Sleep Soundly: A Guide to Safely Using a Sound Machine for Kids

photo of a room with a brown crib and white chair and a tree in the corner - tips for how to use a sound machine

Sound machines are a great tool in creating a calm and soothing sleep environment for your child. Using a sound machine can help dampen out the noises and disturbances surrounding your child’s sleep environment and is a super comforting noise to little ones as it replicates the swishing sound babies are used to hearing in the womb. 

If you are using a sound machine to improve your child’s sleep, it is important to activate it before your child has been laid down to sleep, and leave it playing for the entirety of the nap/nighttime sleep – otherwise, your child may wake and be thrown off due to the change (imagine falling asleep with your bedroom fan on and then waking in the middle of the night to it being turned off; your brain would take  notice to the difference). Being that this machine will be on for the duration of your child’s sleep, it is key to ensure it is used at a safe volume/decibel level and at an appropriate distance from your little one’s crib or bed.

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

What is a safe decibel level for my little one’s sound machine?

The Hearing Health Foundation recommends following the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines of not exceeding over a 70 decibel sound level in all areas of a child’s life. This means whether it is a white noise machine, radio, or any other noise a child is exposed to, sounds above 70 dB will damage their hearing over time. While 70dB is the maximum level considered safe, the CDC states one may still feel annoyed with sounds at this level over time (this sound level is comparable to a washing machine or dishwasher).

What does this mean for your child’s sleep?

 If you are using the sound machine to decrease moderate background noise, you can feel confident in leaving it running at 40-50 dB for the duration of your child’s sleep on a regular basis. If you are using the sound machine for its soothing properties but do not need to block out any other noises (dogs, other children, family or friends visiting etc.), consider setting the volume to as low as 30 dB. We want it to be loud enough to decrease the noises that could disturb your child’s sleep without compromising the health of their little ears. Use the lowest effective volume level for your household.

If you are still struggling with a loud sleep environment after placing the first sound machine, place a second outside of your child’s door. This will add an extra sound barrier between your little one and the noise disturbances.

*Note – Sound machines may come with glow in the dark buttons or an LED light to indicate its charge level. It is important to cover any light source using black electrical tape as darkness is key to releasing melatonin (the sleepy chemical our bodies use to tell us it’s time to go to sleep).

 See the chart below for decibel noise levels.

Sound machine - decibel noise levels

How do I check the sound level (dB) of my child’s sound machine?

While the Apple phone and watch both measure decibels through the Health app, you can download sound level meter apps on Apple or Andriod phones:

NIOSH Sound Level Meter App (iOS)

NoiSee (iOS)

SLPnFFT Noise Meter (iOS)

Sound Meter X (iOS)

Sound Meter (Android)

SoundPrint (iOS and Android)

How far away should the white noise machine be from where my child is sleeping?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends placing the white noise machine a minimum of 7 ft from your child’s head. If you do not have 7ft of space, the maximum sound level should be 50dB – this is the same recommended sound level in infant hospital nurseries.

To accurately understand the sound decibel level your child will be exposed to while they sleep follow these simple steps:

  1. Place the white noise machine in its intended location
  2. Stand beside your child’s crib or bed at the closest point to where the sound machine is (this will ensure you are measuring from the closest possible point your child would me to the white noise machine)
  3. Measure the noise level using one of the apps listed above
  4. Adjust the location or volume of the sound machine as needed and repeat

There are many sound machines on the market. Select a sound that you, the parents, can sleep with as well. You will want to take the machine with you when you travel and share a sleep space!

Sleep Consultant Kristen Anderson
Sleep Consultant Kristen Anderson

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site, like many others, uses small files called cookies to give you the best experience on our website. Find out more.

Share this page with your employer or HR department!