We millennials make a conscious effort to take our health seriously. And one of the well-known commandments of good health is getting ourselves 8 hours of sleep. So we obediently listen to research by switching our phones to ‘silent’ mode and disconnecting ourselves from our emails and settling down in our beds. Only to find ourselves wasting a bunch of hours tossing and turning. Even counting sheep doesn’t help and only leaves us more wide awake than ever.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are about 50-70 million Americans that face a similar problem.1 But it turns out that there’s quite a pretty solution to this. Pink noise.
What Is Pink Noise?
‘Pink noise’ is sound that is said to contain all the frequencies (20 hertz to 20,000 hertz) that humans can hear. As the frequency rises, the power per hertz decreases. For this reason, low frequencies in pink noise are fairly louder and more powerful to the ear as compared to higher frequencies. However, to most human ears, pink noise is perceived as an even, flat sound. Why? Because it has equal power per octave.
In acoustics, an octave is termed the doubling of a frequency band. In other words, a frequency band whose highest frequency is twice its lowest frequency is called an octave. So a band from 20 hertz to 20 hertz or one from 40 hertz to 80 hertz is an octave. Therefore, while the power per hertz decreases with increasing frequency in pink noise, the width of successive octaves continues to increase since they contain more frequencies. In layman terms, as the sound frequency in pink noise doubles, the energy drops by half, so that each octave has equal power.
Pink noise exists in abundance in nature, such as the sound of steady rain, of waves lapping on the shores of a beach, of leaves rustling in the wind, or even the sound of our heartbeat.
How Pink Noise Can Help With Sleep Problems
It is important to note that it’s not usually the noise itself that bothers us but the shift in time from when our ears get so used to hearing that particular noise. Think about it. Why is it that water dripping from a faucet doesn’t get on your nerves during the day, but the same sound becomes your worst nightmare when you’re trying to sleep? Simple. Because during the day, you’re surrounded by many more sounds that kind of block out the dripping sound. At night, however, when everything else is quiet, that same sound can cause you just as much anguish as that of a pile of plates crashing onto the floor.
We, humans, perceive sound in octaves, which means we perceive as much frequency range between 30-60 hertz as between 10,000-20,000 hertz. And since pink noise has equal power per octave, it sounds more balanced to us. For this reason, pink noise is very useful in drowning out annoying low-frequency noises (such as the sound of a leaky faucet).
And what better time to get sound privacy than when we’re in dire need of some shut eye?
Sound plays a very crucial role in brain activity and brain wave synchronization even when you’re fast asleep. The steady drone of pink noise slows down and helps regulate your brain waves – the ultimate hallmark of truly restful sleep.2
This also explains why so many offices are embracing the practice of playing pink noise within the workspace. It can be useful to mask low-frequency background noise and can, therefore, help boost productivity, creativity, and concentration among employees.
Pink Noise Can Also Boost Memory In Older People
Research shows that deep sleep is essential for memory formation.3 As we get older, our sleep becomes much lighter and more disjointed. As a result, we get much less deep sleep than younger adults. This ought to explain why sleep deprivation is very often linked to memory loss amongst the elderly.
Listening to pink noise pink while getting ready for bed can help to gently lull adults into deep, restful slumber. This way, it also enhances the sleep-dependent impact on memory in both healthy older adults, as well as those suffering from cognitive impairment, thereby encouraging the formation of stronger memories.4
Examples Of Pink Noises To Listen To
If you sleep with a fan on in your room, you’re already treating your ears to pink noise. You could also look up noises of trees in the wind, the sound of rain, rippling brooks or ocean waves on the internet and stream these on your phone or your computer. There are also plenty of sound apps these days that offer a variety of pink noises to listen to. Just pick the track you want to play and get into bed as usual. You’re very likely going to wake up the next morning feeling fresh as a daisy!
|↑1||Insufficient Sleep Is a Public Health Problem. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑2||Zhou, Junhong, Dongdong Liu, Xin Li, Jing Ma, Jue Zhang, and Jing Fang. “Pink noise: Effect on complexity synchronization of brain activity and sleep consolidation.” Journal of theoretical biology 306 (2012): 68-72.|
|↑3||Rasch, Björn, and Jan Born. “About Sleep9s Role in Memory.” Physiological reviews 93, no. 2 (2013): 681-766.|
|↑4||Papalambros, Nelly A., Giovanni Santostasi, Roneil G. Malkani, Rosemary Braun, Sandra Weintraub, Ken A. Paller, and Phyllis C. Zee. “Acoustic enhancement of sleep slow oscillations and concomitant memory improvement in older adults.” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 11 (2017).|