White, brown, green and pink noise: Can these sounds help you to sleep better? | UK News

Sleep: don’t get enough and you feel rubbish, get too much and you feel rubbish.

But what about when you can’t even get to sleep?

You get into bed at a reasonable hour with all good intentions, only to spend the next 45 minutes scrolling Instagram reels or TikToks with one eye doing all the work as the other sits face down squashed into your duck-down pillow.

At least you’re in the right place to discover all the different colour noises that promise to help you drift off.

So do these colourful noises work? And if so, how? And which colours? So many questions…

We spoke to some experts.

Let’s start with the OG: white noise

White noise holds all sound frequencies at the same volume and often carries multiple sound waves, from low, to midrange and high.

This noise is often used to soothe babies, improve focus and aid sleep in both adults and children.

White noise can be heard in everyday life from fans, air conditioners and radio static.

So in short, it does a good job of masking outside noises by giving you consistent noise.

Dr Lindsay Browning, a psychologist, neuroscientist and sleep expert, explains that when we sleep, part of our brain is still awake and monitoring for potential problems: crying babies, fire alarms etc.

Dr Browning says these noises may help “mask those sudden outside noises” and help you to stay asleep rather than be disturbed.

It gives “a constant noise of multiple frequencies of sound helping to mask (or reduce), the disruption caused by sudden noises in the silence of the night”.

But beware – if the environment you are in is fairly quiet, these noises may not help aid better sleep, but rather “the white noise machine may cause more disruption to your sleep than any benefit it gives because it is producing sound when there would otherwise be silence”, Dr Browning adds.

Dr Hana Patel, a GP in London, says she has seen some of her patients benefit from background noise to help them sleep.

“Some people find white noise helpful as the brain has something relaxing to focus on instead of the surrounding environmental noises. White noise can not only help some people to fall asleep, it can help them to stay asleep.”

Brown noise

Drawing in a deeper and stronger tone – this frequency is similar to the sound of a storm.

It contains very low frequencies at a greater volume than the higher frequency sounds, like the low roaring sound of an aircraft, Dr Browning says.

Steve Adams, a sleep expert at Mattress Online, told Sky News: “Brown noise can trigger relaxation through low frequencies and is said to produce a sound that many people find soothing.”

He said it can aid those who struggle to fall asleep, but also improve the way people sleep.

“The low humming sound can help to block out external noise and even soothe tinnitus symptoms by masking the telltale ringing sound associated with the condition,” he says.

Green noise – the new sound on the block

This sound has now taken over TikTok, with the hashtag #GreenNoise.

Dr Browning told Sky News this sound is more like a natural background tone at around 500 Hz.

She adds: “This is similar to brown or pink noise, but is generally more pleasant and relaxing to listen to.”

Though it’s not a well-used term (well, it wasn’t before TikTok at least), Dr Browning says green noise “is a recording of an actual sound in nature – such as a gentle waterfall or rain”.

Read more:
Early bird or night owl?

The link between sleep and diseases

Pink noise? This is all getting a bit Reservoir Dogs

This type of sound contains all the frequencies of white noise, but with a “less pleasant” and higher frequency of sounds at a quieter volume, like the gentle sound of rain, for example.

Ok I’m still awake – white, brown, green or pink?

To sum up, all of these sounds help drown out background noise, they have different frequencies, and when it comes to choosing which one is best, well, it’s up to you. Try them all and see which one helps you the most.

Why do people take their sleep so seriously?

There are obvious reasons – sleep is great and we all would love an extra hour in bed every time our alarms go off.

But actually, bad sleep can have serious consequences when it comes to your mental and physical health.

Last year, data from the NHS revealed around 64% of young people aged 17-23 struggled to sleep. This figure was much higher for young women by 76% compared to young men at 53%.

According to the Sleep Foundation, young adults between the ages of 17-25 and adults between 26-64 need around seven to eight hours of sleep per night.

“It is a continuum, though,” says Dr Browning, stating that “some people will need less sleep than others, depending on your age, activity levels and genetics”.

“Science suggests that if you regularly get the recommended amount of sleep, you are at a lower risk of developing certain physical and mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, heart, disease, stroke, dementia, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.”

Dr Patel adds: “There is a link between sleep and mental health, and something I see many patients about. People living with a mental health problem may also affect how well they sleep, and poor sleep can have a negative impact on our mental health.”

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