Tech | October 18, 2020 7:04 pm

New Research Suggests White Noise Might Negatively Affect Sleep

Something to think about before turning on your sleep app of choice

Could white noise be harmful to your sleep?
Paul Esch-Laurent/Unsplash

If you’ve had difficulty sleeping in the last few years, you may well have done what countless other troubled sleepers have done: tuned in to some white noise via a speaker or your phone. There’s a small industry that’s cropped up around white noise, the idea being that white noise can help calm the mind and help improve your restfulness.

That’s the theory, anyway. But a new article at The Guardian points to some new research that offers a dissonant note in the world of white noise’s benefits for sleepers. Specifically, this research argues that such benefits may not exist at all — and that they might actually do more harm than good.

The article, by Linda Geddes, covers research conducted by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia’s Mathias Basner and several of his colleagues. Their review of multiple scientific studies offered an unclear path forward.

When asked about white noise apps, Basner’s response was blunt. “I wouldn’t broadly recommend them,” he said, “because there is no evidence that they are actually working.”

Basner also voiced concern that white noise might be harmful for sleep, as the human brain is constantly processing information — even something as seemingly innocuous as white noise. “You probably want to have a period where the auditory system can wind down, regenerate and prepare for the next wake period,” he said.

While Basner and the other experts quoted in the article might not prompt you to delete your white noise apps, they might make you think the next time you use them — or at least examine the scientific explanation for them before tuning in for a good night’s sleep.

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