Can Pink Noise Help You Sleep?

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By Dr. Mercola

Late Night Speeding

You probably don’t think of noise in terms of colors, but there is a rainbow of noise out there — from the familiar white noise that occurs when a TV turns to static to the higher-pitched blue noise, which sounds similar to a hissing spray of water.1

Somewhere in the middle is pink noise, gentle sound similar to that of rushing water or wind blowing through leaves on a tree.

Pink noise contains frequencies from 20 hertz to 20,000 hertz, just like white noise, but the lower frequencies are louder and more powerful than the higher frequencies (white noise, in contrast, has equal power in all of its frequencies).2

However, pink noise has equal power per octave (a range of frequencies whose upper frequency limit is twice that of its lower frequency limit), which is why most people hear it as an even noise.3

To an untrained ear, pink noise may sound quite similar to white noise, but the former, it seems, may have particular promise for helping you sleep and improving other areas of human health, including that of your brain.

Pink Noise at Night May Help You Sleep Better and Improve Memory

Research published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience revealed that listening to pink noise could improve sleep and memory among 60- to 84-year-olds, a population that tends to have reduced slow wave sleep, or deep sleep, compared to younger individuals.4 Slow wave sleep is also associated with memory consolidation.

While spending the night in a sleep lab, participants listened to pink noise one night and no noise the next. Notably, the pink noise was played in bursts to match the timing of participants’ slow wave sleep.

Not only did the pink noise enhance slow wave sleep, it also was linked to better scores on memory tests. The participants scored about three times better on memory tests the morning after listening to pink noise in their sleep.5

Senior study author Dr. Phyllis Zee, professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told Time, “The noise is fairly pleasant; it kind of resembles a rush of water … It’s just noticeable enough that the brain realizes it’s there, but not enough to disturb sleep.”6

Does the Timing of Pink-Noise Exposure Matter?

Zee and her team are working on developing a device you can use to deliver pink noise at home, although there are many apps already available that claim to do so.

Zee said that the memory benefits, however, may depend on the pink noise enhancing slow wave sleep,…
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