frustrated man awake in bed who wants the best fan for white noise

Picking the best fan for white noise to help your sleep: Tips and 7 options worth a look

By Jason Wooden, PhD | June 26, 2020

Frustrated and looking for the best fan for white noise?  While clinical studies have shown that white noise can help sleep, the fan you choose has to work for your unique situation.

They’re plenty of options to look at to fit your bedroom space and layout.  Some models are better for bringing in cool outdoor air while other models are best if you’re dealing with allergies or other health issues.

Why you’re looking for the best fan for white noise

It’s tough to get sleep when there’s nuisance noise that won’t go away…

Maybe you live by a noisy city street or have neighbors who like to blast party music late into the night.

If you’re looking for the best fan for white noise, you’re likely not the only one.

According to a National Sleep Foundation survey, 5% of Americans use a variety of house items as a white noise sleep aide.

While electric fans is the most common choice, desperate people have also tried using air purifiers, vacuum cleaners, and any else they think will do the trick.

Yes, white noise machines have become popular. They’re techy, customizable, and convenient.

However, even though household fans are not techy or trendy, they’re an old fashion remedy that still works.

They’re low cost, durable, and come with added benefits you can’t get with a white noise machine or phone app.

And there’s lots of models you can pick from available online and at your local big box store.

There’s a catch – everyone’s situation is different, right?

Yes, you want some white noise…but what else do you need it for?

And do you have any other health issues besides insomnia you need to keep in mind..?

The best fan for white noise for you will not always be the same as for other people.

Let’s take a look what we know about how fan white noise can help sleep, some important things to think about BEFORE you buy, and go through your options.

How white noise works

Before we go any further, you may be wondering what is it that white noise does to promote sleep.

So, what is white noise?

It’s basically noise that contains all the hearable sound frequencies altogether, similar to how white light contains all the colors of the light spectrum combined together.

The way white noise helps sleep is by reducing the difference between regular background noise in your environment and sounds such as a door slamming that can arouse you out of sleep.

So, if you have trouble falling asleep or you’re easily awakened by intruding sounds, white noise will keep your sound environment constant.

It can also help if there’s not enough background noise and you’re the type of person who can’t sleep in the total absence of sounds.

I have a good friend who had gotten used to sleeping on a noisy aircraft carrier.  He finds our quiet guest room tomb-like and runs a fan to get to sleep.

Any evidence white noise works?

Okay, it should be obvious that you’re looking for the best fan for white noise because you’re hoping it will help you sleep better.

So, it’s fair to ask if there’s any scientific proof that running a house hold fan can help.

Sure, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence from friends, relatives, and personal experience…

It turns out no one has tested electric fans for this.  However, there are small clinical studies that show that white noise can make it easier for people to fall asleep and improve sleep quality.

In one study involving 60 hospital patients, researchers tested whether white noise could help them sleep better in the Intensive Care Unit.  (If you haven’t been there, the ICU is often among the noisier places in the hospital.)

They broadcasted white noise through speakers in patient rooms and found they were less disturbed by ICU sounds.  On the other hand, sleep arousals were more frequent among the patients who slept without the white noise.

White noise was tested again more recently in a study involving 18 healthy individuals.  Similar to the earlier study, white noise made it easier for people to fall asleep and improved their sleep quality.

So, while researchers haven’t directly tested using fans for sleep, there is evidence that white noise can help sleep.

What to keep in mind as you look for the best fan for white noise

Okay, as mentioned earlier, you’re not looking for any old fan, but the best fan for white noise FOR YOU.

Again, everyone’s situation is different.

You may live an apartment or house, a hot or temperate, or have health challenges such as asthma you have to be extra careful about.

Here are some important things to think about before you buy:

1) What do you really need it for?

Are you getting it as a cheap way to create white noise or do you also need something to circulate air?  If keeping cool is important, you may need a more powerful fan for bigger bedrooms.

2) How loud do you need it to be?

You may need a fan that’s loud enough you can hear it without having it directly near you.

3) How important is convenience?

How important is it that your fan be as user friendly and easy to operate as possible?  Are you the type who doesn’t like lots of extra buttons and features?

Do you need it to be light or compact enough to move around to different spots?

4) Downsides

Allergies – running a fan may make things worse if you’re prone to hay fever or asthma.  Fans can stir up a lot of dust and allergens that can make their way into your sinuses.

