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It’s something we do everyday, yet many of us can’t seem to get it quite right. That’s right, we’re talking about sleep. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over one-third of Americans get fewer than seven hours of sleep a night — less than the recommended amount. On top of that, somewhere between 50 and 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders, from sleep apnea to insomnia, that can make it hard to get the rest you need.

Not sleeping enough can put you at increased risk of developing serious health conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. And of course, there are the more direct consequences — like not being as attentive at work, being prone to moodiness or just not having the energy to accomplish daily tasks.

Luckily, there are steps we can take to try to get a full night of shut-eye. From keeping your room and bed cool to avoiding heavy meals at night, we’ve covered a range of techniques and products to help you sleep better.

A popular product to help with quality and quantity of sleep is a white noise machine. They’re often used to help people who are sensitive to sound fall asleep more easily. But they can also be helpful when trying to focus your mind in on a calming noise rather than on what’s going on around you while you doze off.

So what exactly is white noise, and why do some people need it to sleep? White noise is created when multiple sounds of equal intensity but with different frequencies are combined. These sounds mask other background sounds that can distract you from relaxing or falling asleep.

Since it’s not necessarily the volume of sounds that can wake us up while we sleep, but rather the suddenness of them, the constant white noise helps to cover up any distracting sounds. This is especially beneficial if you’re a light sleeper and is a common technique used to help babies fall asleep.

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