The science of sound can help you in many aspects of your life, from creating the right atmosphere for a better night's rest to increasing concentration. The trick is to know which kind of sound will do the trick and the easiest way to access it. Check out our picks for the best white noise apps. They'll have you sleeping better and working more efficiently.
The best white noise app: MyNoise
Do you notice that you sleep better when the rain falls steadily outside or the wind blows gently through the trees? That's what researchers call pink noise, a combination of sounds that contain all of the frequencies that people can hear, with volume decreasing in high frequencies. This kind of pink noise "has significant effect on reducing brain wave complexity and inducing more stable sleep time to improve sleep quality of individuals," according to the Journal of Theoretical Biology study. In comparison, white noise keeps the volume consistent across all frequencies and most people don't find it as restful.
MyNoise gives you control over the volume of different frequencies of the sleep sounds in the app so you can get the sound just right. And it doesn't just apply to white noise generator, it also works other sounds like "Rain Noise," "Unreal Ocean," or the "Binaural Beat Machine." You can tweak the sound wave to get just the right kind of noise. Plus, you can mix sounds together for even more customization. The app is free and comes with some free sounds, including a "White Noise & Co." (the white noise sound), "Rain Noise," and "Binaural Beat Machine." Additional sounds are $0.99 each or you can access the whole library more than 150 sounds for $9.99.
The best white noise app to record your own sound: White Noise
The White Noise app not only has white noise, but it also has pink noise, brown noise (low-frequency sound masking) and many more soothing sounds. Plus, it gives you great flexibility for painting your own soundscape, mixing up to five sounds at once. Among the 40 sounds are an oscillating fan, cat purring, crickets chirping, water flowing and many more. If that's not enough, you get a recorder and generator to create your own sounds. White Noise also lets you set an alarm, so you can wake gradually, and a sleep timer to turn off the sound.
The best white noise app for fan sounds: Sleep Aid Fan
Similar to falling rain, the noise of an electric fan also helps many get a better night's sleep. Sleep Aid Fan generates that exact sound for you. You can play a fan sound at low, medium or high speed and also set a time for how long you want the noise to play. Three fan sounds come in the free app, and with the $1.99 upgrade, you receive five more — well worth it if the basic sounds don't work for you. The additional fan sounds offer lower and higher-frequency sounds that mimic brown noise, pink noise and more.
The best white sound app for working: Coffitivity
A study in The Journal of Consumer Research shows that background noise as mundane as the hum of a coffee shop in full swing or the muffled chatter of a television in the other room can enhance performance. Coffitivity offers what it calls a "combination of calm and commotion" that inspires and supports creativity. Choose from several different vibes: "Morning Murmur" gives you the traditional hustle and bustle of the corner café; "Lunchtime Lounge" carries a little more energy; and "University Undertones" soothes you with the calmer sounds of a campus café. If you like to listen to music while you work, you can layer in music, adjusting the balance of ambient noise and music. There is no Android app, but Android users can browse to the Coffitivity site.
Price: Free on App Store
Finally, if you are looking for an all-around effective white noise generator, not just an app or sound file that mimics sounds, we highly recommend the Marpac DOHM-DS Clasic Natural White Noise Sound Machine ($44.95, check price on Amazon). It has two volume levels and you can further adjust the sound by rotating the cover to adjust airflow to create a soothing sound that helps block other sounds in your environment that may be distracting you.
Updated 2/5/2020 with new product picks
[woman sleeping image via Shutterstock]