Listening to the soft rumble of thunder, or even the hiss of a radiator, can help you fall asleep.
At least, if you believe sleep scientists.
If you’ve been scrolling through social media at any point in the past 12 months, especially TikTok, chances are you’ve come across the sensation of “brown noise.”
Videos claiming it can “calm and focus the mind,” help you fall asleep and prevent tossing and turning have been viewed millions of times.
Up to one in three Britons and nearly half of Americans have insomnia.
Brown noise can be compared to the soft hum of a jet engine, so if you can fall asleep on an airplane, brown noise can help you. Research shows that one of the reasons brown noise can aid sleep is because it is a softer sound than white noise yet still masks external sounds
Desperate for a cure, millions resort to breathing exercises and lighting scented candles to help them sleep. Some count sheep.
Others even listen to static TV to help them relax. Likewise, frustrated pArents have vowed for decades to use the white noise of a vacuum cleaner or hair dryer to put their baby to sleep.
But now sleepyheads are turning to its “brown” sister sound, according to claims it also possesses miraculous drifting abilities.
While it may sound similar, it is technically softer. Proponents compare it to the sound of running water or the deep but soft growl of a jet engine.
Such sounds are already plugged into phone apps and devices being marketed as having sleep-inducing properties, proven to work by calming your heartbeat.
Brown, Pink, and White Noise: What Do They Sound Like and What Do They Do?
Brown noise, pink noise, and the more familiar white noise are all examples of different frequencies of noise.
Also called sonic tones, these sounds are constant sounds that have minimal pitch changes and no distinct beat.
Brown noise is named after something called Brownian motion. This is the random motion of particles in a liquid as they bounce against each other. Brown noise is just the audio version.
To the human ear, it sounds similar to the white noise of static TV, but it is softer. The lower frequencies are boosted and the higher tones are muted.
It can be likened to softly rumbling thunder; waterfalls or a fast-flowing river.
It can help you relax, sleep, block out sounds and improve your focus.
White noise makes a constant humming sound like a fan or noise on the television.
Pink noise is a lighter sound than brown noise. However, it is a much deeper sound than white noise, think rain, wind, rustling leaves and a heartbeat.
Professor Dan Berlau, a neuroscientist who currently teaches at Regis University School of Pharmacy in Denver, Colorado, said: ‘Brown noise does something called sound masking where because you hear sound at full frequency it creates a blanket of noise over all other sounds. .’
He said, “It just reduces the distractions in your environment.
‘at night, [it means] when you try to sleep you are not distracted by the creaking and noise of the wind in the house…
“It just creates an auditory blanket that creates all the frequencies of noise so you’re not distracted.”
Professor Berlau added: ‘As a father of a four- and a six-year-old, I can tell you that my children have slept with brown or pink noise all their lives. It is awesome.’
While the simple hack may not work for everyone, Professor Berlau advises the desperate to at least try it.
He believes that listening to sounds is safer than taking a lot of drugs, which used to be the main weapon in a sleep doctor’s arsenal.
Professor Berlau said: ‘There are many drugs for sleep, many of which have very strong side effects. So if there are non-pharmacological therapies that can help with sleep, that would be great.
“The downsides to brown noise are pretty minimal unless you listen to it loud enough to hurt your ears.
“I would advise anyone to use brown noise to sleep if they are having a hard time.”
A scientific one report, published in the journal Sensors in 2022, supports his theory that the sleep-inducing effects of listening to brown noise are due to sound masking.
Rather than prescribing drugs to treat insomnia, the Korean study suggested that white, brown, or pink noise might one day be recommended.
Listening to colored sounds helped participants drift off to sleep about 10 minutes earlier than usual, according to an analysis of sleep diaries.
There are many devices, such as the speaker pictured, and smartphone apps marketed with sleep-inducing properties. These sleep aids use auditory stimulation to induce sleep, but there is little evidence that this actually works
Dr. Gemma Paech, a sleep expert at the University of Newcastle in Australia, said the waves of an ocean during a storm or a fast-flowing river could also be classified as brown noise.
Dr. Paech explained that the sound is deeper, less loud and more soothing to sleep than white or pink noise.
Pink noise, like brown and white noise, is a sonic hue and can be compared to the sound of rustling leaves.
Dr. Peach told MailOnline that there are other reasons why brown noise can help people sleep, not just because of its powerful masking effect.
She said: “There may be a “conditioned response” – if someone has regularly fallen asleep in the past by listening to these sounds, the brain begins to associate these sounds with sleep, so that when they are played the brain goes to sleep .
Some people may find these sounds relaxing, which can help put the brain in a state ready for sleep.
“For example, if someone has positive associations with rain on a roof, it can be soothing to listen to similar sounds to help them fall asleep.”
But brown noise is just a quick fix and won’t fix the root cause of the sleep disorder, Dr. Peach says.
If stress and anxiety are disturbing your sleep rather than external noise, then these noises won’t necessarily solve your sleep problems in the long run, Dr. Peach explains.
White noise can help memory and attention, especially in children. Studies with inattentive schoolchildren show that white noise can actually help them study, but it doesn’t work for everyone
Professor Göran Söderlund, at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, is researching white noise and how it can help with memory and attention, specifically in children.
Sticking to his own theory, he has used the white noise from appliances in his home to put his children to sleep.
He said, “Anyone who has little kids is using white noise.
“Some people use the sound of a vacuum cleaner to soothe their children and put them to sleep. I did that with my child.’
Tips to fall asleep and sleep better
Due to insomnia, you regularly have trouble sleeping. It can get better by changing your sleeping habits
One in three adults in the UK and nearly half of US adults suffer from insomnia, with millions more reporting sleepless nights.
Prolonged sleep deprivation can lead to obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Insomnia can be caused by stress, anxiety, alcohol, caffeine or nicotine, noise, shift work and jet lag.
If you regularly have trouble sleeping, there are simple ways to improve your sleep hygiene.
Keep regular sleeping hours
- Try to go to bed when you feel tired and get up at the same time every day.
Create a restful space
- Dark, quiet and cool environments generally make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Exercise is good for your physical health and your mind. It can also help you sleep better. Just don’t do vigorous exercise too close to your bedtime.
Don’t force it
- If you find you can’t get to sleep, get up and do something relaxing. Then go back to bed when you feel more sleepy.
Write down your concerns
- If you find that your worries are keeping you awake at night, try writing them down before you go to bed.
Lighten up the caffeine
- Alcohol and caffeine can prevent you from falling asleep and sleeping deeply. Cutting back on caffeine just before bed and alcoholic beverages can help you taper off.