woman sleeping hearing pink noise
Sleep Health

Pink Noise: Can it Help You Sleep?

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    Last Updated
    June 26, 2023
    min read

    Pink noise is a type of sound characterized by equal energy per octave. Unlike white noise, which has equal power across all frequencies and tends to be intense and high-pitched like a fan or vacuum, pink noise has higher energy at lower frequencies creating a deeper, lower pitched sound that’s more gentle and soothing. 

    This unique sound has surprising benefits, including aiding in relaxation, improving sleep quality, and increasing focus and productivity. If sleep aids like melatonin aren’t helping, pink noise offers an amazing alternative.

    This article answers the popular question, “What is pink noise for sleep?” and defines its properties, uses, and potential benefits. Whether you’re trying to get better sleep or just  curious about the science behind sound, this article will provide a comprehensive overview of pink noise.

    Pink Noise For Sleep: Definition And Examples

    Unlike white noise, pink noise contains all sound frequencies audible to humans. Each octave has a steady intensity level, with individual pitches decreasing by three decibels as each octave climbs. Some experts refer to pink noise as 1/f noise because the signal's power density decreases at a rate of 1/f, where f is the frequency.

    Many describe pink noise as more pleasant than white noise due to it being more balanced and less high-pitched.

    Examples Of Pink Noise

    While there are playlists that artificially create pink noise, this soothing sound occurs naturally in nature. Here are some common examples of pink noise: 

    • Wind 
    • Rain 
    • Ocean waves 
    • Heartbeats
    • Bird songs
    • Sounds in urban settings
    • Waterfalls 

    Some pink noise sounds are also in artificial noises like vacuum cleaners, air conditioners, and background noise in a recording studio.

    In addition, pink noise is used in research on hearing and psychoacoustics.

    Here is an example of what pink noise sounds like.

    Impacts Of Pink Noise On Sleep

    Studies show that pink noise can help with sleep by masking disruptive noises, allowing people to fall asleep faster. Another more recent study used a pink noise machine, gradually decreasing the volume to enable participants to transition to sleep peacefully and more quickly.

    Not only does listening to pink noise in the background help people fall asleep faster, but it also helps them stay asleep by slowing brain waves. People can enhance deep sleep by programming a device to play intermittent pink noise throughout the night. Doing so can also improve immune system function, memory retention, and cardiovascular health.

    Another notable benefit of using pink noise as a sleep aid is to increase sleep spindle density. A sleep spindle is a brain wave that occurs during the second stage of sleep, characterized by a burst of oscillatory brain activity. Spindles often happen in the night's first half and protect your rest from external stimuli. 

    Because sleep spindles are associated with cognitive performance, playing pink noise for a child can increase their concentration at school.

    Pink noise is just one tool avaialble to get better sleep. If you’re looking for other options for what to do when you can’t sleep, check out our guide.

    Where Can I Find Pink Noise To Sleep To?

    You can listen to pink noise  in the following ways or with the following devices:

    • White noise machine
    • Soundtracks and playlists on YouTube or Spotify
    • Downloaded apps
    • Headphones and speakers with pink noise settings

    If you fall asleep to pink noise, keep the volume safe, such as 60 decibels. However, you should also consider your personal listening preferences, the noise in your immediate space, and your device.

    Some apps have a bedtime feature that allows users to set the duration for how long they want the pink noise to play.

    What’s The Difference Between Pink Noise, White Noise, And Brown Noise?

    The primary difference between pink, white, and brown noise is their frequencies. White noise is the most popular type on the spectrum. It contains equal energy across all frequencies and often sounds like static or hissing. Some will describe white noise as intense or high-pitched.

    Brown noise, sometimes called red noise, creates a rumbling or rustling sound at much lower octaves than white and pink noise. As the frequency rises, the decibels decrease.

    Examples Of White Noise

    The most common examples of white noise include:

    • Television or radio static
    • Fans or air conditioners
    • Noise generators

    Some audio engineers use white noise for music production and speaker calibration.

    Listen to white noise here.

    Examples Of Brown Noise

    The most common examples of brown noise include:

    • Heavy rainfall
    • High-pressure shower
    • Truck and van rumble
    • Noise generators

    Listen to brown noise here.

    How Each Color Noise Affects Sleep

    Each type of noise provides a specific benefit for listeners.

    White Noise

    White noise creates a buffer between sleep disturbances and your eardrums. Many people who struggle to sleep incorporate white noise into their bedtime routine.

    Evidence shows that white noise can improve the following conditions:

    • Crying in babies
    • Sleep disorders (like insomnia)
    • ADHD
    • Poor work performance
    • Tinnitus or ringing/buzzing in the ears

    Pink Noise

    If you prefer something gentler and more balanced, you can use pink noise vs. white noise. While not as effective as blocking out external sounds, pink noise is better for relaxation.

    People use pink noise for a variety of purposes:

    • Memory improvement
    • Improved sleep hygiene
    • Concentration

    Brown Noise

    Some people prefer brown noise because its natural feel is less disruptive than white noise. It has a lullaby-like quality that puts the body at ease and ready for sleep.

    Brown noise can improve sleep habits and general well-being by providing the following benefits:

    • Promoting relaxation
    • Enhancing focus
    • Reducing tinnitus symptoms
    • Masking external noise

    Should I Listen To Pink Noise Or Another Color?

    Whether you listen to pink noise or another color depends on your specific needs and preferences. Each noise color has its unique properties and potential benefits, so it may be worth experimenting with different ones.

    If you’re looking for sleep support, pink noise might be your best bet. Otherwise, you can try these other hues:

    • Grey noise: While grey noise sounds similar to white noise, it produces higher and lower frequencies, making it more balanced. Specialists use grey noise to test hearing sensitivity and neurostimulation.
    • Violet noise: Sometimes called purple noise, violet noise is the opposite of brown noise. As frequency rises, so does volume. This higher-pitched noise is used for tinnitus treatment.
    • Blue noise: This noise’s power increases as frequency rises, making it shriller than white and pink noise. It might sound similar to spraying or hissing. It’s commonly used in audio engineering, acoustics, soundproofing, and computer graphics.

    Pink noise is just one of many ways on how to sleep better. You can even up the ante by picking out colored lights to help you fall asleep faster!

    The most common issue that lies at the root of sleepers’ most frustrating sleep issues is their mattress. From inadequate support to minimal pressure relief to lack of temperature balance, many mattresses fail to provide an optimal sleep environment that allows you to fall asleep fast and stay asleep. Every Purple mattress is designed with our proprietary GelFlex Grid that has been specially engineered to check every box as pre described. If you’re struggling to fall into a healthy sleep ritual, try a Purple mattress with a 100-night trial. 

    Pink Noise FAQs

    How loud should I listen to pink noise?

    Experts recommend listening to pink noise at around 60 decibels or similar to the volume of a normal conversation. However, the best volume level will depend on your hearing sensitivity.

    If you listen through headphones, take regular breaks or avoid prolonged exposure.

    What does pink noise do for you?

    Pink noise has demonstrated benefits for physical and mental health. It is a safe and natural way to promote relaxation and better sleep.

    Does pink noise help anxiety?

     Pink noise can help with anxiety. Literature shows its soothing and steady sound profile masks jarring noises that trigger fight-or-flight reactions. By reducing the impact of sudden noises, pink noise can suppress tension and anxiety. 

    Is pink noise better for a baby?

    Pink noise may be better for babies than white noise because it is similar to sounds they hear in the womb. Parents can use pink noise to soothe colicky babies


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