Sleep is at the top of the list as to what can make a person’s life better or worse. Lack of sleep can affect our health and well-being very quickly. Our “sleeping” brain wears a disguise, the sleeping brain continues to register and process sound. This is where the remedy of white noise comes into play.

White noise can mask loud sounds that stimulate the brain. While Thomas Edison is best known for the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, and the motion picture camera he also discovered white noise in the late 1800s.

Many people associate white noise with the sound of a box fan running. Technically the whirl of a fan isn’t white noise at all. Many of the sounds we associate with white noise are actually pink, brown, green, or blue. Sounds come in white, pink, red (brownian), grey and refer to the power spectrum of a noise signal. The sense of color for noise signals is similar to the concept of timbre in music which is called tone color.

White noise is actually the signal created when several frequencies are combined. It blends in all the background and foreground sounds into one static thing. To get technical, white noise is a mixture of all the frequencies humans can hear (about 20 Hz to 20 kHz), fired off randomly with equal power at each, like 20,000 different tones all playing at the same time, mixed together in a constantly changing, unpredictable sonic stew.

White noise allows the brain to relax and therefore allows it to drift off into sleep. That isn’t to say, the sound of a whirling fan doesn’t help drown out other sounds and induce slumber.

White noise may actually help mask the sound of tinnitus or the ringing in your ear. Those who have tinnitus sometimes find that playing white noise helps them fall asleep.

Infants also tend to sleep better when they have white noise in the room, they became accustomed to it while in the womb. Of course too much of a good thing is often not a good thing, so keep the noise level around 65 dB to avoid causing hearing problems.

White noise can be created by a noise machine or Alexa, can play it on a loop. If Alexa is told to play white noise the sound will play for one hour to override this simply say “Alexa play white noise loop.” To stop the sound say, “Alexa stop.”

The first white noise machine was invented in 1962 by J.K. Buckwalter. Go online to view the top white noise machines on today’s market.

— Marla Ballard’s Master of Disguise normally appears in the Times-Journal Wednesday editions.

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