Loud neighbors, city noises, snoring partners — sleep is precious, and all of these things can disrupt it. Some of you may be deep sleepers who regularly sleep through alarms, while the rest of us are jolted awake by alarm clocks going off in other rooms (and apartments — looking at you, upstairs neighbor). One solution is a sound machine that will mask unwanted, annoying noises with gentle nature sounds or white noise.
These are great for apartment and city living, but also for infants who can't stay asleep, people who need help focusing at work, night shift workers who need to sleep while everyone else is awake, and even tinnitus sufferers who need relief from the ringing in their ears. Whether you're looking to spend a little or splurge, here are ten of our favorite options on the market.
Every week we bring new products into our "test lab" and have the whole office vote on their favorites, based on quality, appearance, and price. The winners become the Top Picks of our Annual Guides, which showcase the best products of the year.
Maxwell Ryan, our Founder & CEO, chooses his own Top Pick as well, and demonstrates his favorites in our Annual Guide videos and weekly Instagram story series. Come back every Thursday for a new Annual Guide and Maxwell's Top Pick Instagram story!
Our Top Pick
I'm not a user of a sound machine to sleep, so it was fascinating to poll all the folks in our office over the last week and hear not only that so many did, but they also did for various different reasons. Some liked the calm sound that helped them fall asleep, some needed to drown out the snoring of their spouse and others used it to mask out other random sounds that came through their city windows that I, apparently, sleep right through.
All in all, a surprising number in our office have one and LOVE IT, so we got a very conclusive result when we set up our test station and had everyone vote. The winner was not the fanciest by far. The Wave, up above, is stripped down in its functionality, compact (and pleasing) in shape and affordable in price. It doesn't give itself away as a sound machine, which might be its magic.
So if you want to quickly pick up a great little sound machine that we recommend, check out The Wave.
This little sound machine vaguely looks like a UFO, but it's actually one of the best budget-friendly picks on our list. It has six nature sounds and a timer option, and can be easily packed for travel.
This option only has five sounds, but has a great memory feature that makes up for it. Every time you turn it on it will remember your last sound, volume and timer setting, saving you time and frustration trying to get it just right. It also has a night light — perfect for your little ones or adjusting in the middle of the night.
With this newer model you can either choose from six built-in sound options, or play music or stories directly from your phone via Bluetooth. As an added bonus, the SOAIY can also project a soothing light show onto the ceiling to help calm your mind.
Another option from HoMedics, this upgraded SoundSpa has twelve sounds instead of six. The small size makes it ideal for travel, and won't be a major distraction in your bedroom.
Our top pick in the mid-priced category, the Marpac Dohm is known for being the original sound machine. This is an ideal choice if you prefer white noise over nature sounds — the Dohm has an internal fan, so you have the fan sound without the air in your face. If you don't like this style there are several other options to choose from, including a super portable tiny Dohm for travel.
The 'Lectrofan is the perfect tiny size to fit on your nightstand, yet still packs a punch. No nature sounds here, but you do have the choice between ten different fan sounds and ten white noise variations — who knew there were so many? Amazon reviewers especially praise the 'Lectrofan's loud volume and wide sound range.
Another variation of the 'LectroFan, the Kinder is made with young children in mind, but there's no rule against using it for yourself. It plugs directly into the wall, plays lullabies and other soothing sounds, and is controlled via smartphone app.
A newcomer on the sound machine market, the SNOOZ gets its sound from a small internal fan rather than a looping track. You can adjust the volume and timer from a smartphone app if you so choose, and the small size means you can easily travel with it. Plus, it's just really cute.
Our top pick on the high-end range, the Sound + Sleep machine has 30 different sound "environments" to choose from, a headphone jack in case your sleep mate needs complete silence, and a few different timer options. It's also adaptive, listening to your environment and adjusting the volume accordingly.
Why White Noise?
- White noise is actually quite versatile. White isn't the only "noise color" out there — there's also red, brown, gray and pink noise. Each noise color represents a specific spectral density, and some white noise machines produce varying degrees of noise colors in addition to pure white noise.
- They blend different noises into one cohesive sound. According to sleepjunkies.com, "The idea of adding more noise in your bedroom to help you sleep may sound counter intuitive, but it works because white noise blends the external sounds (barking dog,traffic etc) into the overall background noise, so your brain pays less attention."
- White noise machines are the most straightforward way to get, well, white noise. Phone apps that act as sleep aids are plentiful, but their sound quality typically isn't as good as a standalone machine's. Fans are another alternative, as long as you don't mind the cooler temperature.
Our Best Sleep & Sound Posts:
- White Noise and Your Brain: The Science of Sound Machines
- Unwanted Noise? Here's How to Get Some Peace & Quiet Through Design
- Three Things on Sale Today That Will Up Your Sleep Game This Season
Other Good Resources:
- 7 Best White Noise Machines for a Good Night's Sleep — Health
- The Best White Noise Machine — Wirecutter
- The 7 Best White Noise Machines to Buy in 2018 — The Spruce
- Everything You Need to Know About White Noise and Sleep — Sleep Junkies