleep Center. Basically, every frequency of sound is played simultaneously at exactly the same intensity to mask undesirable sounds. (If you haven't heard white noise before, it sounds like radio static.) Fun fact: It's called "white noise" because it's similar to how white light is a combination of all the wavelengths of the visible spectrum. Besides white noise, there's also pink noise and brown noise.
White noise: All sound frequencies played at equal intensity. Real life comparisons: radio static, a whirring fan or a hissing radiator.
Pink noise: Lower sound frequencies are played louder, and higher frequencies are played more quietly. Real life comparisons: rainfall, rustling dry leaves or a sweeping broom
Brown noise: Lower sound frequencies are played at an even louder intensity than pink noise. Real life comparisons: crashing waves, stomach growling or a waterfall.
What to Look For in a White Noise Machine
Find a white noise machine that can be tailored to play a sound that's soothing to you. Singh recommends that a white noise machine should have a range of frequencies and a built-in timer, and if you're unsure what noise is best for you, find a sound machine that plays a variety of sounds. Check to see if your white noise machine has to be plugged in or runs on a battery, especially if you're interested in portability. Once you have your white noise machine, it's important to not rely 100 percent on it. "Make it a part of your sleep ritual. [Use] a timer so that it can shut off after while, and to see if one can reduce the reliance on this device down the road."
Why Can't I Use a White Noise App on My Phone?
As soon as you pick up your phone to turn on a white noise app, it "may tempt you to be on your phone for longer and thereby reducing sleep time," Singh says. Those who are confident they can turn on their white noise app without getting distracted by other things, a white noise app might be perfectly fine. However, some folks who like fan sounds may enjoy the sound of an actual fan sound machine than one that plays a digital fan sound. But to totally avoid the phone distractions, go for a white noise machine.
I Have a Voice Assistant. Can I Use That?
Those who own a Google Home or Amazon Alexa device already have free access to white noise, effectively turning those devices into white noise machines. You can download Sleep Sounds to your Alexa-enabled device for free, which gives you the ability to play dozens of soothing sounds for up to 10 uninterrupted hours. You can even tell Alexa when to shut off the noise. Google Home users have the same opportunity with their devices, and voice commands for sounds ranging from white noise to fireplace sounds can be found on Google's support page.
The Best White Noise Machines of 2022
Our testers were tasked with using their white noise machines before and during their sleep. Sounds were evaluated for their clarity and effectiveness, and testers were free to explore every and all feature on their machines. Some, like the Hatch Restore, have more functionality than being a simple noise machine, while others, like the Dohm, were more limited in their capabilities. Another important factor in testing these sound machines was its appearance. Despite some of our picks having exceptional functionality, they also look slightly archaic. If looks are the most important thing to you, we recommend not judging these sound machines by their cover.
- Good range of sounds
- Small enough to travel with
- Includes a built-in timer
- Hard to know what sound you're on
- Ocean sounds don't sound natural
The LectroFan Evo has one of the greatest selection of noises, which includes 10 colored sounds — ranging from white to varying levels of brown and pink — 10 different fan sounds and two types of ocean sounds. Our tester enjoyed the variety of colored sounds because some machines only have the option to play a single white, pink or brown noise. The variety allowed for the ability to find the perfect frequency combination for the tester.
The machine has a tiny footprint so it'll sit nicely on your nightstand, while also being a good option for those who want to bring it on their travels. Set the built-in timer so it'll shutoff once you finally snooze, and fine-tune the volume to drown out sounds without adding an extra noise that will keep you awake.
- Wide variety of sounds
- Attractive design
- Some noises are held behind a paywall
- Extra features are only accessible through an app
The Hatch Restore is much more than just a white noise machine: It's a smart alarm clock, sleep story reader and meditation device. Our tester lives in an environment that's constantly bombarded by sounds, and he found the Restore's light rain noise helped most with going to and staying asleep. Another bonus was the non-repeating, gentle noise, which means you don't end up fixating on a constantly repeating noise.
