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White, Pink, and Brown Noise: What’s the difference? – Sound of Sleep
White, Pink, and Brown Noise: What’s the difference?
If you’re someone who has trouble sleeping, somebody has probably already suggested white noise to you. For better or worse, our brains continue to process sensory stimuli when we’re asleep, meaning that our partner’s snoring, dog’s barking, and even our leaky sinks can easily make us casualties of restless nights.
The reason why noises wake us up at night is not exactly because of the noise itself, but rather the sudden change in noise. White noise works by masking these changes and allowing our brains the benefit of a more consistent sonic environment.
Aside from the benefit of a better night’s sleep, white noise has shown promising results related to memory, tinnitus, and concentration (among many other things). Lots of studies on sound therapy have focused on specific sonic hues like white, pink, and brown, so what exactly is the difference between them?
White noise, probably the most familiar of these, sounds like a radio tuned to an unused frequency. Similar to the way white light contains all the wavelengths of the visible spectrum at equal intensity, white noise has equal power across all frequencies audible to the human ear.
Pink noise white noise, but with reduced higher frequencies. It resembles the sounds of steady rainfall or wind and is often considered to be more soothing than white noise, which some people find unpleasant. Several studies on pink noise have shown that sleeping with it can improve our memories the following day, and potentially even long-term.
Brown noise lowers the higher frequencies even more. It’s a bit “rougher” than pink noise and resembles the roar of a river current or strong wind. Common benefits associated with brown noise are relaxation, improved focus, and of course, sleep improvement.
So, which hue is going to help you sleep better? The answer is different for everyone, so give each of them a try and see which works best for you.
Looking for a sound machine that can produce high quality, non-looping white, pink, or brown noise? At the high end, take a look at the Sound+Sleep SE. In addition to noise, it also offers naturally recorded, non-looping sound environments like rain, waterfalls, and city streets. If you just need a noise generator for sleeping, sound masking, or just helping you concentrate, take a look at the LectroFan line. They offer a selection of colored noise and fan sounds and they’re easy to take with you on the road.
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White, Pink, & Brown Noise: What's The Difference?
Experts explain the difference between white, pink, and brown noise, and how to choose the right one for your sleeping soundtrack (or workday playlist).
How To Decide Between Using White, Pink, & Brown Noise
“It makes my brain feel soft in the best way.”
By Carolyn Steber
Updated: June 30, 2022
Originally Published: April 23, 2021
Background noise is pretty essential for anyone who gets distracted easily. Whether you listen to one of those relaxing rainstorm playlists on YouTube or turn a fan on full blast, the constant hum — usually referred to as white noise — can effectively drown out annoying or unexpected sounds like car horns, loud roommates, or a snoring partner — thus making working, studying, and sleeping 100 times easier. But... how do you decide between white, pink, and brown noise?
Brown noise has seen a bit of a resurgence in interest on TikTok recently. The tag #brownnoise has more than 59.3M views, with many users sharing their experience using brown noise as a tool to manage stress, anxiety, and ADHD symptoms.
There are actually different “colors” of noise to choose from. The most common are white, pink, and brown noise, and each one sounds slightly unique due to its makeup. “Noise, whatever the color, refers to the sound of various random frequencies,” Alex Dimitriu, MD, a double board-certified doctor of psychiatry and sleep medicine, tells Bustle.
When upper, mid-range, and low frequencies are played at the same time it creates the sound of static, just like the kind you’d hear coming from a radio, rain, or waves in the ocean. “The idea is that these sounds of varying intensity, frequency, and energy wavelengths — hence the different colors — and create a constant sound around you blocking out other sounds from your environment and keep them from reaching your brain,” Samina Ahmed, PsyD, a psychotherapist with Eight Sleep, tells Bustle.
When it comes to figuring out which one to listen to at any given moment, Dimitriu says it’s all personal preference. White noise might be more effective at blocking loud noises, or it might seem too static-y or high-pitched, while brown noise may seem too low or rumbly. “There is no one sound that fits all,” Ahmed adds. “Everyone responds to each sound differently and may not benefit from them equally or at all.” For intel on the differences between brown, white, and pink noise, keep scrolling for what experts have to say.
What Is Brown Noise?
“Brown noise is also all audible frequencies that a human can hear, but the bass is boosted,” Dr. Jeff Rodgers, DMD, D-ABDSM, D-ASBA, a sleep practitioner, tells Bustle. “A great example of this is a large waterfall. Think of the deep bass rumble heard at Niagara Falls versus the lighter sound of the small waterfall on the creek you may be hiking by,” says Rodgers.
Thunder is another example, with its low, far-away roar. Some people find the deeper frequency of brown noise to be more soothing, especially when it comes to sleep.
One user, @natalyabubb, shared her brown noise experience to TikTok, earning nearly 9M views, 1.1M likes, and 26,000 comments like, “it makes my brain feel soft in the best way possible,” and “it’s like driving with the window down.”
Another user, @noahglenncarter, shared the sound to TikTok, saying listening to it will completely clear your mind. His video earned more than 200,000 likes and more than 4,000 comments from other users sharing their experiences with brown noise.
What Is White Noise?
To dive deeper into the differences, it’s important to know that “white noise is all frequencies, high and low, mixed together,” Dimitriu says. Besides the hiss of TV static, another example of the sound IRL is a rushing waterfall. You would hear various water droplets hitting different surfaces, which all combine to create a random array of high and low sounds. As a result, it’s slightly more ear-piercing and unpredictable than pink noise.
White noise is a popular go-to at night (hence the many white noise machines that exist), and that’s for good reason: “There is very good research around white noise's benefits for sleep demonstrating that [it] can be calming and reduce a person’s ability to be aroused by loud noises while they rest,” Dr. Jeff Rodgers, DMD, D-ABDSM, D-ASBA, a sleep practitioner, tells Bustle.
