White vs. Pink Noise: Which Will Help You Sleep Better?

, , 100 Comments


Some people need a little noise in the background
when they’re trying to get to sleep. If you’re me, that means putting on Futurama
in an endless loop until you know every episode word for word… in your sleep. But if you’re a normal, healthy, functioning
person, you might turn on some white noise. It turns out, though, there are more “colors”
of noise, like pink, blue, and brown. How are these colors different, and what do
they do to your brain while you sleep? Obviously sound has no color, unless you have
synesthesia… in which case, awesome. But in this case it’s helpful to use colors
as an analogy for the spectrum of frequencies in noise. White light has all the colors of the rainbow
equally represented, which is why it doesn’t look like any one particular color. Likewise, the frequencies in white noise are
all equally represented, with the lowest audible frequency at 20 Hz having the same
power as all the frequencies above it, up to the highest frequency humans can hear,
at 20,000 Hz. White noise sounds like this: [KSSSCK] There are natural sources of white noise,
like steam hissing from a radiator or static from a TV. But if you’re all modern with your gas furnace
and digital TV and still can’t sleep, then you can buy a white noise machine. Because white noise is all frequencies, it
can help mask other noises, like the ringing of tinnitus or the sound
of your girlfriend snoring… Katie. But humans don’t hear all frequencies equally. The distance between 30 Hz and 60 Hz
sounds the same as the distance between 10,000 Hz and 20,000 Hz; to
us, both notes are one octave apart. And we’re more sensitive to high-pitched
noises, like babies crying. Enter pink noise. Unlike white noise, the energy in pink noise
is highest for the low frequencies, and is halved every time the frequency doubles, meaning every octave has equal power and the net effect sounds less bright,
and more balanced, than white noise. Here’s white noise again: [KSSSCK] And here’s pink noise: [WHOOOSH] While white noise is by far the most researched
noise color, pink noise studies are on the rise recently. One from 2012 found that participants
who listened to pink noise while they slept showed an improvement in deep sleep, and reported
sleeping better. During deep sleep, the neurons
in your brain are firing slowly, what’s known as the delta brain wave pattern. As we age, we don’t get as much deep sleep,
which is associated with memory problems. So, a 2017 study played bursts
of pink noise in sync with the delta brainwave to older adults, and found
the waves increased in amplitude, and participants performed up to
30% better on memory tests. Why? Well, scientists are just beginning to explore
the connection between sound and neural activity, but one thing’s for sure — the key to the
results is timing, so if you’re Philip J. Fry and don’t have a delta brainwave, you’re out of luck. That was a Futurama deep cut – y’gotta get on my level. The only other color noise that has an official
Federal Communications standard definition is blue noise, which is like
the opposite of pink noise, where higher frequencies are amped up. Wanna hear the most annoying sound
in the world? [HISSS] Unofficially, there’s also grey noise, where
the high AND low ends are emphasized: [THURSSS] and Brown noise, where the frequencies mimic
the randomness of Brownian motion: [WISSSH] Now, if you said that means the Brown noise is
named after a person, not a color, you are you are technically correct…
which is the best kind of correct. (Disappointingly, it has nothing to do with the mythical pitch that will make someone poop their pants.) There are even more sounds I don’t have
time to touch on, but it turns out there are a lot of colors of sound, and they have some
surprising applications and effects that research is just starting to explore. So if you love science, make some noise! [KSSSCKWHOOOSHHISSSTHURSSSWISSSH] And if you REALLY love science, you better
hit that subscribe button so you can catch all of our videos here on Seeker! Also, be sure to check out this awesome video
about scientists that sift through COSMIC noise to identify alien signals. Thanks for watching!

 

100 Responses

  1. Nemlol Rawrlawl

    July 18, 2018 7:20 pm

    Okay, I thought I was the only one who puts on Futurama as I sleep… Kinda glad I'm not…

    Reply
  2. Helicondrummer

    July 18, 2018 7:36 pm

    I'm with you on futurama, I know a few people right along with us as well. We are not alone.

