Pink Noise

6 October 2021

Most of us are familiar with white noise, that hum usually in office environments.  White noise is sort of like a whirring fan noise or static.  Pink noise is similar in that it is a constant sound in the background but the pitch doesn’t vary.  So, it is a consistent frequency that is more flat sounding.  It is also called ambient noise and is recommended to give you a better night’s sleep.

The idea behind pink noise is to reduce the difference between the quiet and the noises that will waken you from a sleep like snoring or doors slamming.  Sleeping with the television on isn’t the same thing.  The tv will have variance in noise levels and frequencies, which can be loud at times, and the blue light from it (or other electronic devices) has been shown to impede sleep by stimulating the brain instead of letting it rest.  Pink noise is closer to the sound of wind through the trees, waves on a beach, or heartbeats.

Research is ongoing but at this point there doesn’t seem to be any downside to pink noise.  In fact studies are showing that it provides a more stable and deep sleep.  It seems to help focus and memory the following day.  If you are struggling with insomnia or poor sleep patterns, it might be worth a try.

The American Tinnitus Association offers a looping track that you can download.  There are also machines for sale but just be sure it specifically uses pink noise.  Raise or lower the volume until you find the right level that will allow you to sleep but not so loud it is annoying.  You can also experiment with different sounds.  If you find you are making more trips to the bathroom through the night, maybe the babbling brook isn’t for you.  If your bed partner doesn’t want to partake, you can try earbuds or headphones that are specifically designed to sleep in.

Sleep schedule

Be sure to establish and maintain a good schedule by heading to bed at the same time each night and rising at the same time each morning.  Get daytime exercise.  It will help you fall asleep faster at night.  Exercising before bed is more of a stimulant than a relaxation.  Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature, probably to the cool side.  The room should be dark; some people have chosen black-out draperies.  Limit caffeine and alcohol especially right before bed.  Be sure that your big meal is at least a couple of hours before you head to the bedroom.

If you were wondering, in addition to pink and white noise, there are other colors.  Brown noise (sometimes referred to as red noise) is more energetic but lower frequencies.  This is more like thunder or a fast moving river.  To the human ear, brown and white noise seem the same but tests show that brown noise is more conducive to sleep or relaxation.

Black noise is the lack of noise.  It is virtually impossible to have complete silence, but it is as little noise as possible.  There are some people who prefer this to white, pink or brown noise to enhance sleep.

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