How to Sleep - White Noise vs. Pink Noise
A: Hey! I’m Amelia!
C: I’m Cecilia! This is 1800Dreamzz!
A: That’s Dreamzz with two zz’s.
C: We heard a lot of you have trouble sleeping.
A: Apparently 2 out of 3 of Americans report at least one night a week with poor sleep.
C: And that’s without the help of COVID-19 affecting bedtime. The pandemic has messed up our sleep for a number of reasons.
A: Life changes surrounding the pandemic, anxiety surrounding the pandemic.
C: The list goes on. And we see you!
A: Sleep is so unbelievably important to your overall health, so Cecilia and I have developed this series called How to Sleep.
C: We are digging into your biggest sleep questions each week.
A: If you find this information valuable, share this episode with a friend and leave us a review!
C: And if you’ve got a little extra dollars this month, you can drop them in our virtual tip jar at Buy Me a Coffee or become a monthly donor on our Patreon.
A: All of these are linked in the show notes! Now something else that we are excited to announce is!
A&C: THE 1-800-DREAMZZ QUICKTIONARY!
C: We are so excited to get this in front of you all!
A: If you’ve listened to our episodes about dream analysis, you know that we interpret dreams a little differently than your average dream dictionary.
C: Yes, there’s no right or wrong way to interpret a dream, but instead of trying to recall the narrative, the 1-800-Dreamzz Quicktionary has you identifying individual components of the dream.
A: AKA the people, places, things, animals, feelings, and situations/actions in your dreams.
C: Those are the bits of your dream that you are most likely to forget, and you can very easily remember the narrative if you have those pieces identified.
A: Boom! Part of the reason we started this How to Sleep series is because none of you are remembering your dreams because you’re not sleeping well enough, but we really believe that your dreams serve as the bridge between your waking conscious mind and your subconscious mind.
C: It really is a fabulous communication tool that has worked for us in our waking life.
A: Okay so what do the people get if they purchase the 1-800-Dreamzz Quictionary?
C: Well! You obviously get a digital copy of our quick reference dream dictionary, aka the 1-800-Dreamzz Quicktionary, you get the 1-800-Dreamzz Journal to plug in your notes from your dreams, you get a 13 hour spotify sleep playlist, and you get an intention setting meditation to remember your dreams before you sleep!
A: You can head to our online store, 1800dreamzz.com/shop!
C: Once you make your purchase, the 1-800-Dreamzz Quicktionary digital pdf will be sent to your email for immediate download and all of the resources are available as clickable links in the guide!
A: I am so excited for people to use it as a regular tool in their self-care army.
C: Me too! Okay, so, Amelia, what are we talking about on today’s installment of How to Sleep?
A: Well, Cecilia, we are talking about white noise and pink noise, and which will help you get the best sleep of your life!
C: I know this has been a popularly requested episode.
A: It has! I had heard of white noise, but nothing about pink noise or any of the colors we are going to hear about today.
C: Okay, so Amelia, do you need any sort of noise to sleep? White noise or otherwise?
A: *riff riff* what about you, Cecilia?
C: *riff riff* Tell me about the spectrum of sounds!
A: Perfect! Let’s start with white noise because it’s the easiest to describe and I think it’s the one we’re most familiar with!
According to an article by The Atlantic, “It’s a mixture of all the frequencies humans can hear (about 20 Hz to 20 kHz), fired off randomly with equal power at each—like 20,000 different tones all playing at the same time, mixed together in a constantly changing, unpredictable sonic stew.”
C: *riff riff* Why is it called white noise?
A: Good questions! Live Science says, “White noise is so named because it's analogous to white light, which is a mixture of all visible wavelengths of light.”
C: That makes sense! So what does white noise sound like?
A: *imitates shhhhh sound*
C: *riff riff*
A: Okay but because it’s all sounds it’s like no sound except the quiet shh. I am everything. I am nothing.
C: That sounds like a ‘you’ problem. So why does this help people sleep?
