1. Health

Top Sound Machines Under $25 to Help You Sleep

Choose Between White Noise and Nature Sounds

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Updated April 17, 2012

Getting a good night's sleep can be tougher as you age. Sound conditioners that muffle room noise and help soothe you to sleep are recommended by many sleep specialists as a drug-free solution to insomnia. In a 2008 Consumers Reports survey of 2,021 problem sleepers, sound machines offering white noise or nature sounds like ocean waves and rainfall were found to work almost as well as medication in getting respondents to sleep and improving sleep duration. Of course, a consumer survey is not the same as a double-blind, clinical trial, so sound machines have not been medically proven to provide insomnia relief. But many survey respondents said they found the devices helpful.

Noise machines differ in the quality of sound they produce, number of sounds, whether they have timers, can operate on batteries, and whether they play back recorded sounds or produce their own white noise. If the quality of sound is high, it doesn't much matter whether it's recorded, or generated, in my view. Models with alarm clocks may force you to choose between hearing one sound during the night, and setting an alarm to wake you in the morning. Check that the timer is optional only, if you want to play it throughout the night. Certain machines have displays with lights that are bright enough to disturb your sleep, if you prefer a very dark room. Finally, if you're planning to use one during a hospital stay, look for a machine with a headphone jack.

If you want to give sound machines for better sleep a try, here are a few inexpensive models that may help you catch more zzz's, without breaking the bank.

1. Conair Sound Therapy Relaxing System

Sharon Basaraba

    This is my top choice for price and quality of sound.
  • 10 high-quality recordings including white noise, heartbeat, ocean waves, rainfall.
  • Optional 60-minute timer, can also play all night.
  • Separate on/off and volume switches, so it remains set at your preferred volume.
  • Lightweight and easy to pack.
  • Works with 4 AA batteries or with AC adapter.

2. Conair SU7 Sound Therapy and Relaxation Clock Radio

Photo courtesy of Pricegrabber

    This model offers the convenience of a sound machine and alarm clock in one, for your nightstand.
  • Recording quality on this model is very nice; has 10 sounds including ocean waves, tropical forest, rainfall, and white noise.
  • Blue light digital clock has dimmer switch to reduce light in bedroom.
  • Sound and alarm work independently so you can sleep with one of the sound settings all night long, and still have either a buzzer or radio set to wake you up. Not all clock/sound combination devices have this feature.
  • Operates on 4 AA batteries or with AC adapter.

3. HoMedics Sound Spa Mini Portable Sound Machine

Photo courtesy of Pricegrabber

    Most compact model; small enough to tuck in a suitcase.
  • Operates on 3 AA batteries only; no AC adapter.
  • Optional timer for 15/30/45 minutes.
  • Four sounds: ocean, rain, dockside and brook. No white noise but rain setting is similar.
  • On/off and volume switch are combined, so you must adjust the volume each time you turn it on.
  • Sound quality somewhat artificial and metallic, but hey, it's portable.

4. HoMedics SoundSpa SS 2000

Sharon Basaraba

    This model has a timer with six sounds, including rainforest and heartbeat options.
  • No white noise setting, though "rain" is similar.
  • A caution: ocean waves setting includes birds chirping intermittently, which could be distracting for sleep.
  • Uses 4 AA batteries.
  • Optional timer for 15/30/60 minutes.
  • Lightweight for travel.

5. Dex Sound Sleeper SS-01

Photo courtesy of Pricegrabber

    This device is designed to get babies to sleep. I've included it because it's the only model I've found with a headphone jack which is very useful for a hospital stay. I bought this one exclusively for this purpose and was not disappointed.
  • 10 sound options with ability to combine additional sounds for a total of 24 combinations.
  • No white noise, but there are wind (similar to white noise) and womb (!) settings.
  • Uses 4 AA batteries or AC adapter.
  • Optional 60-minute timer.

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