Health

How pink noise can improve your sleep

The sound is a soft roar – kind of like a waterfall in the distance, or the wind rushing past your car windows on a long drive. It’s continuous, vague and surprisingly soothing.

Welcome to ‘brown noise’ – the latest trend to help improve your concentration.

While most of us have heard of white noise – that blizzard static you used to get on TV stations when they were out of service – brown noise is made up of lower frequency, deeper sounds.

It’s wildly popular on social media as a study aid — on apps like TikTok, videos of people hearing brown noise for the first time have been viewed millions of times.

Adherents gush about deep feelings of peace, while some with ADHD claim it focuses their thinking more than medication.

It’s not just brown or white noise; there’s ‘pink’ noise, which is said to help you fall asleep and sleep longer; and binaural beats, to aid concentration and anxiety.

It’s wildly popular on social media as a study aid – on apps like TikTok, videos of people hearing brown noise for the first time have been viewed millions of times

But while we might be interested in the idea that different sounds could improve our attention, mood, and productivity, “it’s important to find out what the real impact is on the brain,” says Nilli Lavie, a professor of psychology and brain sciences at the University College London.

So what’s the science behind these sounds – all readily available on YouTube for free – and can they really help us? Professor Lavie formulates her judgment while I try them out to see if noise does anything for my concentration.

The Sound Is A Soft Roar, Kind Of Like A Waterfall In The Distance, Or The Wind Rushing Past Your Car Windows On A Long Drive. It'S Continuous, Blurry And Surprisingly Soothing. Welcome To ¿Brown Noise¿ ¿ The Latest Trend To Help Improve Your Concentration

The sound is a soft roar – kind of like a waterfall in the distance, or the wind rushing past your car windows on a long drive. It’s continuous, vague and surprisingly soothing. Welcome to ‘brown noise’ – the latest trend to help improve your concentration

white noise

This is a familiar sound, a “shhh” similar to a hair dryer. It was identified by engineers in the 1920s and includes all frequencies audible to the human ear, i.e. between 20 Hertz and 20,000 Hertz – a very low organ pipe can produce a sound of 20 Hertz, while a dog whistle can be 20,000 Hertz.

This overvoltage is why it’s called “white” noise, in a nod to light, which turns white when all light frequencies are in a single beam.

Professor Lavie says there are ‘some studies’ that show it improves attention, both for people with ADHD and everyone else. “And there’s an excellent explanation,” she adds. ‘White noise contains all the frequencies of sound mixed together, so it helps to camouflage peripheral sounds very well. Attention is better focused when there are no distractions holding attention — white noise will help align that. There is a convincing argument for its effectiveness, with a good mechanism behind it.’

My verdict: To test the concentration-boosting powers of white noise, I put some on while writing at my kitchen table. There’s a lot to choose from online, some run for ten hours or more and are clearly meant for overnight use. I notice that I feel more focused. Perhaps the white noise filters out background noises—like my cat’s claws on the kitchen floor—that momentarily distract my focus.

This Overvoltage Is Why It Is Called

This span is why it’s called “white” noise, in a nod to light, which turns white when all light frequencies are in a single beam

Pink noise

Like white noise, pink noise contains all frequencies that are perceptible to humans. The difference is that the higher frequencies are deliberately attenuated, ie softened.

This should mean that pink noise could be particularly effective for masking higher frequency sounds – for example, the annoying shrill beep of a car alarm – because the lower frequency sounds are relatively more intense in the pink noise.

Professor Lavie says: ‘Pink noise changes the amount of sound energy – simply put, the intensity of the volume – inversely with the frequency. So it makes higher frequency sounds seem quieter.

‘It’s interesting, although not as much thorough research has been done on it as white noise. This attenuation of the higher frequencies may make it sound more pleasant than white noise to some people. And it might be worth a try if you know you want to specifically mask higher tones.”

My verdict: Like light rainfall, this is less loud than white noise, but has a similar cocooning effect. I try it around 3:30pm when I know kids are leaving the nearby primary school – a reliably high time of day – and it works well.

