Sleep is a human obsession. Are we getting enough? How much is enough? How do we get more sleep? And nodding off isn’t always easy, for adults or kids. But we have good news: white noise can help improve your slumber.
These devices are designed to sit in your room and play sounds to help you fall – and stay – asleep. And more often than not they’re screen free to help aid sleep further. But what exactly is white noise?
“It is usually a repetitive ‘whooshing’ noise,” explains Dr Zoe Schaedel, co founder of the Good Sleep Clinic. “If played while trying to fall asleep at night, white noise can help to block outside noises that might get in the way, and can help us to fall asleep more quickly.”
Dr Schaedel adds that, “Using nature sounds can be calming and can distract from this focus on our thoughts. It is often a good way to enable relaxation and a more meditative state that encourages sleep. As well as this, white or pink noise can help our brains to be less ‘alert’ to other sounds.”
As a result, most people will use these machines as soon as the lights go out to help them drift off. “However, some people find it helpful to use white or pink noise in the lead up to bed, as part of a regular ‘wind-down routine’.” Says Dr Schaedel. “It can help to make our bedroom a relaxing sanctuary, shutting out the stresses of the outside world and helping us to transition from day into night.”
How we tested
We spent many an hour doing the extremely taxing job of sleeping to test these white noise machines. And we slept great, thanks to the gadgets that have made the round up. We were looking for how easy they were to use, how many different sounds they made and extra functions such as night lights, aromatherapy – oh yeah, you name it these white noise machines do it. Here are the ones we found most dreamy…
The best white noise machines for 2023 are:
- Best overall – Eve Sleep x morphée sleep aid: £79.95, Amazon.co.uk
- Best budget buy – I-Star portable white noise machine: £17.50, Amazon.co.uk
- Best for babies – Ewan deluxe baby shushing dream sheep: £39.99, Sweetdreamers.co.uk
- Best tech for parents – Hatch rest smart sound machine: £171.43, Amazon.co.uk
- Best multi-functional device – Lumie bodyclock luxe 750DAB wake-up light alarm clock: £229, Lumie.com
Eve Sleep x Morphée sleep aid
If you find yourself getting sucked in by screens just before bed and then have trouble falling asleep (no judgement here, TikTok is wildly addictive) then this screen-free gadget is just the ticket. We were immediately struck by what a good-looking piece of tech this is. It sits in a wooden cup, and has key-like levers on the top to control it. It doesn’t need any pairing or other faffing – just plug it in and go.
The Morphée has three keys. The first one controls the theme of your session. You can choose from eight themes including breathing, nature sounds, visualisations and body scan. We tried all of them at different times, and as soon as the sessions started we could feel our troubles melt away – it’s absolutely magic.
The second key lets you choose from one of eight sessions – so you have eight different sounds for each theme. This means you’re not listening to the same thing over and over again, which we liked. The last key lets you flick between eight or 20 minute sessions. There are also play/pause buttons, volume buttons and you can choose between male or female voices.
We absolutely loved the Morphée – it’s so simple but has fast become an essential for us. And not just at bedtime – we found we used it to calm down during periods of stress too. Just brilliant.
i-Star portable white noise machine
All the functions on this versatile little box are brilliant. There’s a range of six sounds including hairdryer, ocean, summer night and fan. You select these by turning the large tactile dial on the top. There’s also a timer function, so you can play your selected sound for 15, 30 or 60 minutes, or indeed you can just have it on constant. The volume is adjustable, and it can get quite loud so make sure you’re an adequate distance away to preserve your ear drums.
You can plug this white noise machine into the mains, or load it with 4 AA batteries. It rinses through the batteries at a pretty rapid rate though, so unless you’re traveling we advise it’s kept near a plug – we marked this down slightly as we felt like the flex could have been longer.
Ewan deluxe baby shushing dream sheep
A perennial favourite of parents, Ewan is all about getting newborn babies off to sleep. This lad mimics the sounds of the womb with a mixture of pink and white noise, including the actual sounds of a real heartbeat and womb. Sounds a bit creepy, but babies love it. This deluxe version has a cry sensor – when it senses a baby is crying, it starts up automatically, hopefully soothing your bundle of joy back to sleep with no help from you. This cry sensor listens for four hours and then assumes the coast is clear and switches itself off automatically.
