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A Rainbow of Noise: Understanding Background Noise for Sleep

You've probably heard of white noise for sleep. But what about brown noise and pink noise? Here's what to know.

Unless you have a completely soundproof bedroom, you’ll likely struggle with unwanted noise. The reality of being a night-shift worker is that you’re resting while everyone else is living their life. Whether it be a noisy neighbour, a busy toddler, or your roommate on their gaming console, there is never a shortage of noisy distractions that may prevent you from getting the rest you need to conquer your next night shift.

While you can’t avoid noise altogether, you can set yourself up to have more successful sleep by incorporating soothing background noises into your sleep routine. Not only can different kinds of background noise help you drown out your environment, but white, pink, and brown noise can also help you fall asleep. Keep reading to learn how you can harness the power of background noise to promote better sleep.

What are the different types of background noise?

While some prefer to sleep in complete silence, others prefer the soothing sounds of background noise. There are several types of background noises to choose from, including white noise, which you may have heard of, and other less familiar alternatives like pink and brown noise. To get started, you can purchase a noise machine or even use your smartphone. Using a mobile device is a great option that allows you to harness the power of background noise without making any additional purchases.

Which type of background noise is right for me?

Different background noises serve varying purposes—meaning the one you choose will largely depend on your intended outcome.

  • If you’re struggling to sleep because of a noisy environment, white noise is an excellent option to mitigate the impact of the noises around you.
  • If the sound of white noise is too harsh, pink noise may be a more pleasant alternative to help you fall asleep faster.
  • If you struggle to fall asleep because your mind is wandering, brown noise can instead help you focus on rest.

It’s best to experiment with different types of background noise until you find which one works best for you. Let’s dive into each type a little bit further.

White noise

White noise is often compared to hissing or static. This type of background noise contains equal energy across all frequencies within the audible range and is often used as a sleep aid.

When used as a sleep aid, white noise can help drown out disruptive sounds that may prevent you from getting a good sleep. Think of white noise as your mute button for things like honking horns, conversations among your family members, and noisy household appliances. Interested in experimenting with white noise? White noise is often used as a consistent sound buffer, mitigating disrupting noises and helping to create a more peaceful sleep environment.

White noise can be used to promote a more calming sleep environment by fostering relaxation and helping you fall asleep faster. When complete silence isn’t an option, white noise can serve as a buffer between your sleep space and your external environment so you can get the sleep you need before your next night shift. Enjoy eight hours of free relaxing white noise with the Calm app or check out some of the other apps on the market.

Brown noise

Brown background noise, also known as Brownian noise, is deeper and richer when compared to white noise. Often compared to a steady rainfall or leaves in the wind, brown noise relies on lower frequencies and a softer, more soothing tone. When used as a sleep aid, brown background noise can help some users focus, while others may feel more relaxed. Because this type of background noise helps induce calmness and relaxation, it can also be beneficial if you normally have trouble staying asleep. This type of background noise can also help mask unexpected noises while promoting a more consistent, deep sleep.

Pink noise

Pink background noise is a variation of white noise that is gentler and more soothing. When used as a sleep aid, pink noise has been shown to be beneficial. Its gentle nature helps create a tranquil environment, making it possible for users to relax and fall asleep easily. By promoting a serene sleeping environment, pink noise can contribute to a more restful sleep so you can show up to your next night shift well-rested and energized.

How can I integrate background noise into my night-shift routine?

Background noise may be just what you need to kick your night-shift routine up a notch. To get started, choose the type of background noise that appeals most to you. Next, experiment with different sources. There are a number of resources that you can use including smartphone apps, streaming services like YouTube, or even sound machines.

After you have chosen your source,  get to work on implementing it into your routine. Remember to maintain a cozy, dark sleeping environment alongside your chosen background noise to ensure the best results. Regularly integrating background noise into your routine will contribute to a more peaceful and restful sleep experience.

Are you ready to kick your night-shift routine up a notch?

The full spectrum of background noise and sound is much more complex than many people realize. While there are additional types of background noise that weren’t mentioned in this article, white noise, brown noise, and pink noise are the most prominent when understanding background noise for sleep. White, brown, and pink background noises can all play a role in promoting better sleep, and your choice will ultimately depend on your preferences and what works best for you.

Last updated: 2024-03-10

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Hannah Ross

Hannah is an experienced content creator and digital strategist. Typically, she works with startup companies, and she is also passionate about health and wellness.

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