Pink Noise vs. White Noise: Your Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep

September 16, 2021 | Casper Editorial Team
person sleeping listening to pink and white noise person sleeping listening to pink and white noise person sleeping listening to pink and white noise

You may find yourself tossing and turning every night, wondering if there’s ever going to be a way for you to get a good night’s sleep. The solution may be as simple as “colorful” noises.

Before you buy that sound machine or download that white noise app, here’s a look at the different sounds and how they help you get a good night’s sleep.

Pink noise and white noise use the variation of high and low frequencies, which is associated with a peaceful rest throughout the night. But you may wonder:  Pink noise vs. white noise, what’s the difference?

Below we explain what pink noise and white noise are and how they are different. We also discuss other types of background noise people commonly use for sleep.

Pink, Brown, and White Noise: Definitions and Examples

Trying to decide which color noise is right for you can be tricky at first. It may take some time to realize which sound works best for you, whether it’s rustling leaves, thunder, or whirring fans. 

With some knowledge and a little time, however, you’ll quickly find the best option for your sleep habits. Here’s what you need to know about pink noise vs. white noise and how they compare to other sonic hues used for sleeping. 

What is Pink Noise?

pink noise examples: leaves, rain, heartbeats

With pink noise, lower frequencies are louder while higher frequencies are more diminished. This creates a soothing sound and is a great option for those who find white noise annoying and disruptive. Pink noise leans more toward environmental noise, so it’s no surprise most people prefer it.

In this study, a link was found between pink noise and deep sleep. This may be because pink noise is especially relaxing when used to drown out unwanted sounds and outside noises that could interfere with a person’s sleep.

Examples of Pink Noise:

  • Rustling leaves
  • Steady rain
  • Ocean waves
  • Heartbeats

What is White Noise?

white noise examples: television, fan, air conditioner

White noise is equally spread across the sound spectrum, representing all audible frequencies at the same intensity. Because of that, many people find it hard to listen to when falling asleep because they get startled hearing high-pitched noises or heavy bass sounds.  So, how does white noise help you sleep? According to this study, others find these frequencies relaxing because they block out distracting and unwanted sounds.

You can imagine white noise as similar to white light. When every color on the spectrum is bright, it becomes white light — similarly, white noise includes all frequencies at the same intensity.

Examples of White Noise:

  • Whirring fan
  • Radio or television static
  • Vacuum
  • Humming air conditioner

What is Brown Noise?

brown noise examples: thunder, waterfall, wind

Brown noise is deeper and stronger at the low end of the sound spectrum. Unlike pink and white noise, it doesn’t contain any high-frequency sounds. Though not a common option for sound sleep, brown noise can help certain people with concentration. According to the CEO of Adaptive Sound Technologies, Inc, Sam Nicolino, brown noise “has more bass than white noise, making it more pleasant to listen to.” 

Examples of Brown Noise:

  • Low roaring
  • Strong waterfalls
  • Thunder

What Are the Other Colors of Noise?

  • Blue noise: Blue noise contains all the audible frequencies, but the higher-pitched frequencies are amplified. Because of this, blue noise can sound harsh to some people and isn’t widely used for sleep support. An example of this type of noise would be a hissing hose.
  • Black noise: This type of noise uses pure silence with sudden occurrences of noise. The dominant energy level is zero throughout all frequencies with bits of random noise and occasional rises. 
  • Red noise: This is another name for brown noise. The two mean the same exact thing: deep sounds at the low end of the spectrum with minimal high-frequency sounds. 

4 Differences Between the Colors of Noise + Their Effects on Sleep

person working at computer listening to color noises

To better understand the differences between these sonic hues, we’ve compiled a list covering each noise’s effect on sleep and how they’re used for different purposes. 

1. White Noise Benefits Include Masking Sounds 

Many people find success in sleeping when listening to white noise because it drowns out unwanted sounds. Smaller environmental sounds around you can distract you from getting a good night’s rest. However, when using a white noise machine, any noises that happen are drowned out by the noise you’re already hearing.

2. Brown Noise Promotes Concentration

Brown noise may help with getting a good night’s sleep, but it can also help with focus and concentration. Many people prefer listening to brown noise when studying or working to improve productivity and drown out any distractions. It can also help ease anxiety, especially in high-stress situations.

3. Pink Noise is Used to Reduce Brain Waves

In this study, researchers found that those who listened to steady pink waves saw an increase in stable sleep. This is because pink noise may have the ability to reduce brain waves, which allows you to fall asleep faster. This color noise is a preferred method by many because it is deeper than white noise, but not as deep as brown.

4. Pink + Brown Noise Helps Tinnitus

According to Popular Science, those who suffer from tinnitus (constant ringing in ears) prefer pink or brown noise due to the lower frequencies. White noise can be aggravating to those with sensitive hearing because the high frequency sounds are more intense, making it harder for the person to fall asleep. 

6 Tips to Bolster the Effects of Color Noise

Though utilizing color noises in your bedtime routine can help you get a good night’s sleep, there’s still a variety of factors you should consider before hitting the hay to ensure your body and mind are in a relaxed state. 

tips for benefiting from color noise

Check out our tips below:

1. Turn Off Bright Lights

Scrolling through your smartphone or watching TV before bedtime suppresses melatonin, making it hard for you to go to sleep. Avoid bright lights from screens or lamps at least an hour before you go to bed. If you’re looking for a soothing night light option, a glow light can give your bedroom a soft glow that dims as you fall asleep.

2. Exercise Regularly

Implementing a consistent exercise routine during the day may help promote a better night’s sleep. Since exercising exerts physical and mental energy, you’ll notice yourself feeling more tired at night. 

3. Establish a Sleep Schedule

Making sure you wake up and go to bed at the same time every day is important, otherwise you’ll find yourself feeling sleep deprived. Set an alarm every morning and go to bed at the same time every night — it’ll make a big difference in your sleep quality. Check out our sleep calculator to figure out how much sleep you need.

4. Limit Food Intake Before Bed

Eating large meals before sleep can inhibit sleep quality and cause the body’s metabolism to slow down. Research shows, however, that eating small, nutritious snacks like fruit or toast before bed can actually be beneficial and combats hunger with little negative effect.  

5. Avoid Stimulants At Night

Avoid drinking caffeine before bedtime. Doing so may result in restless nights and lack of sleep, so be sure to limit your caffeine intake to morning or midday. If you find yourself experiencing a caffeine crash during the day, it’s best to avoid drinking it entirely. Alcohol also reduces your quality of sleep by disrupting your circadian rhythm. 

6. Limit Naps 

Napping during the day can disrupt your sleep schedule and make it harder for you to get some shut eye. According to the National Sleep Foundation, napping for 20 minutes or less is the most effective way to feel refreshed and still be able to go to bed. 

Still unable to get some much-needed rest? You might want to invest in higher quality sheets and pillows, or maybe even a glow light. With the right bedding and color noise, you’ll be nodding off in no time.