Having difficulty falling asleep? White noise, like a ceiling fan, can help your brain tune out distracting noises (a barking dog or heavy traffic, for example), and these white-noise apps have all kinds of relaxing sounds to help your brain relax.
Update, 9/8/21: Checked content for accuracy; adjusted pricing for myNoise.
How Does White Noise Work?
It’s no coincidence that many people think it’s easier to fall asleep (and to get quality sleep) when there’s a fan on or when the air conditioner is running. White noise is soothing to the human brain, as it contains constant noise of equal intensity across every audible frequency. The way white noise is distributed helps drown out any noises that distract or stimulate our brains when we are trying to go to sleep, like traffic or a snoring partner, thus helping us get a good night’s sleep.
There are other colors of noise besides white, and pink noise is the second-most commonly talked about sound hue. Pink noise is often confused for white noise, but it differs because it has more energy in the lower register, so it sounds like white noise but with more of a bass rumble; think of ambient noises like flowing rivers, thunderstorms, or wind. While many people find these noises to be more relaxing than staticky white noise, pink noise might be less effective than white noise at helping your brain relax and tune out unwanted noise. However, studies have shown that pink noise can help sharpen your memory, so it might be better for studying, with white noise ideal for sleeping.
We included apps that produce both white and pink noise in our list, and a few of our picks even include other sound hues.
Smart Home Assistants and White Noise
You don’t have to buy a white noise machine or download an app to reap the benefits of white noise. Smart home assistants like Google Home, Apple Homepod, and Amazon Echo can generate white noise as well—all you need to do is ask them to. However, the benefits of using a dedicated white noise app include more sound choices and customization options.
What to Look for in White Noise Apps
These apps are fairly straightforward in what they do and how they work, but some have more functionality than others. Here are the features every good white noise app should have, and a quick explanation as to why each is important:
- Plentiful, Customizable Sounds: One noise doesn’t necessarily fit all. The best white noise apps understand this and have multiple noises you can choose from. Some let you mix and match sounds, create your own sounds, or customize sliders to make things sound just right.
- A Timer: You don’t want to tank your phone’s battery, so ensure your white noise app has a timer that’ll shut the app off after a set time period. Some apps also have an alarm feature that’ll wake you up, which is great for taking a quick nap. Bonus points to apps that can run in the background while you use other apps.
- Saved Settings: If you found a white noise sound that’s particularly enjoyable or effective, you shouldn’t have to dig through all the others just to find it again. Good white noise apps make it easy for you to save your favorites for easy reference.
- External Device Support: As is the case with music, you might not always feel like listening on your phone, so look for apps with Bluetooth, Chromecast, or AirPlay support if you want to listen to audio on a speaker or your TV.
- Ad-Free: Ads always suck, but having one pop up and start blaring during the middle of the night would be a nightmare. While some of these apps may have simple banner ads, they shouldn’t ever have loud pop-up ads that interrupt your white noise audio. Some apps don’t have ads at all, but if you choose one that does, consider paying to upgrade to a premium plan to get rid of them.
Best White Noise App: myNoise
With over 200 customizable sound options, myNoise (Free/$5+ donation) is the best white noise app on the market. Designed and run by Dr. Stephane Pigeon, a signal processing Ph.D. engineer and sound designer, myNoise is just as much fun to tinker with as it is effective. MyNoise has beautiful, high-quality white noise options as well as options for other sound hues. The app lets you set a timer, and it can run seamlessly in the background while you use other apps.
In the app, there are 8 standard soundscapes to choose from, like “White Noise & Co.” and “Tibetan Choir.” Each sound option has 10 sliders you can adjust. Sometimes, these range from sub-bass up to high treble, but depending on the soundscape, it could include options like birds, water, or footsteps. Being able to fine-tune each slider is fun to experiment with, but it’s also a great tool to have if you find a particular option too distracting or loud.
MyNoise has tons of other sound options you can download and enjoy beyond the initial eight. You can gain lifetime access to the site by making either a one-time donation of $10 or a recurring donation of $5 per month. That may seem costly, but the funds do go towards keeping the project up and helping Stephane create and release new sounds regularly. The app has a truly impressive breadth of high-quality audio waiting to be enjoyed, and it’s fun to explore the app (and the website) even when you’re not looking to get help falling asleep or concentrate on work. MyNoise is an absolute pleasure to use, and Stephane Pigeon’s passion for creating amazing audio shines through, making this not just a great app in general, but the best white noise app on the market.
