When the world quiets down at night, any little soundlike a creaky pipe, or a passing carcan seem earsplitting. But the solution to your less-than-silent nights may actually be more noise. "White noise machines decrease distraction by covering up noises that could keep you awake," explains Carl Brazil, MD, the director of the Division of Sleep at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. White noisewhich is made up of sound waves spanning a wide range of frequenciesactually masks the other noises in your environment. So rather than the din of a neighbor's TV, all you hear is a steady whooshing, not unlike the "shushhh"-ing moms and dads use to soothe their newborns.
These sound machines come with a variety of features, at a range of price points (from less than $20 to more than $100). And some go beyond white noise to offer relaxing "soundscapes" (think singing crickets or the patter of light rain). Here's our quick guide to help you find a machine that matches your budget and lulls you into a deeper, more restful sleep.