Noise-related problems falling asleep and staying asleep are widespread because our sense of hearing is always active even while we sleep. You can find out here how the famous “white noise” affects our body and brain and whether sounds like white noise, pink noise and brown noise can improve relaxation and sleep.
Table of Contents
- Hearing during sleep
- What is white noise?
- What effect does white noise have?
- How does white noise affect sleep?
- Tips: White noise for better sleep
- White, Pink & Brown – All noise signals at a glance
Nocturnal neighbors, barking dogs or the constant snoring of a peacefully slumbering partner – noise at night and disturbing ambient noises are a common reason for night awakenings, sleep disorders and difficulty falling asleep. An increasingly popular way to make it easier to fall asleep and reduce the disturbing effects of noise at night is to listen to so-called white noise. How can or should this work?
1. Hearing during sleep
Our ears never sleep! At night, not only does our brain run at full speed, many of our senses also remain active. The sensitive hearing system in particular constantly reacts to acoustic stimuli from our surroundings during sleep and while falling asleep. Persistent noise, sudden noises or other strong acoustic signals cause the nervous system to be activated even at night and can therefore counteract peaceful and undisturbed sleep.
The decisive factor is how a noise that occurs is ultimately processed and evaluated in the brain. The brain is quite capable of filtering out certain sounds from a sound environment and blocking out less important signals. Especially when a noise stands out in an otherwise quiet environment, the brain is quickly put on alert, which hinders the process of falling asleep or causes us to wake up.
Human hearing covers a frequency range of approx. 20 to 20.000 Hertz. Depending on which sleep phase we are in, the sensitivity of our hearing to stimuli can vary. During deep sleep, we don't even really notice many sounds because the body focuses on regeneration and recovery. In the REM sleep phases, on the other hand, the sense of hearing is more sensitive, because our brain is very active during this time and reacts faster and more strongly to acoustic stimuli in the environment. In order to fall asleep easily and stay asleep undisturbed, it is usually advisable to have a generally quiet sleeping environment.
2. What is white noise?
White noise can be described as a monotonous and artificially generated noise that consists of a combination of tones of all frequencies that we humans can perceive with the same intensity. This means that many different sounds are layered on top of each other, creating a dense, indefinable noise that sounds something like a rushing waterfall or when there is no station on the radio or television.
3. What effect does white noise have?
Although the constant white noise is constantly picked up by the ear, it is generally judged to be of little relevance in the brain and after a short time most people no longer notice it consciously. Due to the constant but not too demanding impulses to the ear, our brain increasingly relaxes and then simply blocks out the monotonous noise, which lowers the hearing threshold for other (disturbing) noises. Because white noise creates an overall “loud” sound environment in which sudden noises are less noticeable. This makes us less sensitive to sounds that we perceive as negative and allows our brain to calm down more easily.
4. How does white noise affect sleep?
Numerous scientific studies show that white noise can lead to more calm and relaxation and is effective against stress symptoms such as headaches or inner restlessness. This not only promotes our stress resistance and ability to concentrate during the day, but also improves the conditions for a peaceful sleep.
Especially during the process of falling asleep and as the night progresses, White Noise can directly help to neutralize disturbing noise from the sleeping environment and prevent interruptions in sleep caused by sudden noises. In this way we can protect our brain from stress, promote a peaceful fall asleep and also support sleeping through the night.
5. White noise, pink noise, brown noise – noise signals at a glance
Whether we really find the monotonous sounds pleasant and helpful varies from person to person. White noise is very popular as a sleep aid because it sounds uniform and very dense overall. But there are other noise signals that have a similar positive effect on our body, brain and nervous system and help you sleep better. They differ primarily in the frequency spectrum used.
White noise includes sounds of all frequencies from a frequency range of approximately 20 to 20.000 Hertz, which are superimposed at the same volume. This creates an indefinable noise made up of high, medium and low tones that can be compared to the sound of heavy rain, waterfalls, a humming machine or the well-known “TV interference signal”.
Pink noise is very similar to white noise and only differs in that the high frequencies are used more quietly than the low ones. Pink noise sounds a little deeper and less intense than white noise, which some people find more pleasant and calming.
The sound of pattering rain, for example, is comparable. When the window is open it sounds similar to white noise, when the window is closed it is more like pink noise.
Brown Noise / Red Noise
Brown or red noise sounds even deeper than pink or white noise and is created by further reducing the volume of sounds in the high and medium frequency range. The comparatively deeper and darker sounding sound is often compared to the sound of calm sea surf or a thunderstorm.
6. Tips: White noise to improve sleep
You can particularly benefit from the proven positive effects of noise signals in the evening or while falling asleep. You can find special sleep sounds, for example, on YouTube, Spotify, in our sleep SOUNDS! and other platforms or you can use a special “noise generator”. In order to effectively support falling asleep and staying asleep, we have put together a few tips for you to use.
By the way: You can find out whether music can also have a positive effect on falling asleep here.
#1 Speaker vs. Headphones
If you want to listen to music, a podcast or one of the noise signals to fall asleep, it is of course recommended to use a speaker instead of headphones to prevent unpleasant pressure on the ears or confusion in the headphone cables during the night.
#2 Insert sleep timer
Use a sleep timer to automatically stop playing videos or audio tracks or reduce the volume after a certain time. This means you can slowly fall asleep without worrying and no longer have to use your smartphone, laptop or speakers later at night.
#3 Regulate volume correctly
The level at which the white, pink or brown noise sounds pleasant to you depends on the individual. Make sure that it is not too loud, but not too quiet either. Noise that is too loud can still be perceived as disturbing during sleep, whereas a volume that is too low can mean that we can no longer perceive the white noise at all and the positive effects are missing.
Our hearing is also very active while we sleep, which is why noise that occurs at night is a common reason for problems falling asleep and staying asleep
White noise is a monotonous sound that can calm the body, brain and nervous system and cover up disturbing noise
White noise has been proven to help reduce stress, make it easier to fall asleep and promote staying asleep
In addition to white noise, pink noise and brown noise also have a positive effect on the feeling of stress, relaxation and sleep
Greetings and see you soon!