What Is Brown Noise

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What Is Brown Noise
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Many readers are interested in the following topic: What Is Brown Noise? Benefits How to Use It for Better Sleep. We are happy to note, that our authors have already studied the modern research about the topic you are interested in. Based on the information provided in the latest medical digests, modern research and surveys, we provide extensive answer. Keep reading to find out more.

Some people consider brown noise to be a great “work soundtrack.” It can mask distracting noises in your environment, such as people talking nearby, typing, chewing, etc.

White Noise, Pink Noise, and Brown Noise: What’s the Difference?

You may have heard of white noise. The steady, static-like sounds from it can drown out disturbing noises and help you sleep better. But have you heard of pink noise and brown noise? Growing research shows that these lesser-known color noises can also help calm you or improve your sleep quality.

Here’s a look at different color noises and what they can do for you.

White Noise

It’s the most popular type of color noise. It contains all frequencies found in the spectrum of sounds you can hear in equal parts. It’s often called “broadband noise.”

White noise uses a mix of sound frequencies to create a static-like sound. It can be intense and high-pitched, like a fan, air conditioner, or a vacuum.

Studies have also shown that it can help:

  • Improve sleep
  • Reduce crying in babies
  • Improve your wok performance
  • Lower ADHD symptoms

Other studies have found that many people find that white noise has a positive effect on them. But experts say they need more proof.

Pink Noise

Pink noise is a constant sound in the background. It filters out things that distract you, like people talking or cars going by, so they don’t interrupt your sleep. You may hear it called ambient noise.

Like white noise, it’s a steady background hum that may give you a better night’s sleep. But it uses deeper sounds and lower sound waves, so it may be gentler and more soothing. Basically, pink has a lower pitch than white noise.

Pink noise uses a consistent frequency, or pitch, to create a more even, flat sound, like a steady rain, wind rustling through trees, or waves on a beach. Its added depth and lower waves filter out higher sounds. As a result, you hear more relaxing, lower-frequency sounds.

Brown Noise

Brown noise, also called red noise, produces a rumbling sound that’s deeper with a bass-like tone than pink or white noise. The sound level (decibels) decreases as the frequency goes up more than it does in pink noise. It’s similar to a steady heavy rainfall or a shower with good pressure. Some sleep apps use this sound instead of pink noise to give it a deeper, grainier effect.

Studies show that brown noise might help lower symptoms if you have ringing in your ears. It’s also shown to improve your thinking skills. More research is needed to see if and how brown noise affects sleep.

Other Colors of Noise

Besides white, pink, and brown noise, there are other color noises that aren’t related to sleep. These include:

Blue noise. Its power increases as the frequency goes up. Blue noise sounds slightly shriller than pink and white noise. Imagine the hissing noise you hear when a water spray is turned on.

Violet noise. Also called purple noise, it’s the opposite of brown noise. The volume goes up when the frequency does and it gains power faster than blue noise. It’s one of the higher-pitched color noises. It’s often used to treat tinnitus, a condition that causes loud ringing in one or both ears.

Grey noise. This produces noise at higher and lower frequencies but not so much in the middle frequencies. It’s similar to white noise, but more balanced.

Can White, Pink, and Brown Noise Help You Sleep?

For some people, the grainy static sound you hear in white noise can improve sleep. It helps by masking the background noise and tuning it out. One recent study found that 38% of people fell asleep faster listening to white noise.

Pink noise reduces the difference between the background hum and loud, jarring noises that jolt you out of sleep, like a door slamming, a car horn honking, or someone snoring. So it may help you fall asleep faster and keep you in a deep sleep longer. You may also feel more rested when you wake up.

There isn’t much research yet on exactly how pink noise works and how well it helps you sleep. One study found that it lowered brain activity and led to more stable sleep. Another study found people who used it slept more deeply.

Studies are limited, but pink noise may also boost your memory. A recent study found that older adults who used it at night did better on memory tests the next day.

We need more research to find out how pink noise affects your sleep, focus, and memory. But it’s safe and has no downside, so you may want to try it to see if it helps you.

As for brown noise, there aren’t a lot of studies to support its effect on sleep.

But does listening to sound all night for good sleep really work? When you’re asleep, your brain is hard at work repairing and restoring your body. Would the constant hum in the background let your brain do its job? Experts don’t know the full answer.

But if it helps you, carry on. Just make sure you don’t keep the volume too loud. According to the CDC, listening to sounds over 70 decibels over a long period of time can damage your hearing.

