Yawn! Welcome to Sleep Week, a seven-day stretch where we source the best buys in the Zzz-catching business — from editor-vetted bedtime rituals to exclusive mattress deals and more of the internet’s most slumber-worthy scores. Go ahead, hit snooze with us.
For the bad sleepers out there, I feel you. I wanna say I haven’t slept soundly in over a year, but I’ve been especially suffering from bouts of insomnia these last few months. I’m still sleeping in the same room on the same bed with the same sheets, but a whole lot more has changed in terms of my daily routine (think: career, relationships, activity level, screen time, etc.). I find myself being more alert at night, and my mind doesn’t just stop racing when I lay my head down on the pillow. I have also never become accustomed to living with people above and beside me (as I think many apartment building dwellers can relate to) — paranoid by every footstep I hear. So, my solution so far has been keeping a fan on in my room throughout the night, more so for the soothing purring sound that drowns out background noise rather than the actual cooling feature.
But alas, I still can’t fall asleep easily or stay asleep without, constantly and annoyingly, waking up in the middle of the night. So, I finally gave in after hearing about white noise and learning that many of my coworkers’ nighttime routines also include sound machines. After doing some research, (an expert-heavy and interactive New York Times piece was especially helpful), I found that white noise can be jarring to some people and that its lesser-known cousins — brown noise and pink noise — may be more comforting. You may have actually heard about brown noise through TikTok, where the ADHD community has shared its benefits for focusing, de-stressing, and sleeping since it helps drown out distracting background sounds.
While white noise plays at a high frequency and has a fizzy or staticky quality to it, brown noise includes every type of frequency that our ears can detect and is therefore deeper. It plays low frequencies at loud levels and high frequencies at soft levels, which includes sounds like wind, heavy rain, and rushing water. After learning this, it all sounded very lovely to me, so I searched for the best brown noise machines and stumbled onto Amazon, finding BrownNoise’s Sound Machine With 30 Soothing Sounds. After reading some positive reviews, I bought it and have been sleeping with it for a few weeks now. Here’s how my brown noise sleep soundtrack journey has gone so far, plus alternative sound machines to try if you want a more peaceful sleep.
Alright, maybe the brand’s name and brown wood finish tricked me into buying this particular brown noise sound machine, but I’m not mad about it. The machine includes 30 sounds that can be played at 36 different volume levels, a nightlight with 12 color options, and a timer that can be set by hours or continuous use. The sounds, which are explicitly listed in the user manual, aren’t exclusively brown noise — there are also white noise, pink noise, classical lullabies, nature sounds, transportation sounds, and more options.
But after hearing the white noise for myself, I immediately knew it was waaay too screechy and intense for me. Instead, the sounds of thunder, the tide breaking, a fire crackling, and cars rushing by were much more comforting. But the standard brown noise option interested me the most because it was a constant whooshing, similar to the sound of my fan, rather than the aforementioned irregular sound patterns that I think would be better for focusing than sleeping.
After getting ready for bed, I easily set up the sound machine to one of the brown noise options that I found the most soothing. Then I set it to play for four hours and adjusted the volume to be loud enough that it filled my bedroom. I usually watch TV at night to help unwind and then play it low to help me fall asleep, which probably doesn’t help my restlessness. But I had the machine playing simultaneously so that when I did get sleepy, I could start tuning out my TV and focusing on the brown noise.
When it came to that time, I found the deep brown noise to be really soothing. It distracted me from my thoughts about what I had just watched, about that one crazy thing that happened that day, about how many hours of sleep I thought I’d get, about my to-do list for the next day, and a million other things. Instead, I focused on the rumbling, humming sound to help lull me to sleep. And it eventually did do that.
For the last few weeks, I’ve found my sleep pattern to be pretty consistent. I still wake up once or twice in the middle of the night, but not as much as I used to, pre-sound machine. And when I have woken up, it’s always been after the four-hour timer automatically turned off the machine. I usually opt to turn it back on by simply hitting the power button, slightly superstitious that if I don’t, I wouldn’t be able to sleep well the rest of the night. (As previously mentioned, there is an option to have the machine continuously play until you manually turn it off.) I also found that I haven’t been tossing and turning as ferociously or frequently as I used to.
Beyond my four walls, I also took the compact, easy-to-pack, and lightweight sound machine with me whenever I traveled and had to sleep in a different setting. All I needed was the cable that came with it since it needs to be plugged in to use.
Overall, I really think my sleeping has improved. No, this brown noise machine hasn’t been the holy grail solution for me, and who knows, maybe some of this is just the placebo effect. I’m still not a suuuper sound sleeper, but the introduction of brown noise into my sleep routine has been a positive change for me, especially in drowning out my late-night thoughts. I look forward to branching out and trying this Amazon sound machine‘s other sound features, both for sleeping and focusing. But one thing I know for sure: I defintelyyy won’t be using the white noise (cough cough, fingernails on chalkboard) feature. Deep, soothing brown noise is the way to go for me, and if you’re not a fan of white noise, it may be the solution for you, too.
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