    Reply
  3. Art Stricklen

    July 18, 2018 7:39 pm

    To me, the pink noise sounded most like a rain shower. That may be why it works the best for us while sleeping. I love to sleep during a rain storm.

    Reply
  4. Virtua Fighter

    July 18, 2018 9:33 pm

    I've been sleeping with a standing fan on high for 10 years now. Would that be white noise?

    Reply
  5. Emily R

    July 18, 2018 11:03 pm

    lol i just found pink noise on my white noise app a few days ago, when i had to share a hotel room with my snoring mother. i had never heard of it before. i found the pink was much better than white, brown, blue, or purple for drowning out the snoring. blue and purple were way too high pitched and sounded screechy.

    Reply
  6. Quick Look n Teardown

    July 18, 2018 11:52 pm

    if you listen to an audio book or the news in your sleep will you remember it after you wake up?

    Reply
  7. Neuterdude

    July 18, 2018 11:57 pm

    I am with you, I turn on Futurama and listen to it as I go to sleep. I have always likes listening to old time radio shows, but Futurama has taken that over now.

    Reply
  8. AvangionQ

    July 19, 2018 1:14 am

    You should have played the blue noise, then asked if we were annoyed … rather than offered the warning first.

    Reply
  9. Number Eight or Nine?

    July 19, 2018 1:46 am

    I used pink noise to calibrate my equalizer to my subwoofer years ago. Waves move so how is it unusual that a sound massage is a thing?

    Reply
  10. OMJUWARA

    July 19, 2018 2:10 am

    Will noise stop my Girlfriend from slapping me in the face while she sleeps? She has a mean right hook.

    Reply
  11. Ricardo Castano IV

    July 19, 2018 2:53 am

    thumbs up for watching every episode of Futurama to go to sleep. about five times for me so far…

    Reply
  12. R DelMundo

    July 19, 2018 2:56 am

    ive been getting nightmares lately and I really dont know what to do, im also sleep talking when i had those nightmares and i remember the things that i said. my parents told me that it is because i lack exercise and because i spend all my time on my laptop and phone.

    Reply
  13. ZombieTex

    July 19, 2018 3:17 am

    I believe in brown noise, the poop kind. I was at a Luau about 15 years ago and someone had brought a conch shell that had been drilled to play when blown. I gave it a try. It was pretty cool. Then I passed it to a teen who was there. He gave it a try, and it wasn't much different than when I played it. Then he passed it to his little sister. When she played it, I suddenly feel a deep gurgling in my lower guts. Things were on the move! I placed my hands on my stomach and bent slightly in discomfort. When I looked next to me, the boy who had played the conch after me was in the exact same position as I was, with the exact same expression of digestive discomfort on his face. Then the note ended and we were both immediately fine.

    Reply
  14. MrBosor

    July 19, 2018 4:53 am

    Absolutely loved the Futurama references! What a hero! Instantly shot to the top of my favorite seeker reporters.(sorry trace)

    Reply
  15. evilfoxdemon1

    July 19, 2018 5:49 am

    Fu… the futurama think is 100% me. What's your favorite episode? Mine is "the devil's hands are idol playthings."

    Reply
  16. IntrinsicPalomides

    July 19, 2018 6:00 am

    Tried noise a while ago to help me sleep. White and pink are too harsh for me, i liked brown noise the best. But yeah i need to have noise or can't sleep. Usually episodes of a show i'm watching or watch in the past. True fact, it took me like 4 attempts to ever get through the 1st lord of the rings, fantastic at making me fall asleep 🙂

    Reply
  17. SPcamert

    July 19, 2018 6:26 am

    Katie. Also +1 for the three Futurama references. ALSO also +1 for using Futurama to sleep to. Did that for year until SOMEONE (*cough* Netflix *cough*) removed it from their database.

    Reply
  18. Angel Possum

    July 19, 2018 8:51 am

    I understand the deepcut because fry has to destoy the floating brains simce he is the only person alive without a delta brainwave he is undetectable by them

    Reply
  19. AdaLiszk

    July 19, 2018 10:34 am

    xD Natural sources: Radiator or TV, since when started human infrastructure considered as nature?