You can operate Restore using the soft-touch buttons, but to access the full range of features, you'll have to use the companion app. If the reason you bought a white noise machine is to avoid using your phone, that might deter you from spending so much on a white noise machine that you can't fully take advantage of. Hatch also has a subscription fee to unlock the full breadth of noise options and functionalities, which may be overkill for some and makes this $130 white noise machine an even pricier addition to the bedroom.
- Good sound quality for the price
- Small, compact design
- The light on the machine is bright and stays on when the machine is on
- Lacks a range of colored sounds
For a frills-free white noise machine, HoMedics' machine is just that. It plays only six sounds — white noise, thunder, ocean, rain summer night and brook — but they're good options for most people. You can easily choose the sound you want by clicking the button that's clearly labeled with the sound. Our tester lives in a disruptive sleep environment and has trouble staying asleep. This white noise machine, especially the basic white noise sound, helped him with his sleep.
- A real fan sound without the cooling of a fan
- Easy to adjust fan tone
- Not the best at masking sounds, but provides a comforting effect
- Has a tendency to rattle
Some people find that fan sounds are the best noise to help them sleep best, and our tester is one of those people. He originally used an actual fan to help him and his wife sleep, but despite being great in the warmer months, it obviously made things too cold in the cooler months. The Dohm is a fan-exclusive sound machine that nixes the digital recording of a fan for an actual fan that's housed in the unit. To control the tone, you turn the top piece to create different combinations of airflow, thereby changing the sound. If you're only looking for fan sounds, this is a great option to buy, but if you want to experiment with other sounds, look elsewhere.
- Adaptive mode adjusts volume to compensate for real-time noise fluctuations
- Dimmer button turns off the distracting lights
- Supremely rich, comforting and lifelike nature sounds
- Unattractive appearance
- Slightly too big to travel with
The Sound+Sleep has 30 sound options, and the nature noises were recorded in the real world, providing 30 minutes of non-repeating sounds. The Sound+Sleep has one of the best quality sounds for nature noises, and it's incredibly soothing to listen to, while also helping to drown out disruptive sounds. Our tester liked being able to select a sound without guessing (like you have to do with the LectroFan Evo), but the overall look of the machine could use some improvement. One of the coolest things about the Sound+Sleep is its adaptive mode, which actively listens to your environment, and adjusts the volume to respond to outside sounds.
- 29 sound options from colored noises to nature noises
- Runs on battery
- Don't have to worry about looking for a power source, but keep extra batteries around
Disruptive noises don't go away just because you're on vacation. While any of these white noise machines are perfectly fine for travel, we wanted one that was small enough to travel with and ran on batteries to avoid having to search high and low for an electrical outlet. This little device features 29 sounds ranging from colored noises to nature sounds, as well as lullabies. The timer can turn the machine off in 30, 60 or 90 minutes, and the battery runs for up to 12 hours.
- Features a huge library of soothings sounds
- Powered by USB-C cable or poor adapter but houses a built-in rechargeable battery
- Works well in all its other funcitonalities
Like the Hatch Restore, Loftie is more than a white noise machine, operating also as a nightlight, speaker and smart alarm clock. The sleek device plays different noises and nature sounds, and it also includes breathwork, sound baths and guided meditation. The alarm clock has a two-phase wakeup system to first gently take you out of dream land and then fully wake you up.
- Clean, clear fan sound
- Easy to use
- Doesn't rattle when in use
- Expensive for a fan-only machine
- The app can feel unnecessary
Looking almost like a Google Home Mini, the Snooz is one of the nicest white noise machines you can buy. The only problem with Snooz is that it only does fan sounds albeit very well. Snooz is like an upgrade to the Dohm, another fan-exclusive noise machine, in that Snooz houses a fan instead of using a digital recording. Adjust the fan's tone by turning the outer shell, which can make Snooz replicate something as quiet as a table fan or as loud as an airplane cabin, as it claims. The machine works with a companion app, which our tester found unnecessary, that gives users remote control, and unlike other white noise machines that feature timers, you can use the app to tell Snooz exactly what time to turn on and off.
Our tester gave Snooz extra points for producing a clearer sound than the Dohm, and it also lacked the rattling sound that plagues its cheaper counterpart.
Sleep headphones have been specifically designed and engineered to help you fall asleep and stay on your ears at night.