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Why Does White Noise Help Sleep, and Are There Other Noises?

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Have you ever had trouble falling asleep because of annoying noises like traffic or loud neighbors? If so, you might have heard about white noise as a way to block out those distractions and help you sleep better.

But what exactly is white noise, and how does it work? Here’s what you need to know about the science behind white noise and its benefits for sleep, as well as other types of sonic hues that can help you get a good night’s rest.

What Is White Noise?

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White noise is a term that refers to a specific type of sound that is commonly used to promote relaxation, concentration, and sleep. This type of sound is created by combining different frequencies together at random. The term “white” noise comes from the fact that this sound contains all of the frequencies of the audible spectrum, much like how white light contains all of the colors of the visible spectrum.

White noise spans the audio spectrum and contains all frequencies, making it where one sound doesn’t overwhelm the other,” said Dr. Michael Breus, Ph.D., and Founder of TheSleepDoctor.com.

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While white noise is often associated with sleep, it can be beneficial in a variety of other settings as well. For example, many people use white noise to help them concentrate while studying or working, as it can help drown out distracting background noises.

By playing white noise while you sleep, you can help mask external sounds and create a more peaceful and restful environment.

How Do Sonic Hues Help Sleep?

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Noise can have a significant impact on our sleep quality. When we hear sudden or unexpected sounds, our brains can become more alert, making it harder to fall and stay asleep. However, when we listen to constant, low-level noise, it can have a calming effect and help us relax. This is where sonic hues come in.

Sonic hues are different types of noise that have varying frequency distributions and can have different effects on our brains. While white noise is the most well-known type of sonic hue, there are other colors of noise that can also be used to promote better sleep.

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“Remember, white noise is a combination of all audio frequencies, which safeguards your body from being caught off guard by a loud noise,” said Dr. Breus. “White noise reduces the frequency gap between what you’re hearing and a sudden loud noise.”

Each sonic hue represents a different set of frequencies, including brown noise, pink noise, and others.

What Other Types of Noise Can Help Sleep?

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The type of noise you use to help you sleep will come down to your personal preference. The differences between each are subtle, so it’s best to try them out for yourself to see which works best for you.

Pink Noise

Pink noise is similar to white noise but has a lower frequency range. It sounds more like a low rumble and is often compared to the sound of rainfall or waves crashing on the beach. Because it operates at a lower frequency, pink noise may help you sleep better if you find white noise distracting or harsh.

Brown Noise

Brown noise has an even lower frequency range than pink noise and sounds like a deep, rumbling thunder. It can help promote relaxation and reduce stress levels, making it a good option for those who have trouble falling asleep due to anxiety or racing thoughts. It may also help people who suffer from ringing in their ears.

Violet Noise

Violet noise, also known as purple noise, is a type of noise that has more energy in the higher frequencies than in the lower frequencies, resulting in a spectral shape that is opposite to brown noise. Although it is different from brown noise, violet noise is also used to treat ringing in the ears.

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How to Use Noise for Sleep

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There are many ways to incorporate sonic hues into your sleep routine. One option is to use a white noise machine (Dr. Breus likes Zenergy by iHome), which can produce different types of noise to help block out external sounds. Many sound machines also come with pre-recorded nature sounds, such as rainforest or ocean waves, that can be soothing to listen to before bed.

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Another option is to use a sleep app on your phone or tablet. These apps often have a variety of sonic hues to choose from and can also include guided meditations or relaxation exercises to help you fall asleep faster. Some popular sleep apps include Calm, Headspace, and Sleep Cycle.

If you prefer to listen to music before bed, consider choosing songs with a slower tempo and lower frequency range. Classical music or ambient music can be great options for promoting relaxation and improving sleep quality.

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It’s important to note that while sonic hues can be helpful for promoting better sleep, they may not work for everyone. Some people may find that they are more sensitive to noise and prefer complete silence when they sleep. If you’re consistently having trouble falling asleep, talk to your doctor to figure out why.

Noise can have a significant impact on our sleep, and incorporating sonic hues into our nighttime routines can be a helpful way to promote relaxation and improve overall sleep quality. The next time you find yourself struggling to fall asleep because of external noises, consider giving white noise or another type of sonic hue a try.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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