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What Is a Sound Machine?

Sound machines often reproduce natural sounds, such as running water.
Many sound machines can play natural sounds like ocean waves.
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  • Written By: Jacob Queen
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 22 August 2014
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A sound machine is a device used to help people sleep. These machines produce a wide variety of different sounds that are used to cover up other noises that may keep someone awake. The most central function is usually the ability to produce white noise, which can be helpful in aiding sleep, and masking other sounds. Most of them also have the ability to produce a few other noises, especially natural sounds like rainfall, ocean waves and wind.

People often place sound machine devices next to their beds while they sleep. The machines are generally made to be small and unobtrusive. They usually have some kind of volume control and a method for selecting different sounds. The pricier models will normally have more sound options, while the less expensive models may only offer white noise or possibly one or two additional settings.

White noise is produced by combining all the wavelengths of sound together into one tone. The kind of white noise that a sound machine can produce has some unique properties. For one thing, it can be turned up very loud and still be soothing. When people hear white noise, they aren’t generally distracted by it, and they can often completely ignore it, even if it’s really loud. This means that it’s possible to turn the sound up loud enough to mask other sounds, while simultaneously having the sensation of being in a relatively silent room.

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Many doctors recommend the use of sound machines as an effective method of sleep therapy for people with insomnia. For many people, these devices can be a good substitution for sleeping pills. They also lack some of the disadvantages of sleeping pills, which can be addictive and even dangerous in some circumstances.

Many experts believe that white noise mimics the sound that babies hear in the womb. For this reason, it has been used very frequently as a method for soothing cranky infants. Some experts think this association with subconscious memories of being in the womb may be part of the reason it often helps adults sleep as well.

Many people find other ways to generate white noise while they are sleeping. It’s fairly common for people to sleep with a fan running, which can serve the same purpose, although it lacks the options of a sound machine. Other people may run compact discs on their stereos with rain sounds or white noise. There are several companies that produce discs with soothing sounds for sleep, and it is also possible to download these kinds of sounds to a computer and loop them.

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