Sound machines…To use one or not to use one?! In the grand scheme of all things sleep, a sound machine alone is not going to solve ALL of your child’s sleep challenges. However, when you are working on healthy sleep habits, it can be a wonderful tool to help you and your child along.
Do you have to use a sound machine to achieve healthy sleep?
The answer to that is no! You can do whatever you feel is necessary for your own children. Not everyone uses a sound machine and that is okay. It may take a little longer for your child to become a sound sleeper without one and you may have a few more sleep disruptions for the first little while but it is not an absolute necessity.
There has been a lot of conversation recently about the use of sound machines and whether or not we encourage them. One of the hesitations about sound machines is that some parents wonder if it is considered a “sleep association.” They worry that their child will become accustomed to sleeping with the background noise and unable to sleep without it.
We are in fact big fans of the use of sound machines and frequently recommend them to our clients. Here are the reasons why we love them so much but first, we will address the sleep association concern.
Is a sound machine considered a negative “sleep association?”
Although a sound machine can become an association in the sense that the constant soothing sound can cue your child that it is time to sleep and your child may sleep much more soundly with one on, it is not necessarily a negative one. With all of the sounds of everyday life and with our busy on the go lifestyles, it can be difficult for our little ones to sleep through the household noises when they are young. The good news is, it is very easy to wean them off of the need to use a sound machine and most of the time, they just outgrow it on their own. We have worked with many clients whose children have just simply outgrown the sound machine when they get older. You can get great portable ones for when you travel and it is usually easy to find temporary background noise of some sort if you are traveling and forget yours at home. Think bathroom fans, noisy air conditioners etc…
What are some of the benefits?
First off, when our little ones have freshly learned some great sleep habits, it can take them a little while to become deep sleepers and for the first little while are often what we call ‘sensitive sleepers.’ A sound machine helps to block out all of the noises that may wake these little ones as they are in the ‘sensitive sleeper’ stage.
Eliminates stress for parents
We find that using a sound machine can eliminate some of the stress parents experience when your child is just beginning to sleep well. It allows you to be much more relaxed about the noise you make when you know your child has a better chance of sleeping through due to the background noise in their room. Think about how much more relaxing it could be when you have company over and you don’t have to worry about always telling everyone to be quiet because the children are sleeping?! Or if you have sports fans in the house and you are always walking on eggshells worried that someone may scream “goal!!” Or that extreme anxiety you may feel anticipating that someone might come to your door during nap time? With a sound machine, you can enjoy your break time a little more and you don’t have to constantly look out the window, running to the door the minute someone even looks like they are approaching your house!
It is great when traveling or room sharing
Some of the concerns when traveling for families who have independent sleepers is the idea that you may need to share a room with your little ones while on vacation. Having a sound machine on can really help your child sleep more soundly with all of the added sounds of traveling happening around them. For siblings that share a room, a sound machine really helps block out the grunts and groans, tossing and turning that each child makes while sleeping.
It can be a great sleep cue
Having soothing background noise is an excellent cue to your child that it is time for sleep. As a matter of fact, we always recommend that our families turn on the sound machine as a part of the pre-sleep routine. Babies and children come to recognize that this cue means sleep at a very young age. Not to mention, who doesn’t like the sound of running water to help lull you into relaxing sleep?!
Is a fan the same as a sound machine?
The challenge with some fans is that they are just not loud enough. You don’t want it to be blasting in their ears but you do want the sound in the background to drown out some of the outside or household noises. If your fan is doing the trick there, absolutely keep it! However, if you find your child is waking up from a pin dropping on the floor then it might be a good idea to use an actual machine for the first little while at least. Sound machines with batteries are also a lot more portable than a household fan would be.
Sound machine guidelines
- You want to have your sound machine 6 feet away from your child’s head.
- If you are not comfortable using a sound machine in your child’s room, consider putting it in the hallway outside of their door. It may need to be a little louder with this option but it still does the trick!
- Use a steady sound that does not vary much in pitches and tones. Ex: Running stream as opposed to waves crashing and birds chirping.
- Use a sound machine without a timer that you can have running continuously through naps and overnight sleep