Best Budget Pick: White Noise Lite
If you want a powerful yet simple white noise app, look no further than White Noise Lite (Free/$0.99/$2.99). The app has 40 relaxing white, pink, and brown noise options to choose from. White Noise Lite also lets you record and mix your own sounds, with the ability to loop, adjust the balance and pitch, and mix in background noises. Plus, with support for Chromecast, you can listen to white noise from other compatible devices.
White Noise Lite app can play while other apps are open, which is great if you are trying to relax while studying or chatting with coworkers. You can also save your favorite sounds so they’re easy to find in the future, and the Advanced Settings page lets you tweak things like buffer size and notifications. The built-in alarm clock will slowly fade your audio in and out for a more gentle and natural wake up call.
There is also a paid full version of the app for $0.99, and a pro version for $2.99. The full version gets you more alarm options, removes ads, offers full stereo sound, a widget, further device compatibility, and lets you access generator tools with an in-app purchase. The pro version gets you all of that, with the generator tools included natively, and 50 high-definition sounds to enjoy. White Noise Lite is a solid straightforward app that works great given its free price point. If you’re thinking of upgrading, however, you’re best off choosing the Pro version so you get the high-definition audio and all available tools and functions.
Best Pink Noise Pick: Rainy Mood
You don’t have to live in Seattle to enjoy the beautiful sounds of rainfall, thanks to Rainy Mood ($2.99). Rainy Mood’s beautiful clean interface is zen-like and easy to use. There is a free Lite version of the app you can try, which offers a Classic Rainfall soundscape to listen to—a blend of heavy rainfall, rumbling thunder with regular thunderclaps, and sparse bird chirps.
Rainy Mood includes other rainy soundscapes in addition to the Classic including Countryside, Ocean, and Cafe. Each soundscape features three or four sliders for each featured sound (like Seagulls, Thunder, or Chatter) that allow you to adjust how loud each sound element is. Each scene contains high-definition audio and Rainy Mood’s algorithmic randomizer seamless blends sounds taken from its audio library, which has over 400 unique sounds and effects including thunder claps and ocean waves, along with individual textures of rain falling on roofs, grass, leaves, and more so everything sounds organic and not looped. With its extensive sound and texture library, Rainy Mood is an awesome choice for anyone who loves rainy day vibes.
Best for Apple Integrations: Dark Noise
With over 30 high-quality sounds and integration with Siri Shortcuts and Apple Homepod, Dark Noise ($5.99) is the obvious choice for Apple users. The app also has great customization options for those who care about aesthetics, with plenty of colorful themes and home screen icons to choose from, and a customizable widget. Dark Noise features a good variety of sonic hues you can enjoy, from white and pink to grey and brown, making it perfect for any activity, plus themed soundscapes like Coffee Shop, Beach, and Car are great presets you can jump in and enjoy.
Use your voice with Siri Shortcuts to tell Dark Noise to start (or stop) playing on your device or on your Apple Homepod, plus it has AirPlay support so you can even play it on your Apple TV. The timer feature can fade the noise out either at a specific time or after a set time period has elapsed. With plenty of sound hues, fun customization options, and Apple integration, Dark Noise is perfect for Apple enthusiasts.
Best for Fans of Fans: Bed Time Fan Noise
Bed Time Fan Noise (Free) is simple in both its name and function, but it works well and can help you fall asleep in 20 minutes. You can set the fan sound to low, medium, or high, then set the sleep timer, which turns off the app after a set amount of time has elapsed to preserve your device’s battery. The app can run in the background while you use other apps, and you can pause it from the notification tray. And that’s it! While Bed Time Fan Noise doesn’t have the bells and whistles of other apps, it’s great at what it does and its simplicity is refreshing.
Best for Simultaneous Sounds: Atmosphere: Relaxing Sounds
If you’re the adventurous type, you’ll likely enjoy the atmospheric soundscapes of Atmosphere: Relaxing Sounds (Free). The app has over 100 sounds in its library, including binaural beats and isochronic tones for stimulating your brain. It has plenty of white noise options in addition to sounds from other sonic hues. You can filter sound options by atmosphere—such as Forest, Beach, Underwater, and Instrumental—or you can import your own audio and mix it with some of Atmosphere’s default sounds.
Atmosphere: Relaxing Sounds offers a solid variety of high-quality nature sounds, including several unique rain sounds. You can play multiple sounds simultaneously to create a fuller soundscape and save those you like for future listening. The app works offline, so you can still get your white noise fix even when you’re camping in the middle of nowhere, and the handy timer shuts the app off eventually so your device’s battery won’t drain. With its easy to use interface, offline functionality, and flexible soundscape customization, Atmosphere: Relaxing Sounds is great for use anywhere.