A: Just about every article I read said that when you hear a noise, like a door closing or someone flushing the toilet, it’s not that the specific sound wakes you up, it’s the change in sound that wakes you up. Healthline says this, “Since your brain continues to process sounds as you sleep, different noises can affect how well you rest.”
C: So that’s one reason why it can be hard to fall asleep in new places, because your brain is adjusting to new noises, among other new external stimuli. *riff riff*
A: Correct! Now whether you are sleeping at home or somewhere different, there are “Some noises, like honking cars and barking dogs, that can stimulate your brain and disrupt sleep.” How is the volume outside your house when you sleep, Cecilia?
C: *riff riff* So this is where white noise can help?
A: Right! Healthline goes on to say that “Other sounds can relax your brain and promote better sleep. These sleep-inducing sounds are known as noise sleep aids. You can listen to them on a computer, smartphone, or sleep machine like a white noise machine.”
C: *riff riff* so what are examples of white noise sounds?
A: There are sounds that mimic white noise like a radiator hissing, or the sounds of a fan, but there are a lot of white noise machines out there or playlists, or youtube videos with white noise sounds for sleep. I’m going to have you read some of the comments from the sound cloud white noise playlist:
C: Okay here we go: “Oh fuck my tv broke.” “This song lit” “I played this at my cousin’s funeral - it was a hit!” “I think my favorite part was when it went ‘fshhhhhhh’” *riff riff* So what are the different color sounds?
A: Yas so going back to the Atlantic, “the other colors are similar to white noise, but with more energy concentrated at either the high or low end of the sound spectrum, which subtly changes the nature of the signal. Pink noise, for example, is like white noise with the bass cranked up. It’s a “shhh” sound with a low rumble mixed in, like the soft roar of a rainstorm.”
C: *riff riff* So what about pink noise is becoming more popular for optimizing sleep?
A: The Sleep Foundation says that “While white noise is defined by equal amplitude across all frequencies, the amplitude of pink noise decreases by half every time the frequency doubles. The result is a blend of more intense low-frequency tones and softer high-frequency tones.
The human ear is particularly sensitive to high frequencies, so many people find pink noise more pleasant than white noise.”
C: *riff riff* Is there any science backing it up as a sleep aid?
A: I read about a “Sleep study conducted by German researchers in 2013” in the Atlantic that “tested pink noise on test participants while they slept. While it didn't cause them to experience more deep sleep cycles, the pink noise appeared to prolong deep sleep and to increase the size of the subject's brain waves during that period, as evidenced by their EEGs.”
C: *riff riff*
A: I’m sure I’m missing some more science, but another study conducted in 2017 at Northwestern University found a positive connection between pink noise and deep sleep.
C: *riff riff*
A: I just want to add this because I feel like it’s helpful to understand where else it exists in the world, continuing from the Atlantic “The inverse pattern of pink noise, also called 1/f noise, can also be applied to plenty of systems outside of sound. If you take the rise and fall of the tide, for example, and break it down into waveforms plotted on a graph, it will follow 1/f, which happens to be the exact midpoint between pure randomness and correlated movement. It turns out much of our world operates in this sweet spot between chaos and control: The pink noise pattern has been found in most genres of music, the shot lengths in Hollywood films, the structure of DNA, the rise and fall of the tide, the flow of traffic, and variations in the stock market. The world is basically awash in pink.”
C: *riff riff* So what other color of sounds are there?
A: We’ve got blue noise which is the opposite of pink noise
C: Okay so if pink noise is at the lower end of sounds, blue noise will be at the higher end?
A: Exactly. So this is your hissy, loud noises without any bass. According to the Atlantic article published in 2016, white, pink, and blue noise are the only colors to have official definitions in the federal telecommunications standard.
C: *riff riff* What about the infamous brown noise?
A: Oh girl yes. I was devastated to find out that the brown noise is unrelated to the brown note, which as we all know is a frequency of sound that when played forces people to poop their pants. I first learned about this in South Park as a child.
