The "secret" to ensuring white noise works effectively requires just two things: make sure it is loud enough and continuous. Turn the volume up to 30-50 decibels. The sound really should not be too quiet or it won't mask disturbing sounds or create the "neutral" background noise this is necessary. Many white noise machines have timers, but also make sure it as a continuous setting. The sound must be continuous. Don't buy a model that automatically shuts itself off after a certain time. Long lasting, consistent sound is the key.
A white noise machine can be particularly helpful in calming fussy or crying babies, or those suffering from colic. The soothing sonic sounds are quite effective in creating the right ambiance for natural sleep. Babies naturally wake up about every 20-45 minutes. White noise helps babies get longer, more restorative naps. It also helps to block out sounds made by other people in the house, or noises outside such as traffic, barking dogs, doorbells, etc. that can interfere with naps and night sleep. When children are ill, they can be particularly light sleepers. The immune system can really get to work when a baby sleeps, so it is important for them to get enough rest. A sick child can also be a big strain on the parents who will also suffer from lack of sleep during this time. By helping your child sleep, parents will also get more and better rest as well.
Many new mothers are chronically sleep deprived. In addition to constant feedings, new moms and dads find themselves waking every time their baby sighs, grunts or gurgles in their sleep. White noise can actually drown out some of these more subtle sounds and allow parents to sleep through them. Of course if a baby cries loudly, you won't miss that, but why disturb the time you do have for sleeping with little noises that are not important to react to.
We all know that stress isn't good for anyone, but it is particularly bad for babies. You might be wondering what stresses out a newborn, but when you think about it, everything does! They’re stressed when they’re over-tired, they’re stressed because their world is more stimulating than they’re ready for, they’re overwhelmed with lights, faces, and bombarded with new, new, new. Stressed babies get sick more often than healthier kids, so using white noise to sooth and calm them automatically helps reduce their stress levels.
Can a babe become addicted to white noise? Sure it can, but does it matter? Just like a special blanket or soft pajamas, if white noise becomes the norm at your house, when the norm is missing then good sleep might suffer. There's no harm in always having white noise when napping or night sleeping (adults, too), as long as the white noise machine is portable it can travel with you. But if you are worried about toddlers becoming too dependent, you can wean him or her from white noise. After about the age of one, you can gradually start to decrease the volume of the white noise. If they continue to sleep well, you’re done. If they wake up more frequently then they used to, turn the white noise back on.
Overall, white noise can have a very positive effect on children and adults if utilized correctly. In fact, most children under age 5 (and their harried parents) can benefit from white noise. So even if kids slept well as infants but are having trouble as they get older, introduce a white noise machine at any age.