Ewan has pop-out control so you can sling him in the washing machine if he gets grubby (how are babies sick on everything?). And his tail can Velcro to the size of the cot to keep him safely away from your baby. For his final trick, Ewan can emit a pink glow, which should also help your baby feel safe and comforted.
Hatch rest smart sound machine
This is a high-tech answer for children’s sleeping woes. The Hatch rest is designed for babies and children, and includes a time-to-rise light that changes colour when it’s time to get up. You can control this – including the colour of the wake-up light – via an app on your smartphone.
We were seriously impressed by how much you can control via this app. The nine colours, 11 sounds and light intensity are all there to create your own programme, and you can set a favourite that the Hatch rest will default to when you switch it on, and choose different programmes for different times of the day.
You can also control the Hatch rest manually to a degree, tapping it on the top to switch it on and cycle through a few options. We found this function great, until our toddler clocked it and then wouldn’t leave it alone. Hilarity at bedtime did not ensue – for us parents at least – and we have since learned you can put a toddler lock on it. We loved that you can control the Hatch rest remotely. Our toddler tends to shout as soon as the white noise goes off, so being able to stay on the sofa and switch it back on in their room upstairs was a game changer.
Lumie bodyclock luxe 750DAB wake-up light alarm clock
We know what you’re thinking – this thing is for getting you out of bed, not to help you drift off. But you’re wrong – it’s both, which saves bedside table real estate considerably. This gadget felt like a Swiss Army knife – it has 31 sounds to choose from including white noise, waterfalls and even kittens. Sure. You can also set it to mimic the sunset and sunrise, with a customisable duration of 15-90 minutes, and it minimises blue light at bedtime to aid sleep further.
We liked that this has everything thrown at it – it definitely made our bedroom routine feel more calm and structured generally. And we loved the huge range of sounds we could choose from. In the morning we got quite into listening to the DAB radio – something we haven’t done in years, and have become big Greg James fans as a result.
Lumie also offers a 45-day trial of this product, so you can give it a spin and see if you get on with it.
Another very versatile bit of kit, the Yoto player has been a huge hit with our kids. We used the sleep radio function (found via the app on your phone). You can also choose from white noise, pink noise, brown noise, vacuum cleaner, noisy fan, hairdryer, rainy car ride, train journey and washing machine. There’s also a vast array of natural sounds and some musical sounds too. This is all controlled via your app, so you can work it remotely – something we loved.
Accompanying this, you can also select a night-light colour from the rainbow, which glows out of the roof (you can select the brightness too). Lowest brightness in red worked like a dream for us. And then you can get it to change colour when it was time to get up – this actually worked on our five year old, scoring us at least 30 minutes longer in bed each morning.
As well as the sleep function, you can use it as an audiobook reader – and invest in story cards (sold separately) including guided mediations for sleep. Lastly, both the story cards and sleep sounds will play through your phone – great for when you’re on the run, and we played them in the car too on long car journeys. Genius.
Glow Dreaming sleep aid
We absolutely loved all the very calming and well-thought-out features of the Glow Dreaming sleep aid. The Glow Dreaming aid is designed for kids and plays one pink noise, which you can put on a timer, and it can’t go above 70dB, which is the safe limit for developing ears. It’s advised to put it on a hard flat surface, because the Glow Dreaming speaker is located at the bottom of the unit, and it cleverly uses the hard surface below to create an additional reverberation. This helps achieve the depth of sound required for pink noise.
As well as this pink noise, the Glow Dreaming aid casts a red light – you can adjust the brightness by clicking through the buttons on the front. Of course, you can have the light off. And perhaps best of all is that it can also let out a cool stream of mist, scented with pure essential oils. Glow Dreaming makes its own dreamy essential oils, but you can of course put your own in. We loved this feature, as our toddler is prone to coughs and colds, and this seemed to help them get more sleep when they were ill.
We found this sleep aid ridiculously easy to use – the buttons were easy to operate, even in pitch black, and there’s a foolproof filling jug that comes with it. It’s mains powered, but there’s a decent amount of flex. And it comes with a brilliant guide to how to use it – the company even email you the best settings for your child’s age once it’s arrived in your house. There’s also a 65 night sleep back guarantee on the bundle we tried. Suffice to say, we were seriously impressed.
