Can pink noise enhance sleep and memory? Early research drives a color noise buzz

You may be familiar with white noise, which is often used to mask background sounds. However, there is now a colorful alternative gaining attention.

Pink noise, brown noise, green noise, and other soothing sounds are becoming increasingly popular for their potential effects on sleep, concentration, and relaxation. While the science behind these noises is still new and limited to a few small studies, thousands of people are already listening to hours of them on YouTube and meditation apps that offer a variety of color noises through paid subscriptions.

So, what exactly is pink noise? To understand this, let’s start with white noise, which is the most well-known of the color noises.

White noise is similar to the static you hear on a radio or TV. Sound engineers define it as having equal volume across all frequencies audible to the human ear. It derives its name from white light, which contains all visible color wavelengths.
However, the high frequencies of white noise can be harsh to the ears. Pink noise, on the other hand, reduces the volume of those higher frequencies, resulting in a lower pitch that resembles the natural sounds of rain or the ocean.

Brown noise, with an even lower pitch, produces a pleasant and soothing rumble.

While white, pink, and brown noises have well-defined definitions in the audio industry, other color noises have more flexible interpretations.

The science behind color noises reveals that white and pink noise may offer slight benefits for individuals with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a recent review of limited studies on ADHD. The theory suggests that it stimulates the brain without providing distracting information.

White noise has also been utilized to alleviate tinnitus, a condition characterized by ringing or buzzing in the ears.
Researchers at Northwestern University are currently investigating the potential benefits of using short bursts of pink noise to enhance the slow brain waves associated with deep sleep. Initial small-scale studies have shown promising results, indicating that these pulses of pink noise may improve memory and relaxation.

Pink noise, which has a frequency profile similar to the distribution of brain wave frequencies observed during slow-wave sleep, holds potential for enhancing sleep quality and cognitive function. Dr. Roneil Malkani, an associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, explains that if further research confirms these findings, it could pave the way for the development of personalized medical devices that utilize pink noise to improve sleep and memory. However, there are still many unanswered scientific questions that need to be addressed before such devices can become a reality.

In conclusion, while the potential benefits of pink noise are promising, further research is required to fully understand its effects and determine any potential harm associated with its use.