What Is Pink Noise?
Many folks think pink noise is the most chill because it sounds a lot like heavy rain or a waterfall, as evidenced in the video above from SciShow. “Pink noise is also all audible frequencies that a human can hear, but the strength of some of the bass frequencies is stronger, essentially boosting the bass sound,” Rodgers says. “Think of a deep wind blowing or the rustle of leaves in the fall.” SciShow described pink noise as “flat” because it doesn’t have as many upper and lower frequencies.
Just like white noise, pink noise may help you fall — and stay — asleep. A 2017 study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience discovered a link between pink noise and deep sleep. It may also be beneficial to memory consolidation, Dimitriu says, possibly because it enhances this deep, or slow-wave, sleep.
@adhd_assist on TikTok shared a video playing each of the three noises in succession, and many users jumped in the comments section to pick their favorites. The comments echo the rising interest in brown noise with sentiments like, “the brown noise is so nice,” “brown is so much more mellow and relaxing,” and “do they make brown noise machines?”
Your Guide to Pink Noise, White Noise, & Brown Noise – Yogasleep
Most of our readers will be familiar with the concept of white noise, and some may have even heard of pink noise, but we wonder how many people kno...
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April 02, 2021
Your Guide to Pink Noise, White Noise, & Brown Noise
By Molly Szkotak
Most of our readers will be familiar with the concept of white noise, and some may have even heard of pink noise, but we wonder how many people know that there’s an entire spectrum of sound available to the human ear? Much in the same way that there are different colors of light, there are similarly different “colors” of sound. Here at Yogasleep, we’ve been focused on how to use this spectrum to help our customers access the best night’s sleep possible, and we’ve been on this journey for quite a long time. It’s true! We invented and sold the very first white noise machine back in 1962. We’ve come a long way since then, updating our sound machines as we learn more and more about the full sonic spectrum. Now, most of our "white noise machines" are in fact pink noise machines. This article will explain why we’ve focused on producing pink noise machines in recent years. Learning more about how pink noise works and how it can help you sleep is empowering and can even help improve your life. It also doesn't hurt that it's a low-cost, natural approach to better sleep and overall wellness.
What is Pink Noise?
The best way to explain pink noise is an ambient noise often played in the background to help with focus and to drown out other sounds that might interfere with concentration or sleep. It’s a softer, more mild version of white noise, which we generally think of as being similar to radio static. Pink noise emphasizes lower frequency sounds rather than high-frequency sounds. WebMD likens it to “a steady rain, wind rustling through trees, or waves on a beach.” For many people, this is much more pleasant to listen to for an extended period of time. The human body is incredible for so many reasons, but surely one of the most fascinating ones is how our eats pick up sound. Whenever we listen to music or hear a car door slam, the sound creates vibrations, which in turn create waves in the air. These waves enter our eardrums causing them to vibrate. Tiny hair cells within our eardrums are able to pick up different frequencies and pitches from the pattern of the vibrations caused by the waves. Playing pink noise creates a steady, calming sound for the eardrum to pick up on.
How Pink Noise Helps You Sleep
The reason why pink noise is so ideal for helping us sleep is that it works to “mask” other sounds. When we sleep in silence, the sound waves from a neighbor’s dog barking in the dead of night wakes us up because of “the change in sound,” and not necessarily the sound itself. Pink noise is effective because it creates a steady background sound, which makes it so that a sudden, loud noise won’t be quite as jarring to our sleeping brains. As we mentioned above, the emphasis on lower-frequency sounds in pink noise is more satisfying for our sleeping brains, but there’s another aspect that makes it a clear winner when it comes to masking noise. In “The Many Colors of Sound,” Meghan Neal describes pink noise as being a “pattern” that falls somewhere between “pure randomness and correlated movement.” The fact that pink noise isn’t totally random, but also isn’t completely structured either, is part of what soothes our brains while we’re asleep. Yogasleep offers a whole collection of pink noise machines specifically engineered to help you sleep at night. We recommend working your pink noise machine into a nightly routine, signaling to the brain that it’s time to sleep.
What is White Noise?
Often when people refer to “white noise,” they’re talking about any background sound that helps them concentrate or sleep without realizing there are many different types of sound to choose from. White noise differs from other sounds, and specifically pink noise, in that it has no pattern at all and is instead the sonic embodiment of pure chaos. “It’s a mixture of all the frequencies humans can hear (20 Hz to 20,000 Hz), fired off randomly with equal power at each — like 20,000 different tones all playing at the same time,” that’s Meghan Neal again writing about white noise. Along with its pure randomness, white noise also includes an equal combination of frequencies both high and low. In comparison to pink noise, which features only low-frequency sounds. Another way to think of white noise is in terms of light. Just as the color of white is all of the colors on the light spectrum combined, so is white noise all of the frequencies of sound combined all at once. To the human ear, white noise sounds exactly like radio or television static.
Using White Noise for Sleep
In the same way that pink noise masks outside noises, white noise does the same, but because it includes all frequencies white noise may do a better job of blocking out disturbing noises while you sleep. Those who sleep with a fan or A/C unit going in the background are attempting to mimic white noise through the use of these appliances, but the result is not a completely accurate representation. Rather than the humming of a fan, white noise devices are much more adept at stopping jarring sounds from interrupting your concentration or sleep throughout the night. We know it can be hard to choose between a pink noise machine and a white noise machine, we’ve engineered a whole line of sound machines with both options along with the Wireless Duet White Noise Machine. When it comes to sleep, everyone has different preferences. Some like to sleep on their side or on their back, and some might prefer static white noise or soothing pink noise.