To call this merely a clock is seriously underplaying this brilliant gadget. It is a clock, yes, but it also has a huge amount of sounds on it to lull you into sleep. We got a bit addicted to the sound baths playlist (whole playlists of the stuff!), but there’s something on there to suit most tastes including guided mediations, breath work, brown, pink, white, and grey noise. There’s even cityscape noises for those that can’t sleep without the hum of traffic whizzing past.
In the settings you can decide how long you want the sounds to last, so it doesn’t play all night long. You can also use it as a night light – there’s a little glowing light on the bottom of it, that casts just the right amount of light so as to create a warm ambience for sleep. The brightness is adjustable so you can find the right balance for you, you can also ask your Loftie to remind you when bedtime is, and there’s a blackout mode too so you can have the time not showing unless you press a button.
Dreamegg portable white noise machine
This is a really handy white noise machine to take with you on the go, whether you travel a lot with your little one, or to simply have it in the change bag when they’re resisting naps. Lightweight and compact, you plug in the Dreamegg to charge it and then it is good to go – or you can leave it plugged in if you’re just using it at home.
The swirl on the top acts as a night light – you can have it on soft light, a pulsing glow or off. You can then pick between 11 sounds, all of which were actually liked (rare). Our mini tester was a fan of the fan noise, but there’s music, nature sounds, white noise and various pink noises too.
We found this device really easy to use – the buttons have different textures to the case so you can feel them even in the darkest bedroom. We like white noise machines with a timer and this one has three options – 30, 60 or 90 minutes, or you can go for constant. We also appreciated that it didn’t need to be placed near a mains socket all the time, and it comes with a tie and a hook so you can hook it in place on a pram or in the car, if you want.
i-box serene portable white noise machine with nightlight
Great for adults and kids alike, this portable white noise machine offers a winning combination of soft lighting and gentle sounds to help you relax and drift off. Kids will like that you can choose the colour of the night light (top tip: go for sleepy, cosy reds rather than harsh blue tones) and the touch controls on the light. You can cycle between 15 noises including deep white noise, Tibetan water bowls and electric fan.
The controls are ridiculously easy to use, with buttons along one side. There’s a timer so you can select between 15, 30 and 60 minute playback, or go for continuous playback if you like. It’s also got quite a decent volume for its size – we found we never needed to turn it up very high. You can plug this white noise machine into the mains, charge it and then take it out with you, and, it’s got a carry loop on it if you wanted to attach it to something.
Zazu suzy the shusher portable baby soother
This white noise machine is battery operated only, and is designed to soothe babies to sleep. It’s easy to use, with buttons on the top with six sounds to choose from, a volume button and a cry sensor. This cry sensor automatically activates the noises if it hears your baby cry, hopefully meaning you don’t have to do much yourself – though we had mixed results with our mini testers.
The machine automatically turns itself off after 20 minutes, which is great for conserving battery power but if your little darling takes a while to fall asleep it might not quite be long enough. You can’t adjust this time either.
The machine is small – it fits in the palm of our hand and takes 3 AAA batteries, so is relatively light. It’s perfect for taking out and about with you, or away on holiday. Simple yet effective.
White noise machines FAQ
How does white noise work?
According to The Sleep Foundation, researchers do not yet know how white noise improves sleep for some people, but one theory is that it masks background noises that can disrupt sleep. For example, when a noise suddenly wakes you up in the night, it’s not necessarily the noise itself that disturbs your slumber but the sudden change in frequency. As such, white noise helps to block out these sudden changes that can often frustrate light sleepers.
What does white noise sound like?
White noise sounds similar to hissing and is often likened to the static that comes from an untuned radio or television and the whirring of a fan.
What is the difference between pink and white noise?
Essentially, pink noise is the same as white noise but with the higher frequencies turned down in intensity. As a result, pink noise sounds lower pitched than white noise.
The verdict: White noise machines
Look, we loved the Eve Sleep x Morphée sleep aid. It looks great, and it works perfectly – transporting us away from screens to a more serene place. It was a pleasure to use. If you’re after something more high tech then the sleepbuds from Bose or Loftie’s clock are both fantastic options, while kids will love the Yoto.
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