If you find it difficult to switch off after a long day of staring at screens and drinking way too much caffeine, "pink noise" might be the secret to finally getting a good night's sleep.
The calming effect of white noise (a combination of many different frequencies of sound, all playing at the same time) has been known for a while: People who suffer from sleep disorders and sleep-deprived parents and grandparents often use it as a bedtime aid to better help them or their children to drift off.
What’s less widely known, however, is that white isn’t the only sonic "color," as noise can be pink, brown, blue, violet and gray: There is a whole spectrum of noise, classified according to their frequencies.
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A new study published in Frontiers In Human Neuroscience suggests that so-called "pink" noise might be even more conducive to nodding off than white noise. Pink noise has a consistent frequency, with the power per hertz decreasing as the frequency increases. What does this mean for you? It sounds more natural than white noise, and so is arguably more relaxing. As Dr. Phyllis Zee of Northwestern University explained to Time, "the noise is fairly pleasant; it kind of resembles a rush of water. It’s just noticeable enough that the brain realizes it’s there, but not enough to disturb sleep."
The sleep of 13 adults with an average age of around 75 years was monitored over two nights: On one of these nights, the participants listened to pink noise as they went to sleep. Not only did the pink noise result in deeper sleep, it also helped them better complete a memory test: Participants performed three times better than when they had fallen asleep without the noise.
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For Zee, the positive benefits of pink noise are down to the way the sounds match up with the slow wave oscillations of deep sleep. "The effect here, at least for memory, is quite related to the ability of the sound stimulus to enhance slow-wave sleep," she explains.
If you’re keen to test out pink noise for yourself, head to YouTube: You’ll find hours of sound that you can schedule for the night. Sweet dreams…
This post was written by Katie Rosseinsky. For more, check out our sister site Grazia.
Are aches from arthritis or overworked muscles stopping you from falling asleep? Try applying gentle pressure with your thumb to specific points on your hand, a technique called "self-shiatsu." Canadian scientists say it's so effective at soothing pain and making you drowsy that some study volunteers actually fell asleep while doing it!