white cat sleeps under white comforter

White/ brown/ pink noise. Wait, what?

white cat sleeps under white comforter

You’re likely to have tried many different sleep aids and remedies if you’ve ever had a sleepless night. White noise was one of the most common, whether it be through a white-noise machine, an app or fan. If you experience a significant improvement in your sleep, it’s great! If  the white noise isn’t working for you, don’t lose belief. You may have not tried the right type of sleep noise.

While white noise is the most popular, there are many other noises that can provide similar benefits. While pink noise and brown noise may offer the same benefits, some people prefer to listen to slightly different sounds. It all comes down to personal preference. However, understanding the various options can help you make the right choice. There are so many other options than white noise if you’re open to listening.

What is white noise?

White noise is sometimes used to mean all kinds of background noise. However, it’s actually a very specific sound that has been carefully constructed. Sam Nicolino (sound engineer, musician and founder of Adaptive Sound Technologies, (ASTI), behind the Sound+Sleep and LectroFan sound machines, says that there has been a lot confusion about white noise.

White noise is machine-generated sounds that contain all frequencies. It’s not a natural phenomenon, Nicolino states. White noise is not the only sound that sounds similar, though many of them are very different. White noise can sound very staticky. Nicolino states that white noise can be very irritating for most people. If you have tried a white noise machine to aid you sleeping and found it unpleasant, there are other options.

White noise doesn’t provide sleep benefits. They are due to the sound’s ability block out any other noises. Rafael Pelayo MD, a long-standing ASTI advisor and clinical professor at Stanford University’s Sleep Medicine Division, is a member of the National Sleep Foundation board. A soothing background sound can help you avoid hearing these disruptive sounds.

You will sleep better if there are no disturbing noises. Dr. Pelayo explains that a sound machine increases the background noise level and neutralizes any noises in your immediate environment. This makes noises such as street traffic or barking dogs, less disruptive, so people can sleep through them.

This noise is very popular as it’s uniform. But what if you don’t like white noise? You might be able to tolerate Brown noise or pink noise.

What is pink noise?

Pink noise is white noise that has fewer high frequency frequencies. Nicolino explains that sound engineers filter out the high frequencies to create pink noise. White noise sounds static and has the same intensity as white noise, but pink noise oscillates between high and lower frequencies to mimic the flow of nature sounds like falling rain or waves at the beach.

“Pink noise sounds a lot like rain,” Nicolino said. Pink noise, however, isn’t the same as white noise. A rainfall sound machine is not pink noise or white noise. It’s just ambient sound on a loop. Pink noise is often considered more soothing and balanced than white noise.

What is brown noise?

Brown noise is white noise with a lower frequency than pink noise. Brown noise, unlike pink and white noises, is named after Robert Brown, who discovered Brownian motion. Brown noise is capitalized for the grammatically averse.

Nicolino said that brown noise could sound like an uneventful ocean surf. It is more soothing to listen to than white noise because it has more bass notes. Dr. Pelayo states that people prefer lower-toned sounds.

How to choose a sound machine or sleep noise

It all boils down to personal preference at the end of each day or night. Dr. Pelayo states that people will choose the sound they like. “Once people find a sound spectrum they like, they stay with it.”

Nature sounds fans will prefer those to the vaguely white, pink or brown noises. This sound machine can make non-looping ocean, rain and fireplace sounds. Whirring noise fans will be loyal to the machine. People who prefer white, pink, or brown noises will find the machine that suits their needs.

A majority of sound machines, such as a sleep fan, emit only one type of sleep noise. It works well if you like the sound it makes, but there are limited options.

Other sound machines include the LectroFan offers many sounds. Nicolino explains that his team used white, pink and brown noise to create the sounds. These noises range from white noise to a deep Brown noise. This machine can be used as a white noise machine and a pink noise maker, or for other purposes.

Consider whether the sound app or machine you are using loops the noise. Some sound machines, especially those with nature recordings, loop the sound which can disturb sleep.

You should also consider volume control and sound quality. Also, you need to be able to sense and hear deeper sounds as well, just like with deep bass. A sleep noise app might not be suitable if you find lower tones more conducive for sleep. Only larger machines can create these two-sense sounds. Fans are used to create ambient noise. However, they can also cause you to feel cold. If you like the sound of a fan, this option lets you block airflow.

Dr. Pelayo advises that you and your partner should not force you to listen to something you do not like. Find a sound that is comfortable for you both, and then take your time. Most people can adapt to new noises in two to three days. However, some people may need to adapt faster. True insomniacs who have had a history of disturbed sleep may require more time. You’ll want to keep using the sound machine or noise you find.

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