Study: Noise Apps May Not be Good for Sleep

Category: Health


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. white noise / waɪt nɔɪz / (n) – a type of sound that is steady and unchanging, usually used to hide or cover other unwanted or unpleasant sounds

    My sister uses a white noise app to put her baby to sleep.

  2. hum / hum / (v) – to produce a low, continuous sound

    I’m bothered by the machine’s humming.

  3. drown out / draʊn aʊt / (phrasal) – to be loud enough to block another sound

    The loud music drowned out our conversation.

  4. auditory / ˈɔ dɪˌtɔr i / (adj) – relating to hearing

    Barking, hissing, and growling are all forms of auditory communication used by animals.

  5. mask / mæsk / (v) – to cover or hide something

    I always light a scented candle after cooking seafood to mask the fishy smell.


Read the text below.

New research has revealed that white noise apps do not improve sleep.

A number of popular apps and devices use white noise, such as the humming of a fan or crashing waves, to aid sleep. With more than four million downloads on Apple and Android devices, white noise apps have become popular because they help drown out distracting sounds. Previous research suggested that listening to white noise every night may help people associate those sounds with bedtime, helping them to fall asleep faster. In their new research, the scientists found evidence that using white noise apps really does help people get to sleep faster. However, they also found evidence that these apps may actually harm the quality of one’s sleep.

The researchers reviewed 38 studies that examined white noise as a sleep aid. They concluded that white noise can shorten the amount of time it takes a person to fall asleep, but it can also disrupt the sleep cycle.

In addition, researchers said using white noise as an aid for sleeping may harm one’s hearing. Psychiatry professor Mathias Basner explained that continuous auditory activity may be harmful. He said that the auditory system should be inactive during sleep to rest and prepare for the next waking hours.

Despite the researchers’ findings, sleep expert Christian Cajochen said that some forms of white noise may be helpful for people who work night shifts and sleep during the day in a noisy environment. He explained that white noise can mask background noise, helping workers get better sleep. However, he added that using apps that promote mindfulness to help address sleeping problems might be a better option, as they are backed by research in sleep medicine.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you think people should stop using white noise apps? Why or why not?
• What other practices can people adopt for good sleep (e.g. not using their phones before going to bed)? Discuss.

Discussion B

• Why do you think some people rely on health apps (e.g. effectiveness, convenience)? Explain.
• What other widely popular health apps should be analyzed for possible negative effects (e.g. exercise apps, diet apps)?