Where to Get White, Pink, and Brown Noise

You have many options for adding a color noise to your sleep routine. For example, you can:

  • Get a noise app from your smartphone’s app store or on YouTube, then play it as you go to sleep at night.
  • Find a clip of your choice of color noise online. Download a looping track from organizations like the American Tinnitus Association or the Misophonia Institute.
  • Get a sound machine or noise generator that specifically gives you a choice between white, pink, or brown noise.

Tips for Using Noise Safely

Try different sounds, tracks, and volumes to see what works best for you.

If the sound of the wind doesn’t soothe you, try a babbling brook. If a sound machine with pink noise doesn’t help you sleep better, try a few different smartphone apps until you find one that works. Raise the volume or lower it until you find your sweet spot.

If you want to use headphones but they don’t feel good, try earbuds. You can also find special headphones for sleeping. They use a soft headband to keep them in place.

How to Get the Most Out of Color Noise

Pink noise may help you nod off faster and enjoy a longer, deeper sleep. But it won’t work well if you have poor sleep habits.

To get the most out of pink noise, make these habits part of your nightly routine:

  • Get on a schedule. Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time in the morning, even on weekends.
  • Work out during the day. Daytime exercise helps you fall asleep faster at night.
  • Go dark. Create a sleep-friendly bedroom that’s quiet, dark, and at a comfortable temperature.
  • Avoid sleep interrupters. Limit caffeine, alcohol, and big meals before you go to bed.

Show Sources

National Sleep Foundation: “Sleep and Sound,” “Sleep Trends: Pink Is the New White (Noise),” “Can Pink Noise Help You Sleep?” “White Noise.”

University of Washington Medicine: “What Is Pink Noise?”

Cleveland Clinic: “Why ‘Pink Noise’ Might Just Help You Get a Better Night’s Sleep.”

Northwestern Medicine: “The Promise of Pink Noise.”

Journal of Theoretical Biology: “Pink noise: effect on complexity synchronization of brain activity and sleep consolidation.”

Frontiers in Human Neuroscience: “Acoustic Enhancement of Sleep Slow Oscillations and Concomitant Memory Improvement in Older Adults.”

American Tinnitus Association: “ATA’s Masking Sound Library.”

Misophonia Institute: “Downloads.”

CDC: “Tips for Better Sleep,” “What Noises Cause Hearing Loss?”

Engineering Libretexts: “Noise Modeling – White, Pink, and Brown Noise, Pops and Crackles.”

CNN: “White noise (and pink and brown): The science behind the sounds.”

What Is Brown Noise? Benefits + How to Use It for Better Sleep

Brown noise - Dr. Axe

Given how common sleep-related issues like insomnia are, it’s no wonder that the use of sound machines and sleep apps is on the rise. With a number of options available — including white, pink and brown noise— what “color” noise is best for sleeping?

The truth is, there isn’t one specific type of sound that is going to make everyone sleepy. It depends on personal preference.

That means that you may need to experiment a bit to find out which type of sound you find most relaxing and sleep-promoting.

If you haven’t had much luck with white and pink noise, you may be wondering, “What is brown noise all about?” Brown noise has been described as sounding a bit “deeper ” than pink noise.

It has more “energy” but is also softer than white or pink noise. You might find it to be calming or focusing if you like doing work or drifting off to sleep with a decent amount of background noise.

What Is Brown Noise?

White, pink and brown noises are all different forms of “sonic hues.” Brown noise is considered a layered sonic hue that has a sound like a low roar.

  • All sound waves can be broken down into frequency, which is how fast the waveform is vibrating per second (one hertz is one vibration per second), and amplitude (sometimes measured as “power”).
  • White noise has equal power across all frequencies audible to the human ear,” according to the Sound of Sleep website. It includes low-, midrange- and high-frequency sounds.
  • Pink noise is white noise but with reduced higher frequencies.
  • Brown noise lowers the higher frequencies even more.

What is an example of brown noise? Examples in nature include the sound of a strong river current, strong wind, waterfall, thunder or heavy rainfall.

The term brown noise originated in the 1800s. Also called Brownian noise (or sometimes red noise), it was named after the botanist Robert Brown, who discovered “Brownian motion” (random particle motion).

Researchers have uncovered that the power of brown noise decreases as its frequency increases. This type of noise can be produced by integrating white noise and adding a random offset to each sample to obtain the next one.

Potential Benefits

What is brown noise used for? According to experts, these may be some of the benefits associated with this type of noise:

1. Can Help You Sleep

Depending on the person, various types of noise colors can help with getting good sleep.

