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Colic and White Noise Machines

White noise is frequently recommended, either directly or unintentionally, by doctors as a means of overcoming colic and white noise machines are the best means of generating this mix of audible sound waves.

Colic is one of the least definable of a baby’s conditions, but is very upsetting to parents, who can eventually suffer from severe sleep deprivation if it continues untreated. It is defined as a baby crying for several hours a day regularly, and occurs in 10%-15% of children under 6 months, after which they tend to settle down. Some define it as crying more than three hours a day for over three days a week, but many babies with colic cry longer than this. Others less.

One of the soothing techniques recommended by doctors is to the child close to a continuous noise or vibrations from appliances such as a dishwasher, vacuum cleaner or hair dryer. The reason for this is that these sounds drown out all other extraneous sound through the ‘white noise’ theory. White noise is a combination of all the frequencies detectable by the human ear. Basically, if all of the frequencies are presented to the ear, it cannot pick out any individual one, and has a soothing rather than an irritating effect.

The theory works perfectly in practice and is the basis of the white noise equipment currently available on the market. Colic is probably more distressing to the parents or baby-minders than the child itself, and while harmless to the baby, can cause severe mental stress to those responsible for him or her. While the reasons for colic are unknown, there are theories that it could be due to the temperament of the baby being particularly sensitive to the environment, and may over-react to what are normal stimulations to other children. Although some think it could be a digestive problem, this has not yet been borne out by evidence, and affected children continue to eat and gain weight as normal. The environmental theory tends to be supported somewhat by the fact that a white noise generator, normally termed white noise machines or white sound machines, generally soothe affected children and send them to sleep.

Whether the theory is right or not is immaterial to hundreds of thousands of parents who use such machines to not only lull their babies to sleep, but also to do the same to themselves. White noise machines have saved many parents of colicky babies from excessive mental stress by allowing them to sleep, even above their child’s crying. Even though this might seem unlikely, since all mothers are said to be able to recognize their own child’s cry, it is a fact.

It does not matter if the noise is a dog barking, a radio playing, loud chatter from the house next door or a crying child. No individual sound can be identified from true ‘white noise’ which combines all of the audible frequencies, in the same way that nobody can detect any specific color of light in a spectrum of all of the visible wavelengths. For that is white light! A white noise machine produces exactly the same effect to the ears as white light does to the eyes. A constant soothing humming equates to a constant level of mixed light waves. You don’t hear no noise at all, or a complete absence of sound, in the same way that light is not the absence of all light. That is blackness, not white light. The two are equivalent in the different sciences of light and sound. This humming, or mixture of all sounds, will drown out other individual sounds since they just join the overall sound frequencies of the white sound. It is not easy to explain in words, but try it. It works! Colic and White Noise Machines

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Michael Zimmerman is professional in the area of white noise sleep therapy and the use of SAD light therapy to relieve the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. To find out more information about sleep related products please visit

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