White Noise For Studying, Working and Sleeping: How To Reverse Bad Habits With Sound

Author: Gina Cunsolo

If you’ve experienced difficulty focusing or sleeping since the pandemic, you’re not alone. Professionals across the country have found that pandemic stress is hindering many from both focusing and sleeping regularly. 


The reasons for this disruption are obvious: sudden, constant changes to our school and work routines, plus a flurry of endless notifications on our devices from news outlets informing us about the growing number of COVID cases in our area - not to mention the personal effects of the pandemic, whether we or our loved ones became sick.


These disruptions have wreaked havoc on our existing habits and created new ones: some pleasant, some unpleasant. Though we don’t always stop to think about how our current habits have formed, we should - especially if we want to find ways to change them.


There are many theories about how habits develop. One of the most prominent theories is called the three R’s.

They are:

  • Reminder:

    • This refers to a cue, or a trigger of either a feeling or a behavior. It could be either the impulse you feel to reach for your keys as you’re walking to your car, or the feeling of nervousness when you can’t find your keys as your fingers rummage through your purse or pocket.

  • Routine:

    • This is the action you have associated with the specific cue. Grabbing the keys leads to pushing the unlock button, while nervousness about not finding your keys leads you to stop and empty the entire contents of your purse on the hood of your car.

  • Reward:

    • This is the reward that you give yourself in order to establish the habit and make it stick. Sticking with the car keys example, if you keep your car keys in the same purse pocket every time, you’ll find them much easier. Placing a stick of gum or candy in that same pocket can also be the reward that encourages you to take the extra two seconds and place your keys in that particular pocket, so you don’t waste ten minutes looking for them next time.


Considering this one theory about how habits develop, what are some healthy ways to create reminders, routines, and rewards for ourselves to both help us focus and sleep?


Well, knowing this article is written by Yamaha UC, the world’s leading audio expert with 130 years of audio technology and research under our belt, we’ve got to talk about the role that audio plays in helping us focus and rest.


Audio is an incredibly powerful tool. Specific sounds can evoke all types of emotions, from nervousness to anger to joy. Even experts acknowledge that when audio quality is better in virtual or in-person classrooms, it helps students focus. Knowing this, what types of audio can we incorporate into our personal reminders, routines, and rewards to create healthy new habits? 


One audio phenomenon growing in popularity is white noise. How do we harness the power of white noise in different spheres of our lives?


Let’s examine the office first:


Speech Privacy vs White Noise


White noise has loads of benefits, including its ability to make environments less stressful and easier to focus in. For these reasons, the use of white noise machines at the office is becoming increasingly popular.

However, if the goal is to prevent information leakage from confidential meetings at the office, white noise machines aren’t nearly as effective as a dedicated speech privacy system.

Yamaha’s VSP-2 is a speech privacy system that prevents information leakage by reducing human voice intelligibility. The audio solution utilizes elements of human speech to effectively protect conversations at a remarkably low volume. Instead of the obnoxious shushing sounds blaring across the office from a white noise machine - a speech privacy solution uses just a simple comfort noise in small areas that reduces speech intelligibility for the external listener at up to 8db lower than traditional sound masking systems.


What makes the VSP-2 different from traditional white noise machines?


Traditional sound masking systems emit a distracting noise across the entire office floor - no one can escape it. The VSP-2 is a much more subtle, effective way to mask sound and protect information. 


Here’s another way to see it:

image-(2).pngTraditional Sound Masking simply increases the background noise level high enough to cover nearby conversations through white or pink noise. 

Speech privacy uses complex, “speech-like” sounds to “hide” the conversation at lower volume levels. Added natural sounds & effects increase the privacy effect without increasing volume levels.


Furthermore, traditional sound masking systems must be installed pre-build - while the VSP-2 can be easily mounted using the included accessories! 


As workplace huddle spaces continue to grow in popularity, companies must ensure that sensitive conversations occurring inside the huddle room remain in the huddle room. Yamaha’s VSP-2 Speech Privacy Solution uses Info-Masking Technology to provide up to 65% higher masking performance at the same level as other conventional sound masking methods, preventing information leakage without creating distractions.


Now, let’s cover sleeping and studying…


How Does White Noise Help You Sleep?


While sounds like white noise have long been considered an effective tool to help babies sleep, since March 2020, it has become more widely used among adults, as well. Many have claimed it was their most-listened to song during the pandemic, playing a three-hour loop on repeat throughout the night to fall asleep. It’s also known to be an effective tool to foster focus and productivity.


Because white noise has become a catch-all phrase for ambient sound - and also often is confused for pink noise - let’s take a closer look at its true definition.


White noise, similar to white light, is the sound created by combining the whole range of sound frequencies with equal intensities at the same time. In the natural world, white noise is personified by the sound of rain, leaves rustling, or a rushing waterfall. Though some of us are fortunate enough to live in an area of the world where those sounds of nature occur outside our windows, (or, we’ve taking a month to work remotely from a foreign location, another pandemic fad), others can listen to white noise via a digitally-produced version, usually emitted from a personal Bluetooth Speakerphone, our phone speakers, or a small white noise device. 


As mentioned earlier, white noise is no longer just for babies. Adults everywhere have begun incorporating it into their nighttime routine in order to fall asleep - and stay asleep. Some use it to combat the sound of their partner’s snoring. Others use it to retrain themselves to sleep at night, after getting accustomed to daytime naps during COVID. Later on in this article, we’ll cover some practical ways to incorporate playing white noise as a reminder, routine, and reward.


