If we have trouble sleeping, it is likely that we have tried listening to white noise to fall asleep. White noise refers to sound that contains all frequencies in equal measure, such as static from an untuned radio or television. Although white noise has been used as therapy for years, many TikTokers rely on another form of noise: brown noise.
Brown noise is a sound that contains all frequencies, but with more energy in lower frequencies, like a loud waterfall or rumbling thunder. Videos have been posted on TikTok in recent weeks touting the benefits of brown noise, with users claiming it can slow racing thoughts, help focus and improve sleep.
sounds related to nature
Although we may not recognize the term “brown noise”, we have probably heard it without realizing that it has a special name. There are three main ‘colors’ of noise: white, pink and brown (also known as red). These forms of noise are made up of all frequencies that are audible to the human ear, but the key difference is how the energy is distributed across these frequencies.
In white noise, the energy is distributed equally, resulting in a constant buzz. Some examples include a hissing radiator, a humming air conditioner, or static from a television.
In pink noise, the energy is not equally distributed across frequencies, and instead is more intense at lower frequencies. This results in a slightly deeper sound, like wind, rain, and heartbeats.
Lastly, brown noise has even higher energy at lower frequencies, resulting in deeper, louder sounds such as loud waterfalls, low roars, and soft thunder . Like pink noise, it contains sounds from every octave of the sound spectrum, but the power behind the frequencies decreases with each octave. This decay is twice that of pink noise, resulting in a sound that people perceive as deeper than white or pink noise.
Does it work for sleep?
A quick search for “brown noise” on TikTok turns up thousands of videos of people enjoying the sound. Although TikTokers claim that this noise is a game changer for sleeping, its effect has yet to be extensively studied. However, previous studies have shown that brown noise could be useful in various other settings.
In 2017, researchers at the University of Milan tested the effects of brown noise on people with tinnitus, a condition that causes ringing in the ears. The researchers tested the effects of different colors of noise on 20 patients who had been experiencing tinnitus. Their results showed that white noise was the preferred sound, followed closely by brown noise (referred to in the study as “red”).
Another 2020 study found that listening to brown noise can improve work efficiency and memory. In the study, researchers at Chung Shan Medical University Hospital recruited 22 participants who heard brown, pink, white, or no noise while performing a task. The results showed that the participants showed better performance and memory when listening to brown, pink and white noise than when they were in a quiet environment.
Although noise is currently considered to have negative effects on hearing and health, experimental results show that some noise can improve environmental comfort.