Forget White Noise—Pink Noise Could Be the Key to Better, Deeper Sleep

Pink noise has the power to slow your brain waves and lead to sounder, more satisfying sleep.

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Anyone who's ever suffered through a sleepless night—or several—has likely tried a slew of solutions that ostensibly lead to better sleep. A set of the most comfortable sheets around, investing in blackout curtains, popping some melatonin, or even attempting a sleep divorce are a few sleep strategies out there, but they don't work for everyone, depending on what's causing the problem to begin with. Plus, there's always another, supposedly better sleep solution around the corner.

Take white noise, for example: It's a solid option for many people seeking better sleep, but it's no longer the only snooze-inducing noise option out there—and doesn't always end up being the sleep panacea people hope for. If you've tried using white noise to fall asleep with no luck, allow us to introduce you to its "warmer," more soothing cousin: pink noise.

What is pink noise vs. white noise?

Like white noise, pink noise is a non-descript, ongoing sound intended to lull people to sleep. The primary difference between pink noise and white noise is the intensity of the sound frequency, says Ursula Kominski, a brand manager for fans at Helen of Troy. "Pink noise sounds more balanced and is more soothing to the human ear," she says. This is because pink noise moves between high and low frequencies to mimic nature sounds such as ocean waves or steady rain. White noise, on the other hand, is more static sounding and stays at the same intensity. Pink noise is essentially white noise whose harsher, high frequencies have been filtered out. The result? A deeper, warmer noise that many people find more pleasing and relaxing than white noise.

Why use pink noise for sleep?

It reduces sleep disruptions from ambient noises.

A primary purpose of both pink and white noises is to help block out external sounds, such as street traffic, noisy neighbors, and creaking pipes, in order to limit sleep disruptions and distractions.

It helps improve sleep quality.

While both types of noise accomplish the above task, research has found pink noise to have the added sleep benefit of promoting even more restful and productive 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. Specifically, studies have shown that pink noise helps to reduce brain wave activity, thus leading to more stable and restful sleep.

You already know how important it is to get enough hours of sleep, but quality of sleep (or how well you sleep) can matter just as much as (if not more than) sleep quantity or duration. With that in mind, it's easy to see how pink noise might be the better choice when it comes to falling asleep, staying asleep, and actually sleeping soundly.

Pink Noise Machines

Pink noise machines aren't quite as common as white noise machines, but they're certainly out there. Many noise machines offer several noise options, including white and pink noise features. The Honeywell Dreamweaver Sleep Fan ($43; functions as both a pink noise machine and a fan (good news for hot sleepers). If you've given white noise a try and haven't been impressed, pink noise might be the next solution to try.

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  1. Lu SY, Huang YH, Lin KY. Spectral content (colour) of noise exposure affects work efficiencyNoise Health. 2020;22(104):19-27. doi:10.4103/nah.NAH_61_18

  2. Zhou J, Liu D, Li X, et al. Pink noise: effect on complexity synchronization of brain activity and sleep consolidationJ Theor Biol. 2012;306:68-72. doi:10.1016/j.jtbi.2012.04.006

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