Fixes:

  • keep your fan extra clean
  • get one with an air filter
  • point it away from you

Dry air – some people find that running a fan during the night dries out their skin, eyes, or mouth

Fixes:

  • keep lotion, eye drops, or a glass of water nearby
  • make sure the fan isn’t blowing air directly on you

Bottom lineGiven the low cost and extra benefits, it’s worth a try to see if fan white noise can help your sleep.  Poor sleep for sure will leave you miserable and more susceptible to illness.

5) Placement

Do you need something that can sit in your window and pull in cool fresh air from the outside?  Keep in mind that it can also pull in allergens.

Are you looking for something you can place directly next to you so it doesn’t disturb a bedmate as much?  If so, you may need something smaller and less powerful.

Or maybe you need something slim enough to stick in a corner…

Whether you keep your fan nearby or across the room, there will be tradeoffs.

6) It needs to work for you and anyone else in the room

This one is pretty obvious.  If you have bedmate or roommate, the best fan for you may not work for them if they have allergies and you don’t. 

It’s gotta work for both of you…

Your choices for the best fan for white noise

There’s a wide variety of fan types available online and at your traditional box store.

Some of the features you can get include:

  • multiple speed settings
  • remote control
  • oscillation to blow air in different directions
  • adjustable to angle the air in a direction of your choice
  • variety of sizes and shapes to minimize footprint on bedroom
  • air filtering to remove allergens

Here are the basic types:

picture of box fan which may be the best fan for white noise for some people

1) Classic box fan

Best for:  need something simple, low cost, and versatile
Pros:
-simple and low fuss
-low cost
-multiple speed settings
-can be placed in window for additional cooling
Average cost: $20

picture of a tower fan which is the best fan for white noise for corners

2) Tower Fan

Best for:  bed rooms with limited space
Pros:
-slim
-can be placed in corners
-space saving
-multiple speed settings
-oscillate for wider room cooling coverage
-timer (for some models)
Average cost: $40 – $100

picture of floor fan

3) Pivoting Floor Fan

Best for:  indirect air
Pros:
-powerful
-low profile
-multiple speed settings
-can aim at ceiling for indirect air
Average cost: $30 – $60

picture of a small fan that can be placed on a night stand

4) Personal Fan

Best for:  direct placement next to you
Pros:
-compact
-small foot print
-multiple speed settings
-some models can oscillate
-can restrict air flow more to yourself and less on others
Average cost: $15 – $24

picture a dual blade window fan which may be the best fan for white noise to bring in cool air

5) Window fan

Best for:  window placement and fresh outdoor air
Pros:
-fresh cool air from outside
-designed for window placement
-out of the way
Average cost: $49 – $60

picture of pedestal fan

6) Pedestal fan

Best for:  placement it tight spaces and versatility
Pros:
-can set height
-remote control
-adjustable
-rotate
-out of the way
Average cost: $40 – $100

picture of the Blueair purifying system which may be the best fan for white noise if you have allergies

7) Air filtering fan

Best for:  allergy or asthma sufferers
Pros:
-multiple speed settings
-white noise setting for some models
-prefilters air
Average cost: $80 – $250

Learn more:
Blueair Blue Pure Purifying
Germ Guardian True HEPA Filter Air Purifier Tower Fan

Even if you find the best fan for white noise, make sure you’re do this too

The best fan for white noise won’t help if you don’t do these other things

While a house fan can help guard your sleep against intruding sounds, it will be of limited help if you’re not following the basic rules for good sleep.

Sleep experts refer to these rules are sleep hygiene. It’s the everyday things you do that can set the stage for deep restful sleep at night.

For better sleep hygiene, you should:

  • keep consistent wake up & sleep times
  • avoid naps
  • exercise during the day
  • avoid large meals, alcohol, or stimulants in the evening
  • maintain a regular bedtime routine
  • avoid using TVs, laptops, or other electronics at night
  • keep your bedroom dark, cool, quiet, & relaxing

They also suggest that you see a doctor as many other health issues can cause problems for sleep.  You could as be living with an undiagnosed sleep disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea.

So, yes, get the best fan for white noise you can find but make sure you’re not doing other things that can undercut your sleep.

Sources:

1. “What Is White Noise?”, HowStuffWorks website

2. “What Is White Noise?”, National Sleep Foundation website

3. “Why not everyone should sleep with a white noise machine”, 2019, Time website

4. Effect of White Noise on Sleep in Patients Admitted to a Coronary Care, J Caring Sci. 2016 Jun; 5(2): 103–109.

5. Broadband Sound Administration Improves Sleep Onset Latency in Healthy Subjects in a Model of Transient Insomnia, Front Neurol 2017 Dec 21;8:718.

6. “Is Sleeping with a Fan On Actually Bad for Your Health?”, 2018, Live Science website

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