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Does Portable AC White Noise Mean No Sleep for You or Your Baby?

sleeping-infant-300It is hard enough to get a baby to sleep and to stay asleep at night.

The last thing you need is portable air conditioner noise keeping you and your baby up all night. So what can you do about it? Are there quiet window air conditioners or is there another answer?

Why is it so hard for a baby to sleep with any noise at all? Is their hearing more sensitive than adults? There are several issues involved with getting your baby to sleep at night and stay cool with a portable air conditioner.

How a Baby's Hearing Develops

An infant's inner ear is developed fully at about 20 weeks of pregnancy and a healthy baby is born with hearing that is fully developed and functioning. Every baby should have a hearing screening test within a few weeks after birth and at every well-baby exam after that.


  • From the moment they are born, babies are able to listen and learn. They pay attention to the different voices in their lives.
  • They are especially sensitive to high pitched or abrasive voices. They startle at unexpected or extremely loud voices and at the same time they can recognize and respond to oft-heard voices.
  • Some of their response is subjective in that no two babies respond to sounds in the same way. Part of their response is about temperament and part is physical. A baby can be very sensitive to noise while another baby sleeps right through the same sounds.
  • At two months of age a child's usual development means they are curious about sounds and look to see where the sound is coming from.
  • At six months of age a child's usual development means they get quiet at the sound of familiar voices and they start to imitate certain sounds such ohh, ahh, and oooh
  • At eight months they start to babble and they will respond to the different tones of voice.
  • By one year of age they will be talking in single words like dada or mama and they will hear and respond to their own name.
  • If a child does not have these responses, parents should consult their pediatrician.

Babies and Portable Air Conditioners

Most pediatricians are in favor of babies sleeping in a room with air conditioning whether it iscentral air or a portable air conditioner.

This is because a hot and humid room is more harmful than a cool one. Just as it is difficult for an adult to get a night of uninterrupted sleep in such conditions, the same is true for a baby. Anyone with any experience in infant care knows that a hot baby is not going to sleep well.

In addition to the issue of the baby sleeping in too hot of a room, it is also important that the room not be too cold, nor the air conditioner blowing directly onto the child.

Because babies tend to chill more quickly than adults, or older children it is very important to get the temperature correct if you are using a portable air conditioner.

Pediatricians usually recommend a room temperature between 68 and 72 degrees.

mom-holding-baby-girl-200x3White Noise, Sleeping Babies and Portable Air Conditioners

We have stated that it is necessary to have a quiet AC unit if the baby is to sleep well and unencumbered.

However sometimes background noise, otherwise known as white noise, is a benefit to the baby's ability to sleep. This is so common in fact that there are white noise machines on the market today specifically for helping a child to sleep.

Babies and loudness:

  • Certain types of white noise and certain levels of noise are soothing and good for a sleeping baby, while others are not.
  • It helps to remember that the baby's first experience is in the womb and the womb is a very loud place.
  • It has been shown through research that the baseline level of decibels for intrauterine sound is between 72 and 88 dB.
  • It is also surmised that a full term fetus in labor is exposed to levels higher than 90-110 dB.

The noise level in the womb on an ongoing basis is about the level of a noise produced by a lawn mower. During labor it would be equivalent to a train, motorcycle, marching band or a chainsaw and it is considered extremely loud.

However, at the 72-88dB level the baby experiences the sound as comforting - the sound of the womb. This is positive white noise.

The Decibel Dilemma

What is a decibel and how do you calculate them? They come from the metric system and a decibel is 1/10 of a bel. The bel is the measure of sound in the metric system.

It can be determined through an algebraic formula where the bel is defined as: Lb=log10 (P1/P0), where Lb=Bels and P1 and P0 are quantities. The decibel is 0.1 bel. To calculate the decibels use this formula: LdB=10log10 (P1/P0).

Could Your Portable AC Be Used as a White Noise Machine?

Many parents today are purchasing white noise machines for their babies to sleep by because it can be so comforting to the baby.

Most pediatricians will recommend that your baby sleep with white noise until they are at least one year of age.

White noise is the most inexpensive sleep aid for babies and adults alike. It is easy to put into place and get it going and it is effective and easy. Unfortunately many parents don't understand white noise, don't buy actual white noise machines and depend on air conditioner units to do it for them.

Some parents don't have $70 for a good white noise machine, some parents are afraid their children will become addicted to the noise, or most often they think any kind of noise is acceptable white noise. Some units are not loud enough while others may actually be irritating to the children.

With the right white noise you will get positive results such as white noise causes less stress for the baby, and helps them to sleep.

  • Babies are generally stressed and the white noise from the fan creates a safe space for the child to relax.
  • The white noise helps the baby to go back to sleep longer after arousals.
  • And finally, white noise reduces active sleep which may account for the reduction in SIDS. No one is really sure why this reduction occurs just that research shows a correlation between white noise and lower instances of SIDS.
  • White noise also helps to reduce an infant's crying.

You should remove all other sources of noise from the child's room or anywhere it can be heard in the child's room. It is important not to have a television on where a baby is sleeping. So can that white noise come from a quiet portable air conditioner?

Portable Air Conditioner in Living Room2Finding a Quiet Portable Air Conditioner

White noise from a portable air conditioner offers comfort to a sleeping child and removes an environment of silence. At the same time the AC unit will keep the child cool in the warm weather and toasty warm in cold weather if it also has a heater.

So what are the quietest AC on the market today? Do the size and special features affect the noise level? Where are the best locations for placing an AC so that noise levels are kept to a minimum?

Knowing that the baseline for noise in the mother's womb is between 72 dB and 88 dB, the majority of good, portable air conditioners will be below this range.

Here are a few examples of middle and top of the line portable AC units that are quieter than the mother's womb.

  • Avalon Bay AB8K Portable Air Conditioner 8000 BTU has a sleep mode that lowers the dBs even more from the normal 43dbs.
  • Soleus LX-140 4-in1 Portable Air Conditioner, 14,000 BTUs and 46 dB.
  • NewAir AC-14100E Portable Air Conditioner, 14,000 BTU with 57 dB is not nearly as quiet for what it costs as the less expensive Avalon Bay. Keep in mind that the most expensive unit is not always the quietest unit.
  • NewAir AC-12000E Portable Air Conditioner, 12,000 BTU, also has 57 dB.
  • American Comfort ACW500C 13,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner has 56dB.

In addition to purchasing a portable air conditioner that has low noise capacity, it is equally important where you place your unit and how you soundproof around it.

Carpeting or rugs make a big difference in deadening the noise from your AC unit. Curtains are equally important and one thing most people will not think about it wall hangings. These will absorb a great deal of the sound so that you sleep comfortably.

With the right portable ac, you and your baby should be able to live and sleep better without annoying noise.

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