Brown sound

Brown noise’s popularity may be recent, but it’s actually named after Robert Brown, a Scottish botanist who discovered “Brownian motion” in 1827—the random movement made by pollen grains floating in water, observed under a microscope.

Brown noise mimics this oscillation, with sound signals changing randomly from one moment to the next, creating an overall impression of static – and supposedly improving concentration. Some users describe it as ‘life-changing’.

Professor Lavie says: ‘Brown noise is like an exaggerated pink noise. So while pink noise lowers the intensity of high frequencies to make it sound quieter, so does brown noise, but in a more extreme way – so the impression you’re left with is of only low frequency and bass-heavy tones.”

This makes the sound even lower and noisier than pink noise. Like pink noise, it will potentially be helpful in blocking out high notes, with some fans claiming it may even be more effective for falling asleep.

My verdict: This sounds even more reassuring than pink or white noise. It’s deeper, like a strong wind, which makes me feel especially cozy and focused in front of my laptop.

Binaural beats

You need headphones for this. That’s because binaural beats are produced when two slightly different frequencies of sound are played in each ear, and your brain then splits the difference.

For example, if your right ear hears 400 Hertz and your left ear hears 410 Hertz, your binaural beat comes in around 10 Hertz. But this sound only exists in your own brain – it is an auditory illusion. This – so fans say – is where the magic comes in. Instead of hearing two competing sounds, your brain creates its own sound, which is heard as a rhythmic beat rather than a continuous sound.

‘The brain is ‘tricked’ into perceiving it as one sound coming from an intermediate location, and the difference in frequency creates the perception of beats,’ explains Professor Lavie. She says there is some research that suggests listening to binaural beats can improve attention. “The hypothesis is that this method prompts the brain to produce brain waves at the same frequency as the sound it perceives, and sometimes it seems to work.”

By stimulating particularly beneficial brain waves, binaural beats should boost cognitive and emotional function — potentially improving memory and attention, reducing anxiety and promoting restful sleep.

‘This is very different from the white noise masking mechanism,’ says Professor Lavie. “There has been research to measure brain waves while people perform a task that requires focused attention – listening to binaural beats – which did show an effect on brain entrainment, but overall the studies are far from conclusive.” There are also those who argue that binaural beats should be treated with caution precisely because of their effect on brain waves.

My verdict: Fans of binaural beats recommend listening to it for 45 minutes before concentrating. I’m trying this with my mangled old headphones. It sounds noticeably like a vibrating bell, and the effect is remarkable – I get goosebumps while listening and feel remarkably clear when I work.

Overall verdict: The binaural beats had the most perceptible impact on my mood, but they’re less of a background noise – so I think I could use these before I start working on something and then use brown noise because that’s what I like the most found soothing.

Professor Lavie says: ‘When you find ways to concentrate, it can feel like you’ve hit the jackpot. Our research shows that people feel happier when they can concentrate.’

By Stimulating Particularly Beneficial Brain Waves, Binaural Beats Are Believed To Boost Cognitive And Emotional Function – Potentially Improving Memory And Attention, Reducing Anxiety And Promoting Restful Sleep

By stimulating particularly beneficial brain waves, binaural beats are believed to boost cognitive and emotional function – potentially improving memory and attention, reducing anxiety and promoting restful sleep

Old drugs, new tricks

New applications for existing medicines. This week: Colchicine

This compound has been used as a medicine for over 3,000 years and is found in the autumn crocus plant. It was first developed as a treatment for gout in the 18th century.

Colchicine, taken as a tablet during gout attacks, dampens the inflammation caused by uric acid crystals building up in the joints, relieving pain.

But while it’s still only approved in the UK to treat gout, doctors have been using it for years to fight pericarditis – inflammation of the sac-like covering around the heart, which causes chest pain and shortness of breath.

In the late 1980s, doctors in Spain, aware of colchicine’s anti-inflammatory properties, successfully experimented with it on three patients with pericarditis who had otherwise failed to recover. After this, the drug found favor with cardiologists for the condition.

A 2014 study at Maria Vittoria Hospital in Italy found that giving colchicine to patients with pericarditis not only helped them recover faster, but also cut the risk of the condition coming back in half.

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Merry

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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