Sleep Trends: Pink Is the New White (Noise)

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation.

If you have trouble falling asleep at night, you may have used a white noise machine to help. But the latest sleep aid involves a different “color” of noise that may be even better for your brain and body. Like white noise, pink noise provides a constant ambient sound that helps mask distractions like cars in the street or loud neighbors to improve your ability to sleep. However, while white noise combines all sound frequencies to create its background hum, pink noise uses a consistent frequency, potentially leading to better sleep results. More research is beginning to shed light on pink noise as a way to improve sleep quantity and quality, and even boost your memory. Learn more about what pink noise is and how you can use it to help with your sleep.

What Is Pink Noise?

For people struggling with insomnia, consistent background noise can help with sleep quality. Pink noise differs from white noise in that it emphasizes lower sound frequencies. The sounds are more natural—think waves on the beach, rain falling, or leaves rustling. You can listen to a sound machine that plays recordings of pink noise, or you can turn on a fan which also emits pink noise.

How It Works

A loud environment with sudden, jarring sounds is disruptive to sleep, making it harder to get the quantity and quality you need during the night. Pink noise reduces the difference between the background drone and a jolting bang like a door slamming, so you are less likely to be startled awake.

Understanding the Benefits

Listening to pink noise can help you fall asleep more quickly, since you aren’t kept awake by distracting sounds. It can also improve your sleep quality by prolonging the amount of time you spend in deep sleep, leaving you better rested when you wake up in the morning. Additionally, sleeping with pink noise may improve your memory. In one study, people who listened to pink noise during sleep performed three times better on subsequent memory tests than they did after nights without the sounds. If you have trouble drifting off at night and have tried a white noise machine, you might want to consider pink noise. There is virtually no downside, and the payoff could be improved sleep and feeling fresh come morning.

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