Why You Should Not Use Vacuum Cleaner to Make Baby Sleep

It is well known that babies tend to calm down when hearing consistent background noise for some time. Does your little one often fall asleep in a car? That is because of white noise which comes from tires, wind and surrounding traffic. Did you ever hush your baby with a “shhhh” sound? You are reminding white noise to your child, it helps to soothe and calm down your precious one. Babies love it!

But what lies beneath this strange addiction? Why babies like white noise? Let’s find out!

From the very first moments of life, a baby is getting used to constant or rhythmical sounds. When babies begin to develop hearing organs in a mother’s womb, the first and most common sounds they learn to hear are white noise and rhythmic beats – those are mom’s blood flow and heartbeat. They are surrounded by these sounds through the whole development until birth. This explains why babies like white noise. It reminds them of the most warm, safe and soothing place in the entire Universe, a place where they are reassured that everything is fine and they can get back to rest and have some sweet sleep.

sleeping baby with a vacuum cleaner

And then, getting older and growing taller, this feeling does not go away completely. It is so deep inside subconscious that even old people fall asleep while being surrounded by sounds of rain, rustle of leaves or distant chirping of birds. Moreover, we are constantly surrounded by noise – wave oscillations. They come from everywhere, even from the most distant parts of the Universe. Sound waves do not exist only in absolute vacuum, which is almost impossible. We live in the world and totally depend on sound waves.

Besides psychological factor, there is also acoustic sensitivity.

Why does white noise help sleep better?

That’s right, acoustic sensitivity. Not the level of noise matters but delta – difference between a sudden spike and background sound. The more sound changes the more likely auditory cortex notices it and then brain reacts to danger and interrupts sleep. There is a study on this as well. For babies, being more sensitive to any sudden environmental changes, effect of such change is more significant. The difference can be most easily explained graphically by comparing wave forms of sounds:

white noise vs sudden noise
Sudden sound (blue) is not so noticeable when there is a persistent background white noise (purple)

OK, so this is common, but why is this all on a vacuum cleaners website? Simply, because the vacuum cleaner is also a perfect source of white noise itself. Understanding that, people usually ask whether vacuum cleaner noise can harm their baby or whether they even can make their baby fall asleep with turned on vacuum cleaner. The answer is not that simple. There is a good white noise and a bad white noise, not all white noises are healthy! 🙂 Vacuum cleaner noise is an example of a not so good white noise, and next we are going to explain why. We do not recommend using white noise of vacuum cleaners for babies’ or anyone’s sleep.

What amount of white noise is good and what is harmful? Are there any negative effects?

According to World Health Organization, night noise exposure should not exceed 45 dB. Excessive prolonged exposure to the levels of 55 dB might cause cardiovascular problems, including but not limited to heart attacks. On average, home vacuum cleaners produce 60-80 dB noise – far above the minimum recommended, hence cannot be used to put a baby to sleep. Moreover, there is a study by The American Academy of Pediatrics that shows that continuous exposure to sounds higher than 85 dB can cause hearing loss. The same article also proves that for the same reason some of the infant sleep machines (which generate white noise) cannot be used for babies. If there is no other solution at home than a vacuum cleaner, it is still can be used but in a closed separate room. Just remember it will affect your hydro bill in the end 😉

So what is the best solution? What to use to generate white noise and not affect health?

First of all, the level of sound must be strictly controlled to not exceed 45 dB over long periods of time. It is possible to check noise level for free at home, there are free Noise Measure applications for Android and IOS, e.g., Sound Meter. Not the most scientific method, but it gives a reliable approximate number. For those who need confidence and exact readings, there are noise meters available online, starting from 30 dollars.

Once prepared and informed, in order to generate white noise for a good sleep, you can pick any of the following methods:

  • White noise generator (aka sleep machine), but be careful to check specifications and read reviews beforehand. It must not be too noisy.
  • Humidifier. A really must-have device, especially in winter, especially for babies. Don’t forget that some of the models gurgle, which might have opposite effect.
  • Air purifier. By cleaning harmful germs and microorganisms, as a side effect this device creates white noise.
  • Fan. Simple and effective, especially in Summer.
  • Smart home device. For example, Alexa has a “White Noise” skill, which can loop white noise sound and play it continuously.
  • Recorded white noise sound. Free method, anyone can use. Just be careful with online resources as they might interrupt playback with ads.

You can download our samples for free and use at your convenience. You can loop them with any smartphone, tablet or any other multimedia device, which supports mp3 format:

In conclusion

White noise follows us from the very first stages of human development and plays an important role in brain activity. As everything in our lives, it needs moderation. Too much of white noise can be harmful or even lethal, too little – might not have any desirable effect. Therefore, we need to be mindful, we need to consider every action, especially when it comes to the most important things of our lives – children.

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