Sure we've all heard of white noise. It's the static on the TV or the fan running in your room, and it's also the sound that science has proved can help some people sleep and relax better. But what about pink noise? Though it's the lesser-discussed of noise colors, pink noise has been making waves in the scientific community for years. And just like white noise, pink noise can have positive effects. But what is pink noise and what makes it different than the standard white noise? How can pink noise help you become more productive?
What Is Pink Noise?
Pink noise is a particular "color" of noise, similar to the commonly-known white noise. The color of noise is characterized by the energy a sound produces. More specifically, a noise's color is based on how the sound is distributed over certain frequencies or the speed of sound. And how humans hear a sound is based on the speed of that frequency.
Sound is made of many colors. The color of noise depends on its intensity and energy. Pink noise, in particular, is made of all the frequencies you are able to hear, but with unequally-distributed energy among them. Instead of distributing signal power equally among all frequencies, pink noise's "power" decreases as frequency increases. This makes pink noise more intense at lower frequencies, creating a generally deep sound. Some pink noises that exist naturally among us include the wind, steady rain, the rustling of leaves, and the human heartbeat. Pink noise is often described as "even" or "flat" sounding.
How Pink Noise Compares to Other Noises
You may hear of noise having many "colors." White noise includes all audible frequencies and its energy is distributed equally across frequencies, unlike pink noise, which distributes unequally. This equal distribution among frequencies means that white noise includes all colors of noise. But because pink noise distributes unequally, white noise isn't as deep-sounding as pink noise. It typically causes a steady, humming sound. Brown noise, which can also be referred to as red noise, has much higher energy, but at lower frequencies. This makes brown noise even deeper than both pink and white noise, such as thunder or roaring waterfalls. Some may even use the term black noise to describe a lack of noise, referring to silence or mostly-silent with random noise.
The Effects of Pink Noise on Your Brain
Sound can have tremendous effects on the brain. Some noise frequencies can disrupt brain activity, while others can help focus it. Why is that? According to scientists, our environments, including the sounds around us, affect how we sleep, focus, and perceive the world. Different levels of sound waves can have different effects, but one thing is certain: when there is background noise, our brains listen to it.
Background noise can either be positive and relaxing to the brain, or negative and stressing. The barking dog at night, for instance, will disrupt your sleep. Some background noises and sounds can increase your stress levels and limit your brain's ability to control the information that must be sent throughout the body. But certain frequencies, such as those provided by pink noise, can help your brain relax, help you sleep, increase your focus, and boost your mood.
The noise you hear during sleep can have either positive or negative impacts, and sleep is essential to your brain's ability to concentrate, focus, energize, and make decisions. In fact, sleep is essential to a number of your brain's functions, including how cells communicate with each other, mood control, your immune system, and how well your brain adopts both old and new information. Poor sleep habits have been proven to increase the risk of developing certain diseases and inhibit the brain's ability to concentrate, focus, and regulate itself.
Scientific research and studies have found that pink noise can potentially help you sleep better and more restfully. One study done in 2012 found that steady rhythms of pink noise during sleep helped to reduce brain waves, increasing more stable sleep patterns. More simply put, those who listened to pink noise slept harder. This is partially due to the fact that all white noises, including pink noise, helps to drown out other background noises which are naturally more distracting to the brain.
Another study performed in 2017 found that there's a positive link between deep sleep and pink noise. This same study also found that the slow brain wave activity produced by pink noise can help improve the brain's memory retention areas that are dependent on sleep to work. This means that pink noise could help your brain get to sleep, stay asleep, wake feeling rested, and be more productive when you're awake.
But listening to pink noise doesn't just have benefits while you're sleeping. Natural pink noises that mimic the world around us can create a focused mind during the day, by providing natural relaxation. Those who become overwhelmed easily or have trouble focus can use pink noise, as well as other white noises, to eliminate mental distractions and increase focus to a task.
How to Add Pink Noise to Your Routine
Pink noise can be heard while you're awake and asleep because your brain will continue to process sound as you sleep. To listen to pink noise while you sleep or even during the day, you can try a variety of avenues. You can use a computer, smartphone, radio, etc. to play pink noise tracks while you sleep. You can also find sound machines that play natural pink noises like wind and rain.
It is important to note that not all people respond well to white and pink noise. Depending on your personal preferences, background noise can be a distraction and work negatively against you. If you're looking to try a little pink noise yourself, experiment with different types of sounds, as well as volumes, to see what works best for you.
- The Science Behind Sound and How It Impacts Your Focus - Let's Reach Success - https://letsreachsuccess.com/sound-impacts-focus/
- Pink noise: effect on complexity synchronization of brain activity and sleep consolidation - U.S. National Library of Medicine - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22726808
- Acoustic Enhancement of Sleep Slow Oscillations and Concomitant Memory Improvement - Frontiers in Human Neuroscience - https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00109/full
- What Is Pink Noise and How Does It Compare with Other Sonic Hues? - Healthline - https://www.healthline.com/health/pink-noise-sleep
- What Is Pink Noise? - Live Science - https://www.livescience.com/38464-what-is-pink-noise.html
- Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep - National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke - https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Understanding-Sleep