What Is Brown Noise & What Are the Benefits?

What are the benefits of brown noise, and how do they vary from white noise? Steller Sleep has the basics of the sleep spectrum and how it works.

Brown noise might not invoke the same immediate name recognition as white noise, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t just as (if not potentially even more) beneficial. 

If you haven’t heard of brown noise or the concept of the color spectrum as it applies to sound, Stellar Sleep has everything you need to know – what brown noise is, the benefits of brown noise, and other ways you can support and improve your sleep quality.

What Is Brown Noise?

Although the concept of sound having different “colors” may sound strange, the theory relies on the same principle as the colors of light. 

Sounds, like colors, travel in waves. Both cover a range of different wavelengths, and how quickly those wavelengths vibrate (known as their “frequency”) determines the end result. Sounds that vibrate more slowly (lower frequencies) produce lower tones, and those with quicker vibrations (higher frequencies) sound higher in pitch.

Let’s compare that to how light works, looking at white light as an example. White isn’t a color on its own — it’s actually a combination of all the visible frequencies on the light spectrum. White noise follows the same concept, except using audible frequencies instead of visible ones. Each frequency is represented equally with white noise, which is why it sounds like television or radio static to the human ear.

Brown noise (sometimes called red noise) is slightly different. Instead of having every wavelength represented at the same frequency, the lower wavelengths are present at higher, louder levels. 

With less high-frequency tones, brown noise sounds deeper and more bass-like than white noise. Instead of a static, low frequency-heavy brown noise sounds more like a waterfall, a heavy rainfall, or the deep rumbling of thunder.

Brown noise is also known as Brownian noise, after Scottish botanist Robert Brown (who discovered Brownian motion, the erratic way certain particles move in water). However, although it is named after something unpredictable, brown noise provides far more predictable benefits.

What Are the Benefits of Brown Noise?

Brown noise, like most other colors of noise on the sound spectrum, has its own unique set of advantages. When used correctly, brown noise benefits include not just help with sleep and relaxation but also the potential to increase your focus in ways that might surprise you.

Supports Focus

Brown noise benefits people who have trouble focusing, like those who struggle with attention deficit disorder (ADD). People with less dopamine in their system can find it difficult to concentrate, even when trying to. 

The effects of brown noise give them a non-distracting type of background noise to stimulate their brains. The result is less background noise to draw focus away from what they are trying to accomplish.

Brown noise is also thought to help filter out symptoms of tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Although there is no cure for tinnitus, having constant ringing can become distracting and even damaging to your mental health. Brown noise can help remove at least some of that sound, leaving you better able to focus on what you need to do.

Encourages Relaxation

When you’re ready to relax, brown noise can also be of assistance. The combination of sound frequencies can help to drown out any distracting background noise so that you can breathe deeply and enjoy some downtime. 

Never underestimate the power of relaxation. So much of our lives is driven by our stress level — high or low. However, even when our stress is at its highest, that doesn’t mean that we have to let it drag us down. 

Developing healthy coping skills around life stressors can help you regain control in all areas of your life and improve overall well-being. Brown noise is one way to help, but others, like mindfulness meditation and working with a CBT-I coach, can also help get your head back into a better place. 

Facilitates a Good Night’s Sleep

The ability of brown noise to help filter out background noise can also help those who struggle to fall asleep at night. No matter how tired you are, it is difficult for some people to fall asleep if they’re surrounded by ambient noises — street traffic, neighbors, pets, etc. 

Brown noise helps remove a lot of that “extra” sound so that you can focus more on falling asleep more quickly (and staying asleep longer).

Anything you can do to get a better night’s sleep will benefit you in the short and long term. Without quality sleep, your entire mood changes. When allowed to go on over a more extended period, it can have significant negative repercussions on your brain and body. Sleep is imperative for optimal health and wellness, and brown noise can help you attain that.

What Other Types of Noise Can Help With Sleep?

If brown noise isn’t for you, other types of sound may help provide you with the relaxation you need to get the best sleep yet. The idea of using noise as a sleep aid is nothing new — we just have more science to back it up now.

White Noise

White noise is the original sleep sound, as it’s been the focus of study for far longer than other sounds on the spectrum. White noise is also an excellent place for people to start exploring the sound spectrum, as there are many ways to involve white noise in your routine (like white noise machines). As we said earlier, white noise contains all wavelengths at the same frequencies of sound.

However, a downside to white noise is that the equal frequencies of each wavelength can be too much for some people to handle and may present a distraction — which is where the other colors of sound come in. 

Like everything in life, finding the best noise to help you sleep can involve a little trial and error. However, with so many options out there, there is likely to be something for everyone. Stick with it.

Pink Noise

In addition to white noise and brown noise, pink noise can also have specific benefits when it comes to improving your sleep. Pink noise is believed to be more soothing than many other colors of sound, with more attention focused on the lower frequencies.

People often find pink noise to be a more gentle alternative that helps them get better sleep — it has a “flatter” sound with less variety that people find to be less distracting than white noise.

Natural Sounds

If the idea of seeking out specific sound colors doesn’t appeal to you, there is another route that uses the same basic concepts but in a much less artificial way — nature sounds. People have been falling asleep to the sound of the rain on the roof, a thunderstorm, and the wind rippling through the grass for centuries, and there’s a reason why it works. 

However, as technology has developed significantly in the last several centuries, we no longer have to sit back and wait for it to rain to get the benefits of nature sounds — there are apps, noise machines, and playlists that can be pulled up at a moment’s notice.

Background Noise

Even just regular background noise can help you easily fall asleep at night, as long as you choose the right “type” of noise. Take relaxing music, for instance. Listening to music that relaxes you (and doesn’t distract you or make you want to sing along) has shown benefits for sleep quality. 

The key is to select predictable music that makes you feel relaxed, doesn’t surprise you, and allows you to drift off more easily.

Where Can You Find Brown Noise?

Taking advantage of brown noise benefits — for either relaxation or help focusing — is easier than you think. Due to the popularity of ASMR videos on social media platforms like TikTok, videos and playlists of the entire color spectrum of sound are popping up everywhere. Just make sure to choose high-quality options so that you get the most benefit possible.

Remember to combine brown noise benefits with other ways to improve your sleep hygiene, like keeping your room at a reasonable temperature, not exercising before bed, and limiting caffeine use. 

Fixing sleep issues requires a multifaceted approach to change, so using a sleep therapy app to address any psychological issues should be used hand in hand with physiological care from a sleep medicine professional. 

The Bottom Line

Brown noise benefits you in more ways than just helping to improve your sleep — when harnessed correctly, it can also help you focus better and relax more deeply when you need to. 

If you’re looking for ways to improve your sleep, start by taking your free sleep quiz. From there, you can work with one of our caring CBT-I coaches to develop a plan and help you get the sleep you need and deserve.

Sources:

ADD vs. ADHD: Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatments | Very Well Mind

Noise as a sleep aid: A systematic review | PubMed

The Color of Noise: What Do Hues Have to Do with Sound? | Scientific American

Effects of Relaxing Music on Healthy Sleep | Scientific Reports

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