Given how common sleep-related issues like insomnia are, it’s no wonder that the use of sound machines and sleep apps is on the rise. With a number of options available — including white, pink and brown noise— what “color” noise is best for sleeping?
The truth is, there isn’t one specific type of sound that is going to make everyone sleepy. It depends on personal preference.
That means that you may need to experiment a bit to find out which type of sound you find most relaxing and sleep-promoting.
If you haven’t had much luck with white and pink noise, you may be wondering, “What is brown noise all about?” Brown noise has been described as sounding a bit “deeper ” than pink noise.
It has more “energy” but is also softer than white or pink noise. You might find it to be calming or focusing if you like doing work or drifting off to sleep with a decent amount of background noise.
What Is Brown Noise?
White, pink and brown noises are all different forms of “sonic hues.” Brown noise is considered a layered sonic hue that has a sound like a low roar.
- All sound waves can be broken down into frequency, which is how fast the waveform is vibrating per second (one hertz is one vibration per second), and amplitude (sometimes measured as “power”).
- White noise has equal power across all frequencies audible to the human ear. It includes low-, midrange- and high-frequency sounds. Green noise is a form a white noise that encompasses nature sounds.
- Pink noise is white noise but with reduced higher frequencies.
- Brown noise lowers the higher frequencies even more.
What is an example of brown noise? Examples in nature include the sound of a strong river current, strong wind, waterfall, thunder or heavy rainfall.
The term brown noise originated in the 1800s. Also called Brownian noise (or sometimes red noise), it was named after the botanist Robert Brown, who discovered “Brownian motion” (random particle motion).
Researchers have uncovered that the power of brown noise decreases as its frequency increases. This type of noise can be produced by integrating white noise and adding a random offset to each sample to obtain the next one.
What is brown noise used for? According to experts, these may be some of the benefits associated with this type of noise:
1. Can Help You Sleep
Depending on the person, various types of noise colors can help with getting good sleep.
What does brown noise do to the brain that may allow it help improve sleep? Experts tell us that sudden changes in noise while we are sleeping can wake us up or keep us up.
Noise colors are continuous and mute out changing/sudden noises in our homes that can startle us out of sleep. By listening to low-level background noise, your brain will be less alerted to changes in sounds compared to when it’s silent.
2. Promotes Relaxation
Like white and pink noises, brown noises can also be used to boost relaxation and focus. Continuous, soft noise can be used to help “quiet your mind” and tune out thoughts that may be running through your head.
Some report that brown noise serves as the perfect soft, monotonous soundtrack to life.
Can Brown noise make you poop? Perhaps if you listen to calming sounds while in the bathroom, then this may be one benefit tied to enhanced relaxation and reduced stress and muscle tension.
However, brown noise is not the same thing as what’s called the “brown note,” which is a hypothetical low-frequency sound that some people claim makes them go to the bathroom (although this hasn’t been proven).
3. May Help Improve Focus
Some people consider brown noise to be a great “work soundtrack.” It can mask distracting noises in your environment, such as people talking nearby, typing, chewing, etc.
Of course, if it helps you to get more sleep, this is another way it can improve mental performance.
To help you concentrate and get work done, play it at a volume that’s loud enough to drown out soft noises in your environment but not too distracting.
Brown Noise vs. White, Pink and Black Noise
As you can tell by now, there are many colors of noise, including white, pink, brown, black and blue noises. Here’s a bit about each type and how they differ:
This is a consistent ambient sound that can help mask disturbing sounds. Think of the sound of a fan, air conditioner or softly humming refrigerator.
While similar to white noise, pink noise contains more variation. The human ear typically perceives white noise as “static” but pink noise as “even” or “flat.”
Some examples of pink noise in everyday life and nature include:
- leaves rustling in the wind
- waves hitting shoreline
- steady falling rain
Some research suggests that pink noise may boost brain activity associated with deeper sleep and even lead to improved memory.
Black noise is basically silence with a little bit of random noise thrown in. This is why it’s also sometimes called “technical silence.”
Technically black noise has a frequency spectrum of predominantly zero power level over all frequencies except for a few narrow bands or spikes.
How to Start with Brown Noise
The easiest way to take advantage of brown noise’s calming effects is to purchase a brown noise generator, aka a sound machine. You’ll want to look for one that produces a range of noise “colors” (white, pink or brown) and is non-looping, so it plays continuously all night.
Sound machines/generators range considerably in price, depending on how many settings they have. For example, some not only play static color noises, but also nature sounds like rain, waterfalls, wind, etc.
You’ll also want to consider if you need a portable, small machine (if you travel a lot) and whether you want a chargeable machine or one that needs to be plugged in.
Additionally, you can use a sleep/sound machine app on your phone if you don’t want to purchase a device. You can even simply play YouTube videos of “deep brown noise” from your computer or phone completely for free.
The downside to this approach is that it may turn off after a period of time or drain your phone/computer battery if playing all night.
Other Natural Sleep Aids
While sound machines/apps can definitely be helpful for allowing your mind to relax enough so you can drift off, there many other natural ways to encourage better sleep too. Here are some natural sleep aids to focus on if you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep:
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule, meaning you go to sleep and get up at roughly the same time each day.
- Make sure your bedroom is dark and slightly cool, which is ideal for sending the signal to your body that it’s time to sleep. Keeping your room organized and diffusing lavender or other essential oils for sleep can also make it feel calming.
- Keep electronics out of the bedroom and stop using them ideally two or more hours before bed. This will prevent too much blue light exposure, which can keep you up.
- Avoid having caffeine too close to bedtime, such as limiting consumption after 12 p.m.
- Include sleep-promoting foods in your diet, such as ones that contain complex carbs, calcium, magnesium and/or the amino acid tryptophan. Moon milk is another trendy option to experiment with.
- Consider an herbal supplement known to help with sleep troubles, such as valerian root, passion flower and St. John’s wort.
- What is brown noise? It’s a type of noise that has a lower frequency than white and pink noise. It’s described as being rougher, a bit harsher and deeper than white/pink noise.
- There’s some evidence that brown noise benefits include promoting relaxation, sleep quality and focus.
- Examples of brown noise in everyday life and nature include a strong stream/river or a strong wind.
- You can start using sleep sounds today by purchasing a brown noise generator/sound machine or using an app on your phone. You’ll probably have the best results if the noise plays continuously all night on a loop without breaks.