Want better sleep? Find the color of noise right for you.

Just when I felt like an “adulting” champion for downloading a white noise app and getting to bed before midnight, I notice that there are apparently 3 choices for colors of noise. *Mind blown.* That night I chose pink, because it sounded the cutest, but after a good night's sleep, I decided to do some research.

There are actually many “colors” of noise, but white, pink and brown are the most commonly used for sleep and concentration. White, pink and brown noises work by “reducing the difference between background noise and jarring sounds.” If you are lucky enough to live in New York City, where car horns or sirens often disrupt your sleep, these noise can be a great way to help your body tune out disruption.

So, what is the difference?

White Noise

White noise has an even mix of all short, medium and long wave sound frequencies, making it a steady constant sound.  It tends to sound industrial, like a large fan or vacuum cleaner.  

Pink noise

Pink noise is louder at the low frequency end of the spectrum and softer at the high frequency end. A light, steady rain shower is an example of pink noise found in nature. Studies have shown the pink noise played at certain times during the sleep cycle can improve memory.  Many people prefer pink noise as a “more natural” sound profile than white and a “smoother” profile than brown.

Brown noise

Deeper and more intense at the low frequencies, brown noise is the “roughest” of the bunch.  Similar to waves crashing during a storm surge, if you’re a surfer, this just might be your jam.

White noise and attention

There has been a few studies, including a recent one in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, that link listening to white noise to improvements in memory. The study found an effect of white noise on the brain’s rewards system, meaning white noise enhanced the connection between brain regions responsible for attention and dopamine modulation.  There is still a lot to learn on the impact of white noise and memory. However, reducing distractions and creating an environment for focus are tried and true methods for improving efficiency.

Which color noise is right for you?

Everyone responds to sounds differently, so the best way to find what works for you is to experiment.  Give yourself a few nights in a row trying a particular type of sound. (That way one bad night doesn’t bias your results.) Make a note in your phone of how you feel in the morning and how you slept the night before.  Note any other potential disruptors, like light or temperature and make your bedroom as conducive to rest as possible.  Getting in a sleep routine can help you feel most rested and sleep better, so use this as an opportunity to create nighttime rituals and do them consistently.  Consider setting up a diffuser with lavender essential oils or invest in a silk pillowcase or nice linens from a brand like Brooklinen to make your bed a sanctuary of sleep.

I’ve been using the pink noise of an app (free version) called white noise, but Spotify also has some playlist options.  My favorite playlist there was a recording of ocean waves called “Little Hunter’s Beach.” I also love my Slip Pillowcase.

Restorative sleep is an important part of wellness and recovery. When you sleep your body works hard to repair and rebuild. Send us a note and share your sleep secrets or let us know how recoup is part of your wellness journey.

Happy Sleeping! 

Feel better, live well