While many people shop online to find a white noise machine, which can range from $20 to over $100, there may not be a need. You’re probably already in possession of one – you might even be holding it in your hand right now.
An iPhone running iOS 15 or later has a white noise feature built-in, as long as it’s an iPhone X or later and the software is up to date. (For reference, the iPhone X models were first available in 2017, so most recent iPhones — the iPhone 11, 12, 13, 14 and models in each lineup — will have this feature.)
But first: what exactly do these white noise devices do?
“The principal characteristic of sound devices is a continuous sound, in contrast to varying sounds such as music, radio, and television,” said Dr. David NeubauerAn associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Our brains pay attention to changing sounds, but a soothing continuous sound can help us fall asleep.”
Individual sounds in your home can also block out environmental noise, but the constant noise from these machines helps you fall asleep and stay asleep.
Here’s how to use your iPhone’s white noise.
The setting isn’t labeled as “white noise,” but rather called “background sounds” on your iPhone.
To get this featureGo to Settings > Accessibility > Audio/Visual > Background sound.
Once here, toggle on Background Sounds and you’ll be greeted with a relaxing sound to help you sleep or focus.
You can choose from several types of sounds: rain, stream, ocean, balanced noise, loud noise and deep noise. You can also adjust the sound volume.
All you have to do is to select your favorite background sound and volume level.
Note that you won’t be able to set a timer to turn off this background sound after a set number of hours, but you can turn on a setting that will turn off background sounds when your phone is locked.
Here’s a video for a visual, step-by-step explanation for turning on your phone’s white noise feature.
You can add a shortcut to quickly access this feature.
If you want to use this feature frequently but don’t want to follow the above steps every time, you can set up Accessibility Shortcut.
By creating an Accessibility Shortcut for Background Sound, you’ll be able to toggle your preferred background sound on and off by triple-clicking your iPhone’s side power button.
To set up an accessibility shortcut, go to Settings > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut and select Background sound. From there, you’ll be able to use the triple-tap trick to toggle white noise.
Background sounds for sleep can be helpful for many reasons.
There’s a reason why so many people — from parents of babies to people who live in busy neighborhoods — swear by these white noise sounds.
“I think sound devices are helpful in two ways. Most obviously they can block out other sudden noises that can wake us up during the night in complete silence,” Neubauer said.
These noises can include honking horns, barking dogs or loud neighbors – all things that may have woken you up at one point in your life.
The devices also “create a sound cocoon that can provide a sense of security,” Neubauer said. “Sometimes complete silence can make people listen attentively and prevent them from drifting off to sleep.”
In other words, you won’t find yourself hearing bumps in the night because your sound machine blocks out the noise and lulls you to sleep, but you’ll still be able to hear important sounds like the home alarm.
These machines often emit calming sounds such as rain or the whirring of a fan, or quiet static noises that are officially known as brown noise or pink noise. (While “white noise” is often used as a blanket term, true white noise can be much harsher — these substitutes are more conducive to sleep, Neubauer said.)
while one recent systematic review Sound devices haven’t found proof of their benefits, Neubauer said, because there hasn’t been much serious research on the subject. He said that sound devices are still worth a try – he uses them himself.
And, if you have a recent iPhone, you can try falling asleep to soothing background sounds without buying a sound machine.
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