Because not everyone sleeps to white noise, most modern white noise machines produce a wide range of sleep sounds including thunder, rain, fireplace, coffee shop and so on.
You can select among different ambiences to find the one that helps you doze off quickly.
In this buying guide, we are going to review the best sound machines for sleep.
Our top picks are based on customer feedback, product versatility, ease of use and price.
But first, here are a few tips to keep in mind when selecting the best white noise machine for sleep from those available on the UK market.
What to Consider When Buying a Sound Machine for Sleep
a. Sound Options
The cheapest sound machines have a repository of just a few sounds, usually around 5 or less. On the pricier end, there are machines with as many as 30 different sounds.
The best option depends on how versatile you want the machine to be. If you only sleep to a single sound, perhaps rain or white noise, then a basic sound machine is enough.
But if you want to try out different sounds, get something with more options.
A sound machine with a wider range of sounds is also ideal if you are planning to use it to help you focus when working or studying.
b. Headphone Jack
Some people find it more immersive to listen to sleep sounds through headphones rather than a loud speaker.
If that’s what you prefer, make sure the sound machine has a headphone jack.
Having a headphone jack also lets you connect the sound machine to an external speaker.
This one is a must-have.
An auto-off timer allows you to fall asleep without worrying about turning off the sound machine. As long as you’ve set the timer, it will turn itself off automatically.
The timer should have a wide range of options. Some can be set for up to an hour while the best let you set the timer for up to several hours.
d. Power Options
There are three power options:
- Plugged in
The best options will depend on your situation. If you travel a lot or there is no socket near your bed, a USB or battery machine is the best.
Some sound machines provide two options: you can plug it in or power it with a USB cable and you can also run it on batteries.
Most sleep sound machines are compact and easy to carry around.
If you prefer sleeping to your favourite sounds whether you are at home, in a friends place or at a hotel, you won’t have trouble finding the right machine.
Just make sure it accepts batteries. This ensures you can use it anywhere.
f. Extra Features
- Music input: If you’d like to occasionally sleep to your own selection of soft music, check whether the machine accepts any sound input.
- Adaptive sound technology: Some sound machines automatically lower the volume gradually to help you fall asleep faster. They can also increase the volume if they detect a noise disturbance from the neighbours or the street.
- Dimmable lights: Even a small LED indicator light can be annoying when you are trying to sleep. Check that the lights on the machine can be dimmed or turned off.
The Best Sound Machines for Sleep Reviews
This affordably priced bedside white noise machine offers up to 20 different sleep sounds.
They include 8 nature sounds like stream, wind and campfire, 6 white noise sounds and 6 fan sounds. This is a pretty versatile selection to choose from.
The recordings are high quality and do not loop every couple of minutes.
You can play any of the sounds continuously or set a timer for between 1 and 7 hours.
You can also select your preferred volume from the 30 levels available. Set it low to soothe yourself to sleep or turn it higher to drown out your partner’s snoring or the sound of cars in the street.
When you turn off the machine or when it turns off automatically, it does not erase the current settings. Turn it on again and it resumes the previous sound and volume.
That saves you the hassle of repeatedly re-programming the settings.
The machine has a USB port for charging and a USB cable is included. You can plug it into a computer or a 5V power adapter (not included).
What we like about it:
- Wide selection of sleep sounds that are ideal for adults, kids and babies.
- High quality recordings.
- Versatile timer and volume settings.
- Highly portable – it is small enough to fit in a handbag or backpack.
If you want a sleep sound machine you can run on batteries, I recommend this one.
It accepts 4 AA batteries (not included) and you can also power it via the included USB cable. This makes it perfect for frequent travellers.
Because it has a headphone jack, you can even listen to your favourite relaxing sounds on the train or plane.
There are 8 sound modes to choose from including white noise, New York morning, Hawaii Waves, Home appliance and Tokyo Temple Rain.
Each mode has 3 more options. For example if you choose home appliance, you can select vacuum cleaner, blower or electric fan.
For Tokyo Temple Rain, you can select driving rain, raining on the roof and drip drop.
So in total there are actually 24 sounds.
There are three timing settings: continuous play mode, 30 minutes and 60 minutes.
A large volume knob lets you select your preferred sound level.
What we like about it:
- More sounds to choose from.
- Includes a headphone jack for those who want a more immersive listening experience.
