Types of White Noise and Other Sound Colors

You may have noticed that sometimes you hear a noise in a dream only to wake up and find that the noise is real. Even as you sleep, your body continues to register noises around you.

Many health care professionals recommend using white noise to help your sleep, but what is it and how does it differ from other sound colors like pink noise?

While constant awareness is an excellent survival mechanism, it can be detrimental to your health if you routinely sleep in a noisy environment. Sound can affect your sleep and your health.

This is because your body is programmed to cycle through a 5 stage sleep pattern. Each stage heals and repairs different muscles, organs, and cells, particularly during deep sleep stages (like stages 3 and 4).

When your body registers a noise, it alerts the brain to interrupt the sleep pattern and revert to a lower stage. For example, if you are in stage 4, you might revert to stage 3.

If this occurs repeatedly, the body will never have the opportunity to repair damage during deep sleep stages, and you may become at risk for obesity, depression, stroke, and other health problems.

One of the most popular (and easiest) solutions to enhance sleep quality is to use a white noise machine to help damper peak noises and reduce arousal.


White Noise Definition - What is it?

White noise is a mixture of various frequencies at a steady intensity. For example, you may have frequencies at 20 Hz and other frequencies at 20,000 Hz, but all of these frequencies occur at the same intensities.

If you're familiar with white light (a combination of visible colors presented at an equal intensity), it's a very similar concept. The only difference between white noise and white light is that white noise has a range of frequencies rather than colors.

Many people use white noise as a sleep tool to mask "peak" noises (a door slamming, a person screaming, etc.). It's also proven to help neonates fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.


Different Types of White Noise

There are a variety of different types of white noise. Some of the most common types of white noise include television static, air purifiers, and fans. YouTube also hosts many ten plus hour white noise recordings.

If you want something a little more high tech, you can also purchase a white noise machine on Amazon. These devices allow you to customize your decibel levels and other settings. This is particularly important if you have an infant as they should not be exposed to noise over 60 decibels.


Other Sound Colors

Despite the benefits of white noise, many people refuse to use it because it sounds annoying or whiney. The whiney tones occur because white noise includes very high pitched frequencies.

Fortunately, there is a spectrum of sound colors (similar to the visible spectrum), and each one varies slightly by its frequency range.

If you find white noise annoying, consider trying pink noise.

Pink noise has increased intensities at lower frequencies and lacks the high-pitched, whiney sound characteristic of white noise.

Instead, pink noise emits much more soothing sounds like leaves rustling, wind blowing, or steady rain.

Brown noise is similar to pink noise, though it includes even lower frequencies making it sound deeper than pink or white noise. Most humans can't detect the difference between brown noise and pink noise.

There are also harsher sound colors that are less than ideal for sleeping. Blue noise is one of these, and its harshness is due to the abundance of high frequencies. While you may find some noise machines with blue noise capabilities, it's used mostly for musicians remixing music.



If you find yourself waking up tired and unrested, consider your sleep environment and use white noise (or other sound colors) to help increase your sleep quality. Experiment with the various types of white noise and to find which works best for you.