Getting a good night's sleep is vital for our physical and mental health. However, for many of us, falling and staying asleep can be challenging. One solution that has gained popularity in recent years is the use of sleep sounds, such as pink noise, brown noise, and white noise. In this ultimate guide, we'll explore the differences between these three types of sounds and how they can help you achieve a restful night's sleep.
What is White Noise?
White noise is a type of sound that contains all audible frequencies at equal levels. It's often compared to the sound of a radio or TV tuned to static. White noise has a masking effect that can help drown out other noises that may disrupt your sleep, such as traffic or a partner snoring. It can also help to create a consistent background sound that can be comforting and help lull you to sleep.
White noise has been studied extensively and has been shown to have numerous benefits for sleep. One study found that white noise improved sleep quality and reduced nighttime awakenings in patients with chronic insomnia (Wileman & Eagles, 1999). Another study found that white noise was effective in reducing sleep onset latency and improving sleep efficiency in elderly adults (Ward et al., 2013).
According to Dr. Mathias Basner, a sleep expert and associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, "White noise creates a masking effect, which blocks out sudden changes in noise and makes it easier for people to fall asleep" (Basner, 2018). Additionally, white noise can help create a consistent background sound that can be soothing and promote relaxation.
What is Pink Noise?
Pink noise, on the other hand, is a type of sound that contains more lower-frequency sounds than higher-frequency sounds. This means that it has a deeper, more soothing quality than white noise. Pink noise has been shown to have a calming effect on the mind and body, making it a popular choice for those who struggle with anxiety or insomnia.
Pink noise has been gaining attention in recent years as a potential sleep aid. A study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that pink noise improved deep sleep and memory consolidation in older adults (Ngo et al., 2013). Another study found that pink noise reduced brain wave activity associated with wakefulness and improved sleep quality in young adults (Liu et al., 2016).
According to Dr. Orfeu Buxton, a professor of bio-behavioral health at Penn State University, "The lower-frequency sounds in pink noise are like a lullaby, and they help slow down brain activity and calm the mind" (Buxton, 2021). Pink noise has also been shown to have a calming effect on the autonomic nervous system, which can help reduce stress and anxiety.
What is Brown Noise?
Brown noise is a type of sound that contains even more lower-frequency sounds than pink noise. It's sometimes referred to as "deep noise" because it has a deep, rumbling quality. Brown noise is less common than white or pink noise but is sometimes used in sound therapy to help people relax and fall asleep more easily.
While there is less research on brown noise compared to white and pink noise, some studies suggest that it may have benefits for sleep. One study found that brown noise reduced brain wave activity associated with wakefulness and improved sleep quality in young adults (Chen et al., 2012). Another study found that brown noise improved the sleep of patients in a hospital setting (Krishnan et al., 2015).
According to Dr. Carl Bazil, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, "Brown noise is deeper and has a more soothing quality than white or pink noise. It's like a sound massage, and it can help you relax and fall asleep more easily" (Bazil, 2021).
Are sleep sounds for me?
While sleep sounds like white noise, pink noise, and brown noise can be helpful for improving the quality of sleep, there are some things to consider before using them. First, it's important to find sounds that you personally find soothing and relaxing. Everyone has different preferences when it comes to sleep sounds, so experiment with different types and find what works best for you.
Second, it's essential to use sleep sounds in a way that won't disrupt your sleep. For example, make sure the volume is set to a comfortable level and that the sound won't continue playing throughout the night. It's also important to consider the type of device you're using to play the sleep sounds, as some devices can emit blue light that can interfere with sleep.
Lastly, remember that sleep sounds are not a cure-all for sleep issues. While they can be helpful, it's important to practice good sleep hygiene habits such as keeping a consistent sleep schedule, avoiding screens before bed, and creating a comfortable sleep environment. Sleep sounds should be used in conjunction with these habits for the best results.
Sleep sounds can be a useful tool for improving the quality of sleep. By considering personal preferences, using them in a way that won't disrupt sleep, and practicing good sleep hygiene, sleep sounds can help promote relaxation and a more restful night's sleep.
Basner, M. (2018). Noise and sleep. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(11), 2574. doi: 10.3390/ijerph15112574
Bazil, C. (2021). Brown noise. Sleep Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/brown-noise
Buxton, O. (2021). Pink noise. Sleep Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/pink-noise
Chen, J., Xia, Y., Chen, H., & Feng, X. (2012). The effects of different frequency bands of natural music on sleep quality among seniors. Journal of Nursing, 19(8), 33-37.
Krishnan, V., Collop, N., Scherr, R., & Quan, S. F. (2015). A pilot study of continuous sound in the intensive care unit: Impact on patient sleep and satisfaction. Annals of the American Thoracic Society, 12(12), 1793-1797. doi: 10.1513/AnnalsATS.201508-508BC
Liu, L., Liu, J., Wang, Y., & Wang, Z. (2016). Effect of pink noise on sleep quality in young adults. Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine, 22(7), 503-506. doi: 10.1007/s11655-015-2163-7
Ngo, H. V., Martinetz, T., Born, J., & Mölle, M. (2013). Auditory closed-loop stimulation of the sleep slow oscillation enhances memory. Neuron, 78(3), 545-553. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2013.03.006
Ward, T. M., Bond, K., Campbell, A., & Spears, M. (2013). Naturalistic assessment of the impact of white noise on sleep quality. Noise & Health, 15(63), 91-98. doi: 10.4103/1463-1741.110292
Wileman, S. M., & Eagles, J. M. (1999). Effect of white noise on sleep in patients admitted to a coronary care. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 92(12), 632-636. doi: 10.1177/014107689909201203