What does brown noise do to the brain that may allow it help improve sleep? Experts tell us that sudden changes in noise while we are sleeping can wake us up or keep us up.

Noise colors are continuous and mute out changing/sudden noises in our homes that can startle us out of sleep. By listening to low-level background noise, your brain will be less alerted to changes in sounds compared to when it’s silent.

2. Promotes Relaxation

Like white and pink noises, brown noises can also be used to boost relaxation and focus. Continuous, soft noise can be used to help “quiet your mind” and tune out thoughts that may be running through your head.

Some report that brown noise serves as the perfect soft, monotonous soundtrack to life.

Can Brown noise make you poop? Perhaps if you listen to calming sounds while in the bathroom, then this may be one benefit tied to enhanced relaxation and reduced stress and muscle tension.

However, brown noise is not the same thing as what’s called the “brown note,” which is a hypothetical low-frequency sound that some people claim makes them go to the bathroom (although this hasn’t been proven).

3. May Help Improve Focus

Some people consider brown noise to be a great “work soundtrack.” It can mask distracting noises in your environment, such as people talking nearby, typing, chewing, etc.

Of course, if it helps you to get more sleep, this is another way it will improve mental performance.

To help you concentrate and get work done, play it at a volume that’s loud enough to drown out soft noises in your environment but not too distracting.

Brown Noise vs. White, Pink and Black Noise

As you can tell by now, there are many colors of noise, including white, pink, brown, black and blue noises. Here’s a bit about each type and how they differ:

White Noise

This is a consistent ambient sound that can help mask disturbing sounds. Think of the sound of a fan, air conditioner or softly humming refrigerator.

Pink Noise

While similar to white noise, pink noise contains more variation. The human ear typically perceives white noise as “static” but pink noise as “even” or “flat.”

Some examples of pink noise in everyday life and nature include:

  • leaves rustling in the wind
  • waves hitting shoreline
  • steady falling rain

Some research suggests that pink noise may boost brain activity associated with deeper sleep and even lead to improved memory.

Black Noise

Black noise is basically silence with a little bit of random noise thrown in. This is why it’s also sometimes called “technical silence.”

Technically black noise has a frequency spectrum of predominantly zero power level over all frequencies except for a few narrow bands or spikes.

How to Start with Brown Noise

The easiest way to take advantage of brown noise’s calming effects is to purchase a brown noise generator, aka a sound machine. You’ll want to look for one that produces a range of noise “colors” (white, pink or brown) and is non-looping, so it plays continuously all night.

Sound machines/generators range considerably in price, depending on how many settings they have. For example, some not only play static color noises, but also nature sounds like rain, waterfalls, wind, etc.

You’ll also want to consider if you need a portable, small machine (if you travel a lot) and whether you want a chargeable machine or one that needs to be plugged in.

Additionally, you can use a sleep/sound machine app on your phone if you don’t want to purchase a device. You can even simply play YouTube videos of “deep brown noise” from your computer or phone completely for free.

The downside to this approach is that it may turn off after a period of time or drain your phone/computer battery if playing all night.

Other Natural Sleep Aids

While sound machines/apps can definitely be helpful for allowing your mind to relax enough so you can drift off, there many other natural ways to encourage better sleep too. Here are some natural sleep aids to focus on if you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep:

  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule, meaning you go to sleep and get up at roughly the same time each day.
  • Make sure your bedroom is dark and slightly cool, which is ideal for sending the signal to your body that it’s time to sleep. Keeping your room organized and diffusing lavender or other essential oils for sleep can also make it feel calming.
  • Keep electronics out of the bedroom and stop using them ideally two or more hours before bed. This will prevent too much blue light exposure, which can keep you up.
  • Avoid having caffeine too close to bedtime, such as limiting consumption after 12 p.m.
  • Include sleep-promoting foods in your diet, such as ones that contain complex carbs, calcium, magnesium and/or the amino acid tryptophan. Moon milk is another trendy option to experiment with.
  • Consider an herbal supplement known to help with sleep troubles, such as valerian root, passion flower and St. John’s wort.

Conclusion

  • What is brown noise? It’s a type of noise that has a lower frequency than white and pink noise. It’s described as being rougher, a bit harsher and deeper than white/pink noise.
  • There’s some evidence that brown noise benefits include promoting relaxation, sleep quality and focus.
  • Examples of brown noise in everyday life and nature include a strong stream/river or a strong wind.
  • You can start using sleep sounds today by purchasing a brown noise generator/sound machine or using an app on your phone. You’ll probably have the best results if the noise plays continuously all night on a loop without breaks.

