In college I had a roommate who was so attached to the sound of her fan, she bought an app on her phone that recreated it everywhere. Since I was living in the same room, I got pretty into the best fans for white noise, and now I can't sleep without something droning on in the background. Lucky for me, my current apartment is in a basement directly next to a boiler, washing machine, and massive dehumidifier. For those of you living in quieter conditions, however, fans will probably fit better in your room.
For some, sleeping in a loud environment might seem counter-intuitive. But according to science, people find white noise soothing because it overrides our brains' protective systems. Even while we sleep, we're listening for potential dangers, so we can wake up if one of them approaches. Hundreds of years ago, that was stuff like lions and tigers and bears (oh my), but now it's likely car horns and your cat knocking stuff over in the kitchen. Christopher Winter, a neurologist and sleep medicine doctor explained to the Huffington Post that the "very basic, nonrepetitive sound” of a fan is able to mask the other noises. “It’s an ambient noise that... passes through our consciousness and doesn’t really arouse any emotion.”
If you need a fan to fall asleep, you're not alone. There are tons of forums and websites all over the internet that discuss the most effective fans for white noise. Here are a few of the best.
1. A "Wicked Loud" Box Fan That Has A Cult-Following On Amazon
White noise sleepers widely consider box fans (like this one from Holmes) to be one of the best options, because they're often the loudest. It has three speed settings, a convenient five-foot cord, and it's great for a constant sound: "It was wicked hard to find a fan that we could use for both a fan and white noise - this is perfect!" according to one Amazon reviewer. "High is wicked loud, but low is perfect for night sleeping!"
2. This Space-Savvy Tower Fan For Your Bedside Table
If you're look for a compact fan for your apartment, this small but powerful oscillating tower should do the trick. One Amazon reviewer vouches for it's ability to lull you to sleep by saying: "Got this to replace a bigger fan that was taking up too much room - primarily used for white noise while I sleep/ try to sleep ... In that regard this little fan does deliver!" It has three speeds, a stacked design to save space, and two separate sections that pivot for even wider coverage.
3. An Industrial Fan That Is Crazy Powerful
"All you have to do is get yourself an 'Air King' brand," says Misplacedhippie, who's a big believer in industrial fans because they output tons of white noise. "These type fans are the same size as a regular fan, but they are much louder and put out a lot more air. I slept with one for at least 25 years and it's great!" This one has a pivoting head, powder-coated steel blades, and a mounting option for more versatility.
4. A Fan Is Noticeable, But Not Overwhelming
If you want something that's noticeable, but bit more subtle, there's the Chillout personal fan. It has two speeds, it fits on desks, tabletops, and nightstands, and according to one Amazon reviewer, "It produces that lovely fan sound for all of us that like that white noise! It's not overwhelming, just pleasant!"
5. A Fan That Gives Off The Sound Of Whooshing Air Rather Than A Mechanical Hum
"I use the small vornado fans," says Reddit user rfgrunt in a post about white noise fans. "Very good quality, has lasted years with nightly use." It's ideal for someone who likes a ton of air flow because it uses a signature vortex technology that circulates up to 70 feet. Instead of hearing the mechanical sound of blades, though, you actually hear whooshing air.
6. An Oscillating Fan Is Surprisingly Loud For How Small It Is
The Holmes Lil' Blizzard is surprisingly loud for such a small fan, and the oscillating motor adds to the white noise. It also has two speed settings and you can tilt the head any which way. "My son has a hard time staying asleep because of the creeks and cracks he hears in the middle of the night," one Amazon reviewer commented. "The white noise is very effective at helping one sleep through the night."
7. A Super Portable Fan You Can Take With You To Your Next Hotel
This battery-operated clip fan measures in at only 5 inches, so it’s a great option for traveling, and according to reviewers — it delivers just the right amount of white noise for sleeping. The head pivots 360 degrees, so you can aim the direction of airflow in any direction you choose. Pro tip: the clip is perfect for attaching the fan to your headboard or bedside table.
8. A Fan That Reviewers Say Is Just As Good As AC
This one was another direct recommendation on a forum about the best fans for white noise. The Lasko Hv utility fan has a pivoting high-velocity airstream blower that outputs loads of air and a nice constant noise. It's ideal for super hot sleepers (one reviewer even called it the "best thing since air conditioning"), but it's not so loud that you can't fall asleep.
9. A Fan That Can Block Out The Sound Of 3 Kids (& Thus, Can Block Out Anything)
The Lasko Wind Machine 3 was another suggestion from a white noise fan forum: "It is very loud. It blocks out the sound of my 3 little kids with the sitter when I sleep after a night shift. Great quality, too." It's got a large 20-inch pivoting head for optimum air flow, and a convenient carrying handle to move it from room to room.
10. A Tiny Fan That Is Not REALLY A Fan
Whether you're traveling light or it's too cold to deal with airflow, the Marpac Dohm sound machine was specifically created to drown out the world with a relaxing fan noise. That's because it's got actual asymmetrical blades inside that create the soothing sound of rushing air without pushing any. One of over 11,000 reviewers say that this "machine has officially replaced our fan. My girlfriend is rather picky, so the fact that we were able to substitute this machine for the fan was quite shocking."
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