Most of us have heard of white noise – the static, hissing sound that rings out of our TVs and radios when they’re tuned to a blank frequency. White noise can come from the sound of a running fan or an air conditioner, or even a noise app on our phones. However, you might be surprised to learn that there is a whole spectrum of colored sounds other than white noise.
What is colored noise?
We hear all kinds of different colored noise. Along with white, the colors of noise are pink, brown, blue, green and black. The usual, sporadic sounds of our daily lives (like footsteps or a car honking) generally fall into one of these colors.
Colored noise is characterized by a continuous or ongoing sound, but some colors are not always pleasant to hear. For example, brown noise tends to contain noises hovering at the lowest frequencies. Often described as a low rumbling noise, brown is generally soft and deep. Brown is useful for interrupting and masking other lower, bass-tone sounds, such as a passing bus or train, thunder or a bass speaker from the apartment upstairs.
At the other end of the spectrum, white noise tends to alternate in frequency from the lowest to the highest ends of the audible spectrum. Pink noise holds the same intensity without a higher frequency. For these reasons, white and pink noises are easier on our ears and many find them relaxing.
What is pink noise?
Pink noise is best described as a sound that is calibrated for human ears. Comprised mostly of louder, lower frequencies, pink noise includes some softer, higher frequencies. This combination takes away the harshness perceived in some types of white noise. Pink noise is comparable to the sound of rain falling or water flowing.
How is white noise different from pink noise?
White noise tends to be the flattest colored noise, meaning that it uses the same amount of energy across all frequencies and is often compared to a static sound. With a continuous sound, white noise is good for blocking out disturbing noises that are occurring at once. For example, if you live in the heart of a city surrounded by background noise at night – like vehicle traffic, music and people’s voices – then the white sound spectrum could help drown out these distractions.
Although not as effective as white for masking a wider variety of sounds, pink noise has also been shown to mask unwanted sound and help you feel more alert and concentrated.
Why OTs and certified sleep consultants are excited about pink noise
The root cause of stress is often a lack of sleep. For this reason, an important component of occupational therapy is improving sleep. Similarly, sleep consultants work with patients to ensure they are getting a sufficient amount of sleep. Both occupational and sleep therapists know that white, brown and pink noise effect sleep.
What these health professionals are finding is that most people tend to prefer pink noise when it comes to sleeping. In fact, a 2013 published study on the effects of pink noise on sleep found that pink noise helped participants achieve deeper sleep than those listening to white noise.
Many sleep therapists now recommend pink noise as a superior alternative to white noise for getting a better night’s sleep. Deeper sleep can bring dozens of benefits for people including improved health, reduced stress and happier mood. Therefore, these health professionals are excited about using pink noise as a tool to help their patients get more rest.
If you’re struggling to sleep, or even having a hard time maintaining your focus, perhaps try experimenting with pink noise. Check out a noise app or a YouTube video for an inexpensive way to try pink noise, or seek out a therapist to see if it’s right for you.