What Is Pink Noise?

February 21, 2020

If you struggle with insomnia or have a hard time falling asleep, have you considered using relaxing sounds like pink noise to help you get not only more rest, but better rest?

Many times we can’t get to sleep or stay asleep because of sounds that cause us to wake up. This is where white noise and its variations come in to help save the day.

White noise is meant to hide sound changes and keep your sonic (sound) environment in steady state.

You may already be a fan of white noise, but what about pink noise? This is one of the lesser known sleep sounds that research shows may also be a major sleep aid.

Let’s see how a white noise generator compares to a pink noise machine and the research to back up the use of pink noise for sleep.

What Is Pink Noise?

White noise can include sounds we hear on a daily basis, such as a humming air conditioner or a circulating fan. It can also be produced by a white noise machine or a white noise app.

White noise is most often used for sleep because it’s a consistent ambient sound that can help mask disturbing sounds, such as a dog barking or door slamming.

White and pink are two colors of noise that contain all of the frequencies (between 20 hertz to 20,000 hertz) that humans can hear. The human ear typically perceives pink noise as “even” or “flat” and white noise as “static.”

If you compare pink noise vs. white noise, white noise has a consistent strength across various frequencies. Meanwhile, pink noise contains all frequencies of the audible spectrum but with an intensity that decreases with increases in frequency.

While white noise has a consistent strength across various frequencies, pink noise has more variation.

Examples of pure pink noise in nature include:

Leaves rustling on a tree in the wind

Waves lapping on the shoreline

Steady falling rain

Does It Help You Sleep Better? Potential Benefits

Some research suggests that pink noise boosts brain activity associated with deeper sleep.

A study published in 2016 in Sleep Medicine demonstrated potential benefits of pink noise on deep sleep and memory. Another study published in 2017 in Frontiers in Human Neuroscienc found that it not only increased the amount of deep sleep, but also improved memory in subjects between the ages of 60–84.

Experts seem to agree that additional research is warranted to figure out whether these benefits can occur in real-life sleep scenarios. It’s also unclear how pink noise compares to white noise or other colors of noise.

According to sleep medicine expert Michelle Drerup, PsyD., both pink and white noise can help with sleep, and it really can be a matter of personal preference. In other words, if you find a sound relaxing and sleep-promoting, no matter the “color,” then it can be a good choice for you.

Drerup also points out how pink noise and other sleep sounds are very “Pavlovian,” meaning “you can become conditioned to anything you use to fall asleep,” she says.

Pink Noise vs. White Noise vs. Brown Noise vs. Black Noise

White noise is probably the best known noise color, but there are actually several others, including pink, brown and black. Let’s take a closer look at the color spectrum of noise:

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