C: *riff riff* So what does brown noise sound like?
A: Okay so according to the Atlantic, “Brown or “Brownian” noise, a deeper version of pink, is not actually named after the color; the name comes from the fact that the signal mimics the “random walk” pattern produced by Brownian motion, or the random movement of particles in liquid. The sound is a deeper, bassy rumble, kind of like ocean waves or heavy winds.”
C: *riff riff* So excluding “Brownian noise,” why are the sounds named colors?
A: A lil birdie, aka wikipedia, says that “In audio engineering, electronics, physics, and many other fields, the color of noise refers to the power spectrum of a noise signal.” We know that white noise is like white light as far as it is all encompassing, and other color names, such as pink, red, and blue were then given to noise with other spectral profiles, often (but not always) in reference to the color of light with similar spectra.”
C: *riff riff* As far as being able to listen to these noises at bedtime, it seems like there’s an abundance of places to find them?
A: Oh my gosh yes. If you’re looking to try out using these noises as sleep aids, you have a lot of options.
C: And they’re cheap! A: Yes! You could very easily put on a youtube video that was 8 hours of white noise with a dark screen, you could create a spotify playlist, the list goes on.
C: What if I want to invest big money into this?
A: Again, still a lot of variety! The white noise machine my father-in-law gave our daughter is called the ‘Lectro Fan and it costs $50, but they also have a wide variety to choose from. I like it because it’s got a variety of static sounds and fan sounds and you can adjust the volume.
C: *riff riff* What are some of the criterion listeners should consider?
A: Self magazines says that you should think about the customizability, aka the types of noises available. Do you want white noise? Do you want frogs croaking?
C: *riff riff* I would also suspect that you would want a range in volume?
A: Yes! Especially if you are using it for a baby! And if that’s the case, talk to your pediatrician about whether it is a good choice, and if so what volume they recommend, though this article recommends >50 decibels.
C: *riff riff* anything else our listeners should know?
A: Yes! Just a few things. If you are having trouble sleeping, using sounds as a sleep aid may just be a bandaid on a bigger owie. So please go to the doctor if you need to. Like at no point in your life is sleep not going to be an important part of it, so it would absolutely behoove you to get to the root of sleep issues.
Here are some extra tips from Healthline, feel free to jump in at any point, Cecilia:
Follow a sleep schedule. Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day, even on your days off.
Avoid stimulants before bed. Nicotine and caffeine can keep you awake for several hours. Alcohol also disrupts your circadian rhythm and reduces quality sleep.
Exercise regularly. Physical activity during the day will help you feel tired at night. Avoid strenuous exercise a few hours before bed
Limit naps. Napping can also disrupt your sleep schedule. If you need to nap, limit yourself to 30 minutes or less.
Be mindful of food intake. Avoid eating large meals a few hours before sleeping. If you’re hungry, eat a light snack like a banana or toast.
Make a bedtime routine. Enjoy relaxing activities 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. Reading, meditating, and stretching can calm your body and brain.
Turn off bright lights. Artificial lights suppress melatonin and stimulate your brain. Avoid light from lamps, smartphones, and TV screens an hour before bed.
A & C: *riff riff*
A: Well, that’s all we have for today!
C: We hope you enjoyed this episode from our How to Sleep series!
A: Our next installment talks about all about COVID-19 and Sleep!
C: In the meantime, you can listen to other episodes including our most “More Than Dreamzz” episode where we casually chatted about the worst dates we have ever been on.
A: And be sure to check in next week when we dive in and dig deep into why we dream in the first place. And check out the 1-800-Dreamzz Quicktionary on our website!
C: Yes! Head to 1800dreamzz.com (with 2 zz’s!) where you can purchase the Quicktionary as well as submit your dreams to us. Check us out on instagram and facebook. Sleep tight!
A: And remember, don’t let the sounds of sleep bite! Night night!