White noise is a mix of many sonic frequencies of equal intensity.
What is White Noise?
Whirring fans, rustling wind, and babbling waterfalls are all examples of ambient noise: Soothing, appealing sounds that help mask unwanted noise, creating a calming atmosphere. Some say this type of “white noise” aids focus and helps sleep.
What people refer to as “white noise” is actually several different types of sound:
- White noise, akin to fuzzy static emitting from an old radio or television, is a mix of many frequencies of equal intensity.
- Pink noise is a mix of high and low frequencies, similar to a steady flow of water.
- Brown noise has more energy at lower frequencies than white noise, resulting in a deeper, richer sound, like crashing ocean waves.
Can Ambient Sound Help Sleep?
Studies show that ambient sound in the form of white or pink noise can aid sleep by reducing distractions caused by unwanted sounds. This helps the brain relax and fall asleep.
Research has shown that white noise can help infants fall asleep more easily. White noise has also been shown to improve sleep quality in hospital patients by masking normal background noise present in intensive care units.
A 2017 study in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that pink noise improved sleep quality and memory retention in older adults.
Because ambient noise in general seems to promote restful sleep, the right type of noise for you is a matter of preference. Visit YouTube.com to download different noise frequencies, and determine which type works best for you. Ambient sound generators, or “white noise machines,” are available inexpensively at many retail stores.
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