    Reply
  20. megaslayercho

    July 19, 2018 11:18 am

    I have really loud neighbors and I have been using repeating sounds to mask noises in the evening,it's very effective and has helped me sleep even better than before,when I had no loud neighbors and no sound machine.
    I use the sound of a wind blowing in the field,it's a 40 min loop I play over and over,I guess it's kinda like pink noise.
    If you ever loose sleep to annoying sounds,or have trouble falling asleep due to annoying sounds,I highly recomend just hooking up some old smartphone/PC to some speakers and playing some nature sounds on a loop.

    Reply
  21. Carol Lee

    July 19, 2018 12:09 pm

    I like silence when I sleep… everything that makes noise annoys me… TV in the next room causes me to wake up, grrr. If i cannot hear thr outside noise is quiet, I have trouble sleeping too…

    Reply
  22. Cosmic Horror

    July 19, 2018 12:12 pm

    If it’s too quiet I hear voices when I try to go sleep so I have to have some noise in the background.

    Reply
  23. kurt lindner

    July 19, 2018 7:10 pm

    The reasoning behind using colors because blah blah, stupid.

    When I see stuff like this, I can't help but think it all got going because a bunch of scientists are arrogant and can't admit they're wrong when they don't understand something due to their own perception, like it's their 'accidental discharge' (gun related) equivalent.

    Some asshole just sliced up 'white noise' into different sub-genres of the same thing -it's like arguing about the difference between Minimal House and Micro House.

    Reply
  24. Bhanu Chhabra

    July 20, 2018 12:06 pm

    WaaaaaaaaTF, I literally hate white noise … Who does so to sleep, If I ever heard that "White Noise" while sleeping, I'll wake up and hit the power off button of my tv remote …

    Reply
  25. Res Art

    July 20, 2018 11:28 pm

    I tought that when someone sais they sleep on some kind of noise it means they fall asleap whyle watching porn
    And from there comes pink noice brown noice black noice white noice interracial noice bdsm noice

    Reply
  26. W9e0e2e3e4pizza NC Compilations

    July 21, 2018 1:41 am

    Yeah no black noise cause screw those back of the bus sitting frequencies.

    Reply
  27. Paul Lindblad

    July 21, 2018 5:25 am

    I haven't watched futurama in a while but still know almost every episode. Too bad we' fall victims to the brains though.

    Reply
  28. Dave Kauffman

    July 22, 2018 8:43 pm

    I started sleeping with a fan on in the room to counter and block the morning noises of neighbors mowing their lawns or kids playing, working second or third shift is sometimes hard on sleep. It works pretty well, but I am interested if there is something better!

    Reply
  29. Chris

    July 24, 2018 10:50 am

    Saying noises are like colors makes me want to punch you in the face for some reason. It's like you are being fake smart or something cuz it sounds clever but it's dumb. I have anger issues though and it's nothing personal.

    Reply
  30. Ultralagger R.E.V

    July 31, 2018 5:54 am

    Also, which sounds can help to trigger an astral projection or lucid dream?!?
    Need reply ASAP

    Reply
  31. siZeDcuBe

    August 8, 2018 12:32 am

    Brown sound is nice too, better than white for studying to me. much deeper

    edit: Oh youve got them all here! Brown is more soothing than pink to me. Could you do a vid explaining Brownian motion?

    Reply
  32. Brother in Christ Kinsman Peacekeeper Anthony

    August 13, 2018 6:11 am

    White noise gives you the expansiveness of digitizing your subconsciousness. With Pink- Its digitally halving your subconsciousness. Plus. Side by side comparison, Pink's auditory factor is like yelling over waterfall while talking over white noise one. Still Unnatural for the Body. Its your anatomic body of man telling you that its having withdrawal issues with all the media you consume and tech your around.

    Should unplug and, "clear your mind." Listen to the sound of the earth, which gets labeled as tinnitus. Its natural.

    Reply
  33. I'mgonnanutinyacheerios

    July 2, 2019 9:37 am

    The a brown noise the noise that makes you shit your pants according to South Park

    Reply

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