- Two power options – USB and batteries.
- Perfect for use at home or on the go.
This one is more expensive than the two I have reviewed above. But it’s also more stylish. More importantly, it has far better sound quality.
The built-in speaker uses surround sound technology to provide a richer experience. If you still prefer the intimate experience of listening via headphones, there is a headphone jack.
There are 15 natural sounds including white noise, campfire, ocean, brook and birds among others.
The sounds themselves are very high quality. The surround sound speaker makes them sound even better.
The settings are easy to configure. You get three timer options – 30, 60 and 90 minutes – and five volume levels.
As for power, the machine comes with an AC power adapter.
What we like about it:
- Beautiful design – looks great on your bedside or on a desk.
- Convenient memory function that resumes previous settings when you turn on the machine.
- Compact and light – easy portability.
- Uses a warm light that is dim enough to let you sleep comfortably but bright enough to make it easy to operate the buttons in the dark.
This is the most expensive of our picks. It’s also the biggest and the most feature-packed.
To start with, it has 30 high quality sounds to choose from. These sounds are divided into several sound profiles including waterfall, fireplace, ocean, city, rainfall and white noise.
In each sound profile you can mix different sounds to get a rich and realistic ambience. For instance, for city sounds there are passing cars, machinery, copters, footsteps, and skates.
For the ocean, you can add the sounds of birds and seals, bells and foghorns or just listen to the waves only.
The recordings are very high quality and they do not loop.
But the most unique feature is the adaptive sound technology.
The machine automatically increases or lowers the volume to respond to your environment. If there is more noise, it increases the volume. If it gets quiet, it lowers the volume.
You can turn the adaptive mode off if you prefer one constant volume.
The sleep timer has options for 30, 60, 90 and 120 minutes. As the timer dies down, it gradually lowers the volume to provide a seamless experience and make sure you stay asleep.
What we like about it:
- Includes a headphone jack to connect to headphones or an external speaker.
- A wide variety of high quality recordings.
- Adaptive sound technology ensures you sleep peacefully without getting woken up.
- Auto-dimming panel lighting.
If you just want something basic and affordable, try this sleep sound machine from HoMedics.
It doesn’t provide a wide selection of sounds – just 6 – but it’s perfect if you only listen to one or two sounds.
Sounds include summer night, ocean, thunder, rain, brook and white noise.
You can set the timer to 15, 30 or 60 minutes. There are also a couple of volume control buttons.
The unit is small enough to fit in your backpack or handbag. And because it can run on batteries (not included), you can easily carry it with you when travelling (unfortunately, there is no headphone jack).
For when you are at home or in a hotel, use the included power adapter.
What we like about it:
- Highly portable.
- Two power options.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How does a sleep machine work?
Sleep sound machines are a god send for many people who struggle to sleep. They can help block out noises that might otherwise disturb your snoozing, and can help you get a full night’s sleep and wake up feeling rested.
A sleep machine works by masking unwanted or unexpected noises, such as a loud partner, traffic noise, and even things like tinnitus. It may sound like an odd concept, to use more noise to help you sleep, but a constant, consistent, gentle sound can actually help you sleep better.
If intermittent traffic noises disturb your slumber, or a neighbour’s dog barking wakes you, using a blanket of sound can help you stay asleep by stopping the surprise element of these sounds.
2. How does a sleep sound machine really work?
Sleep sound machines create a constant noise that can be soothing and help you to sleep, first and foremost. They use a variety of methods; some sleep machines use white noise to block out outside noises that might disturb sleep.
Others can use soft music or nature sounds, while others emit the sounds of hairdryers, traffic noise or even aeroplanes! Most sleep sound machines emit a constant sound, and will repeat sounds on a loop to help insomniacs drift into undisturbed slumber – and to stay there.
A sleep sound machine is designed to calm whoever is listening to it, and to lull them into a decent night’s sleep. They work by encouraging the listener to slip from one sleep cycle to another, without waking up in between.
3. Where to buy a sleep sound machine?
These clever devices are becoming more and more widespread – because who doesn’t love a good night’s sleep? This is great if you are looking to buy one, as you can find more choice and variety. Large department stores should stock them, as well as those shops that sell everything under one roof.
And of course, if you can’t find one on the high street, the internet is always a great place to find things – simply open up a search engine and type in “sleep machine”, and you will be instantly spoilt for choice!