You’ve probably been there once or twice in your life. You sit down at work or home to work on a project, and suddenly, your brain starts to wander. What’s the sound? You may already know the answer. Perhaps it’s your cube-mate playing her favorite 80’s rock station or your daughter’s meditation music.
Whatever the source, you find yourself distracted and at a loss for moving forward with your work. You always seem to work better in the silence, but is that really ever the case? Can white noise affect your productivity?
There are some positive results and insights into the role sound plays in boosting the brain. Let’s take a deep dive into how you might start to see a marked improvement in your daily life if you add some static in the background.
Not all Sound Is Created Equal
The reason for your aversion to background sounds may have everything to do with what it is. White noise is typically thought of as noise that can be bypassed by the brain. Instead of actively engaging your cerebral cortex, it flies under the radar and helps mask louder and intrusive sounds.
By definition, white noise is a series of signals at varying frequencies. In practical application, it is widely thought of as any kind of background noise that your brain seemingly filters out and ignores.
What does this mean for you?
It may mean that your brain processes certain sounds and frequencies actively while ignoring others. Since no two brains work the same way, your white noise may wind up completely different from that of your spouse or coworkers.
Volume Plays a Factor
Aside from the type of sound, the volume at which it is played affects whether the brain can bypass it. You may think this means your white noise must be played super low, but that is not always the case.
In fact, sometimes white noise should be cranked up a bit, especially when you are trying to mask other distracting sounds and events around you. For instance, putting in your earbuds and listening to whatever you find that soothes you may prove more beneficial than keeping your speakers on your computer lower. Leading theories behind the volume variation recommend the white noise sound is set to low so the brain doesn’t actively listen and process. Since much of the science behind this may have to do with the type of noise your brain filters, let’s take a look at what might and might not work for you.
Find your White Noise
When your ears perk up at the sound of a bouncing ball or raindrops hitting the roof, you can count those things out as white noise. Since people have varying tastes and preferences, someone you love may find those sounds helpful while you do not. White noise is a preference and one that you may have to discover through trial and error.
Electronic music is often thought to be effective as a brain bypass. It’s varying frequencies and impulses come through in varying pitches, and by definition, the brain usually shuts them out. However, what if you find that kind of sound annoying? You may want to hit the web or your phone apps to try and find examples of white noise. The most frequently considered sources aside from electrical music include:
- Wind noises
- Water flowing
Some people may not find electric music helpful in creating white noise, but they may get a boost with other music. Others may consider a show on TV as white noise. Anything that your brain ignores may prove beneficial in boosting your productivity and even general ease.
White Noise and Sleep
Does your brain shut off quickly when it comes time to go to sleep, or do you find yourself listening to every noise? White noise at bedtime can help your brain calm down and, over time, actually train it to start the sleep cycle. Some people are naturally light sleepers. This means they startle and wake easily, and their sleep cycle is disturbed multiple times over the course of a night. Lack of sleep leads to a plethora of health problems, including things such as:
- Heart disease
- High bleed pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
Not only can sleep deprivation weigh on your health, but it can also cause other issues, such as a huge drop in your productivity. Your concentration tends to wane when your brain does not go through the proper restorative process. People who are prone to waking throughout the night may find white noise helpful. Even if music and sounds don’t appear to work, something like a fan may provide all that is needed to mask the noises that would normally cause the brain to engage and wake.
White Noise and Productivity
So what happens when you find something that can serve as white noise? Well, the best thing you can do is test the theory behind white noise and productivity yourself. Do you feel more accomplished? Is your to-do list getting more checks than circles?
When you find the method that works best for your brain, you should note how you feel over the course of your project, your day, or even upon waking in the morning. Note that the type of white noise may vary based on the activity you are engaged in.
For instance, you may sleep best at night to the sounds of crickets chirping. However, during your workday, perhaps opera music is what drowns out the other noise around you. Anything that helps you focus on the task at hand and minimizes disturbances to your workflow should improve your productivity.
Creativity Gets a Boost
If your job requires creativity, finding the right white noise may serve you well. Studies have shown that white noise actually improves imagination and creativity. By stopping the intrusion of the outside or real world, the brain can access the imagination center more freely. The result is a more creative environment and output.
Think about it this way. When your brain is busy listening to the conversations around you, it is taken far off course. Not only that but trying to reengage your creative side may become even more difficult, the more distracted the brain is by other outside stimuli.
Thus, finding the thing that can filter out these distractions and allow your brain to access its creative center freely will boost its output in this way. Since creativity is not always something that flows freely, staying in this hyper-imaginative state for as long as possible may become crucial to enhancing your job performance and increasing your output.
Let’s recap what we’ve learned when it comes to white noise. For starters, it is almost always different for everybody. Finding what works for you may take a little trial and error. However, when you do find it, your productivity may go through the roof, resulting in a higher level of satisfaction with work, home and life in general. If you are a person who doesn’t usually seem to wake up refreshed, trying out white noise at night may help fix that by disguising the disruptive noises to the brain with calming ones.
So, to go back to the question at hand, does white noise affect productivity? The answer is a resounding yes. When you find what works for you. So, what are you waiting for?