First, let’s take a good, hard look at your current bedtime routine. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What time do I usually go to bed? Is it the same time every night?

  • What reminds me that it’s bedtime? 

  • What is my bedtime routine? Do I have one?

  • What rewards would motivate me to go to sleep? What rewards are associated with a good night’s sleep?


Once you’ve assessed your current sleep habits, Here are some healthy ways to improve your sleep by incorporating white noise into the 3 R’s.

  • Reminder:

Bedtime reminders occur naturally: excessive yawning and physical fatigue, difficulty concentrating, or noticing yourself becoming irritable. However, after fighting through these natural indicators one too many times, they’re no longer effective. Instead of listening to our bodies, we insist on watching one more episode, or sending that last email - and before we know it, we’re yawning the entire next day.


How do we reverse this cycle and give the power back to our natural reminders?


Well, the first step is to actually listen to your body! When you yawn, pay attention. Next, note the time you start yawning; as (save that - we’ll go more in detail about this when we go over routine). 


Finally, pair the unconscious behavior to a conscious decision - listening to white noise. As soon as you start to yawn, turn on the white noise. This will condition in the mindset of bedtime. Eventually, the opposite you’ll be able to play the white noise first - and then your yawns will follow. 

  • Routine:

Bedtime routines are widely known to improve children’s sleep habits. Though most parents have established bedtime routines for their children, (brush teeth, read a bedtime story, good night kiss), we often forget to create one for ourselves!

Routines for adults shouldn’t look that different: reading, journaling, meditation, and self care are all effective ways to unwind and build a regular rhythm to get us ready for bed. As mentioned earlier, take note of what time you start to feel sleepy. At that point, turn on your white noise machine, and begin your bedtime routine. Simply play the white noise as you get ready for bed.

  • Reward:

Lastly, white noise can be used as a reward! How? Well, the benefit of white noise is that it is portable - as long as you keep your white noise machine or portable Bluetooth Speakerphone with you - you can maintain this aspect of your routine wherever you are. As the world begins to slowly open up again and many find themselves traveling once more, reward yourself with a trip! Why not take a month and work remotely from a foreign location? With white noise, you can be sure that you will be able to sleep - and focus - wherever you are.  


Can White Noise Help You Study?


The short answer? Absolutely! The same principles of reminder and routine also apply to focus. Though the white noise sound may be a bit distracting in an office setting, for students studying from home, it may be just what we need. Take note of when you feel distracted studying for a test: Do you find yourself losing focus during specific tasks? Or, are there certain topics that are more difficult to concentrate on? Once you understand where, when, and how you could utilize white noise in your studying routine - play it!


One more thing: when we procrastinate, tasks take exponentially longer than they need to. Certain tasks that can be completed in one hour of intense focus might take 4 hours of prolonged interruption. Once you begin incorporating white noise into your routine, take note of how much extra time you have - and use that time to reward yourself! Go out to dinner or dessert. Go for a walk around the block. Or, call an old friend! The reward will encourage you to work and study this way again.


How Do You Listen to White Noise?


Now, while this may be new information for many of you reading this article, we’re well-aware that many of you are incredibly familiar with the benefits of white noise. Professionals across industries have developed the habit of listening to white noise in the background while working from home offices. We often play it through our YVC-200 personal Bluetooth speakerphones while working from home, and it helps us focus. We’ve already trained ourselves to get into the zone as soon as we push “play”, and let the calming waves or fuzzies or whatever white noise suits our fancy washes over us.


But what happens when those of us working from home now have to go back into the office? How do you tune out the sensitive conversations in the huddle room when you’re sitting in your nearby cubicle? 


Well, you have a few options.

  1. If old habits die hard, new habits probably die softly. Just as you’ve trained yourself to focus at the sound of white noise, you can also train yourself to tune out the sounds of your coworkers. However, this might make it more difficult when you do actually need to listen to them in a meeting, and you’ve now taught yourself to tune them out…

  2. Listen to white noise in your noise-canceling headphones! The YVC-200 Personal Bluetooth Speakerphone or the YVC-330 Personal Bluetooth Speakerphone comes with a headphone jack that allows you to use it as an audio device.

  3. We’ve already elaborated on the VSP-2 Speech Privacy System and its benefits in an office environment, but it’s worth mentioning one more time. The combination of human speech sound, environmental sound, and sound effects prevent information leakage and keep sensitive conversations contained - so you can focus on your work and not on whatever’s being said in the huddle room.




In conclusion, within an office environment, the most effective solution is Yamaha’s VSP-2: the speech privacy solution that uses elements of human speech to mask information at an impressively low volume.


In our personal lives, the three R’s (Remind, Routine, Reward) is a powerful psychological reset of our rhythms. We can use white noise to help bridge the gap between different locations, environments, and experiences. For example, if we listen to white noise in our headphones while we’re in the office, and we also listen to it while we’re working from home, we’ve created an anchor associated with focusing. Therefore, wherever we may find ourselves working - or sleeping - in the future, as long as we’ve got our white noise in the background, we can lock into focus mode and stay productive.

If you need a way to incorporate white noise - or speech privacy - into your day-to-day, Yamaha Unified Communications is ready to assist with the equipment you need. Click here to learn more!