This white noise alternative might actually lead to deeper sleep.

By Lauren Phillips
Updated September 03, 2019

Anyone who has ever suffered through a sleepless night—or even several—has likely tried a slew of solutions that ostensibly lead to better sleep. A set of the most comfortable sheets around or attempting a sleep divorce might help, but they also might not, depending on what’s causing poor sleep. Plus, there’s always another, supposedly better solution around the corner. Take white noise: Once a solid option for people seeking better sleep, it might no longer be the best solution as more and more people give pink noise a try.

What is pink noise? Like white noise, it’s a nondescript, ongoing sound intended to lull people to sleep. The primary difference in pink noise vs. white noise is the intensity of the sound frequency, says Ursula Kominski, a brand manager for fans at Helen of Troy. Pink noise moves between high and low frequencies to mimic nature sounds such as ocean waves or steady rain; white noise is more static-sounding and stays at the same intensity. “Pink noise sounds more balanced and is more soothing to the human ear,” Kominski says.

The purpose of white noise and pink noise is to help block out external sounds, such as street traffic, noisy neighbors, creaking pipes, and the like, to limit sleep-disrupting distractions. Both types of noise accomplish this, but pink noise actually takes things a step further by promoting more restorative sleep. Studies have found that pink noise helps to reduce brain wave activity, thus leading to more stable sleep.

“Pink noise not only helps block out outside noises to help people fall asleep faster, but [it] also [helps people] achieve the deep, restorative sleep they need the most,” Kominski says.

You’ve likely already worried about whether 7 hours of sleep is enough, but there’s something else to worry about: Quality of sleep can matter just as much as, if not more than, quantity. With that in mind, it’s easy to see how pink noise might be better for improving sleep than white noise. After all, if you fall asleep but don’t sleep deeply, white noise is only solving half of the bad sleep problem.

Pink noise machines may not be as common as white noise machines, but they’re certainly out there. The Honeywell Dreamweaver Sleep Fan (To buy: $45; functions as both a pink noise machine and a fan (good news for hot sleepers), and some white noise machines also have pink noise features. If you’ve given white noise a try and haven’t been impressed, pink noise might be the next solution to try.