What is brown noise?

Life

Brown noise is also known as Brownian noise because its change in sound signal from one moment to the next is random.

Skogafoss Waterfall in Iceland. Surrounded by green landscape and leads into a river.

Brown noise has more energy at lower frequencies and resembles the sound of a strong waterfall. (Image credit: Viaframe via Getty Images)

Brown noise is a type of low-frequency sound produced by the same process that causes so-called Brownian motion. It has nothing to do with color; instead, brown noise gets its name from the 19th-century Scottish botanist Robert Brown, who discovered a certain kind of random microscopic motion that is now referred to as Brownian motion. Brown noise is also known as “red noise” and is characterized by a heavy emphasis on low-frequency sounds.

You’ve probably heard brown noise without realizing that it had a special name. The rumble of a waterfall, thunder, or heavy rain is very close to brown noise, and many people find the sound soothing and comforting.

Who discovered Brownian motion?

Robert Brown, a Scottish botanist, discovered Brownian noise in 1827 when he was looking through a microscope at pollen grains suspended in water. Brown noise is sort of an offshoot of Brownian motion. To his astonishment, the pollen grains appeared to dance and move around, even though they weren’t alive. He couldn’t come up with an explanation, but he dutifully recorded his observations for posterity. Later scientists would call this behavior “Brownian motion” in his honor.

“I actually did a rather similar experiment with a student once, and it is fascinating to observe the motion of these particles in real life,” Erez Aghion, a professor in the department of chemistry at the University of Massachusetts Boston, told Live Science in an email. “In this experiment, we have something quite unique in the whole world of science. We have the ability to directly observe and monitor a phenomenon that looks like ‘magic.'”

It wasn’t until almost a hundred years later when a then-unknown Albert Einstein took an interest in the problem. In a single paper, published in 1905 in the journal Annalen der Physik, Einstein explained the motion of microscopic particles as a consequence of discrete atoms or molecules constantly striking each other — providing a solid case for the very existence of atoms, which, up until that time, had been heavily debated.

“It is incredible to me that not only [do] we have an exact mathematical model that can describe the microscopic motion of each individual particle so nicely; this model also explains perfectly the macroscopic properties of the pollen as a collection,” Aghion said.

Einstein realized that every microscopic particle, like the pollen grains first observed by Brown, is constantly bombarded by its neighbors. For example, a typical air molecule at room temperature gets bumped by other air molecules more than 10^14, or a hundred trillion, times every second. Over long periods of time, these collisions cancel each other out; the strikes on one side roughly equal the strikes on another side. But in small enough windows of time, the strikes are uneven, and the random collisions send the particle in one direction.

But then, a moment later, the balance shifts in another direction, and the particle moves in another direction. Jitter by jitter, the particle appears to stumble from one spot to the next, all due to those chance encounters.

This is called a random walk, and Brownian motion is a special kind of random walk. At every moment, the particle can travel in a random direction. And the size of the step that the particle takes changes every time, too. Most of the time, the collisions are only a little off-balance, resulting in a tiny nudge. But rarely, the collisions are much bigger on one side, giving the particle a large jump.

Both the direction and the size of the steps are random in Brownian motion, but bigger steps are rarer than shorter steps. In fact, the defining characteristic of Brownian motion is that the size of the steps follows a normal distribution — the same kind of “bell curve” we encounter in statistics all the time.

How is brown noise created?

So, how do we go from Brownian motion to brown noise? Einstein realized that the motion of an individual microscopic particle was the combined result of countless random collisions. By taking purely random interactions and adding them all together, you ended up with Brownian motion.

Similarly, you can take white noise, which is random noise that has an equal amount of power across all frequencies, and add it up. This gives a kind of noise that decreases in power as the square of the frequency, emphasizing low frequencies much more than high frequencies.

Brown noise is similar to pink noise, which decreases in power directly in proportion to the frequency, but with much more power in lower frequencies. Pink noise sounds like A TV set crossed with the ocean.

The other name, red noise, comes from an analogy to light. Red light has more lower-frequency waves than white light does, just like brown noise comprises more lower-frequency sound waves than white noise does. To the human ear, brown noise sounds like a deeper, “bassier” version of white noise.

This article was originally published on Live Science on July 30, 2013 and was updated on June 23, 2022.