Have trouble sleeping? A white noise machine might be the answer

Noelle Ike, CNN Underscored
Updated Mon January 7, 2019

It's something we do everyday, yet many of us can't seem to get it quite right. That's right, we're talking about sleep. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over one-third of Americans get fewer than seven hours of sleep a night -- less than the recommended amount. On top of that, somewhere between 50 and 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders, from sleep apnea to insomnia, that can make it hard to get the rest you need.

Not sleeping enough can put you at increased risk of developing serious health conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. And of course, there are the more direct consequences -- like not being as attentive at work, being prone to moodiness or just not having the energy to accomplish daily tasks.

Luckily, there are steps we can take to try to get a full night of shut-eye. From keeping your room and bed cool to avoiding heavy meals at night, we've covered a range of techniques and products to help you sleep better.

A popular product to help with quality and quantity of sleep is a white noise machine. They're often used to help people who are sensitive to sound fall asleep more easily. But they can also be helpful when trying to focus your mind in on a calming noise rather than on what's going on around you while you doze off.

So what exactly is white noise, and why do some people need it to sleep? White noise is created when multiple sounds of equal intensity but with different frequencies are combined. These sounds mask other background sounds that can distract you from relaxing or falling asleep.

Since it's not necessarily the volume of sounds that can wake us up while we sleep, but rather the suddenness of them, the constant white noise helps to cover up any distracting sounds. This is especially beneficial if you're a light sleeper and is a common technique used to help babies fall asleep.

To illustrate this idea, imagine two people are having a conversation -- you can easily hear and understand what they're saying. But if you overhear 1,000 people having a conversation at once, it sounds like an indistinguishable mass of sound. A white noise machine basically aims to create the effect of 1,000 people having a conversation so that noises like snoring or traffic outside the window disappear into the hum of the white noise.

So if you can't fall asleep without a fan running, or consider yourself a light sleeper, investing in a white noise machine might be a wise move.

Two main things to consider when purchasing a white noise machine are price and functionality. Most options will include white noise in addition to other frequency sounds like brown and pink noise, which have slightly different frequencies and that some people may find more soothing or relaxing. Some of the more high-end models feature additional sleep benefits, like a timer, a night light or aromatherapy. All the products below have been reviewed by hundreds and even thousands of satisfied Amazon customers, who have given these noise machines their seal of approval.

Our top picks under the $30 price point are the LectroFan Micro Wireless Sleep Sound Machine ($23.24; amazon.com) and the Marpac Rohm White Noise Sound Machine ($29.99; amazon.com). Both are traditional sound machines that use rechargeable batteries and are small enough to be used when traveling. The Pictek Mini Travel Sound Machine ($19.99; amazon.com) is a great option for use on planes or in cars, since it only works when plugged into headphones. The Big Red Rooster White Noise Machine ($17.99; amazon.com) is a more traditional white noise machine and also an Amazon's Choice product, making it a great option if you're looking for a standard white noise machine at a lower price point.

If you're looking for a white noise machine with some additional features, the LectroFan Evo White Noise Sound Machine ($59.95; amazon.com) is the top-rated sound machine on Amazon, boasting a 4.5-star rating with over 7,440 reviews. Another great option is the Sound+Sleep High Fidelity Sleep Sound Machine ($82; amazon.com), which features adaptive sound technology -- meaning it can instantly adjust audio volume based on your environment. The Dreamegg White Noise Sound Machine ($34.99; amazon.com) not only features a whole range of white noise and nature sounds, but also has a built-in night light. The ArtNaturals Sound Machine & Essential Oil Diffuser ($36.95; amazon.com) offers different noise options in addition to an essential oil diffuser and colored lights, if you're looking for a product that aims to provide a whole range of relaxing features.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer's listed price at the time of publication.