Even when you’re asleep, your brain is constantly scanning and listening for sounds. If it’s too quiet, unwanted noise such as a faucet drip or police siren can interrupt your sleep. White Noise generates sounds over a wide range of frequencies, masking those noise interruptions, so you can not only fall asleep, but stay asleep.
How does white noise mask sounds?
In order to better understand how white noise masks sound interruptions, let’s investigate one of the most annoying sounds that can wake you up–car alarms. Yup, that neighbor’s car with the siren, horn, and 1960’s robotic voice programmed to wake you up.
Note: The charts we will be using in this article are called sound spectrum analysis graphs, which is similar to the display of a stereo equalizer. The far left of the graph represents lower bass frequencies and the far right represents higher treble frequencies.
So let’s say your bedroom is quiet and you fall asleep. It’s probably no surprise that a room full of silence will show up as an almost empty graph. If your sound profile was completely empty you might want to look outside your window and see if your home is floating through the vacuum of space–and if so you might have bigger concerns than sleep.
Lack of any noise interruptions equals a great night’s sleep. But just after you enter deep sleep, something outside sets off your neighbor’s pesky car alarm. Now your room fills with a very distinct pattern:
Your brain has been scanning the room all night listening for a reason to wake you up, and that car alarm will do it! Now you’ll toss and turn until you hopefully get back to sleep. In the morning you might not remember waking up, but one thing is for sure, you will feel tired because you didn’t get a good night’s sleep.
Now let’s say you fell asleep while listening to white noise. Your bedroom will be filled with all the possible frequencies that your ear can recognize. White noise filling your room looks like this:
The graph of white noise almost looks like a comfy bed–just add pillow and blanket. OK, let’s get back to the evil neighbor and his car alarm. Now when it goes off this time those annoying frequencies will be mixed in with the white noise sound. The end result looks like this:
Notice that most of that car alarm’s distinct pattern is absorbed by our blanket of pure white noise. Playing white noise audio throughout the night will allow you to stay in deep sleep longer which means you’ll wake up feeling refreshed. And if not, it’s always the neighbors fault.
We hope this simple example helps explain the science behind how white noise masks noise interruptions to give you a better night’s sleep. You can try our free white noise generator above or download our free White Noise app to your mobile or desktop device.
What are the different sound colors?
White Noise sounds similar to static of an analog TV or radio station that has stopped broadcasting. The name is derived from white light, which is what the human eye sees when all the colors that make up the visible light spectrum are combined. Blend a red, green, and blue light together and you'll get white light. You probably have noticed if you're in a brightly lit room filled with white light, it is difficult to see colored lights. That's because those individual colors get masked by surrounding white light.
In the same way, white noise has equal energy at all sound frequencies to which humans are sensitive. Other sounds will get masked by white noise so they become less detectable.
White noise spectrum analysis
Gray Noise sounds like a powerful waterfall in the distance. This noise is subjected to a psychoacoustic equal loudness curve over its entire range of frequencies. Huh? What that really means is it gives the listener the perception that it has equal energy at all frequencies. Sure we just said that white noise has equal energy at all frequencies but it's actually not perceived as such due to the wiring between your brain and ear. We perceive tones at 3 kHz to be louder than those at 300 Hz even if the acoustic energy is equal. Gray Noise adjusts the energy of each frequency so they are perceived by us to be equal. You will find this noise to be very calming and relaxing--Or maybe it's just perceived that way.
Gray noise spectrum analysis
Brown Noise has a damped or soft quality when compared to white or pink noise. It sounds like being real close to a waterfall or being in heavy rain. It has more energy at the lower frequencies and if you have a good speaker system with a subwoofer you should be able to really feel it. It is one of the most popular color sounds for sleeping so you should definitely try it out.
Brown noise spectrum analysis
Pink Noise's upper sound frequencies don't fall off as fast as they do with brown noise, so you'll get a little more punch. The most interesting thing about pink noise is it's found in almost all electronic devices (known as flicker noise) and even in biological systems. It's been found in heart beat rhythms, neural activity, and even DNA sequences. Hmmmm, if this is noise found in your mind and body, then maybe it's just what the doctor ordered.
Pink noise spectrum analysis
BLUE AND VIOLET NOISE
Blue and violet noise are the opposites of pink and brown noise, respectively. Their signal increases in power toward the higher frequencies. This means more treble and less bass. They sound similar to a sprinkler system or spraying water from a garden hose. Even though these aren't the most popular color noises, everybody has different ears, and you just might find them calming and enjoyable.
Blue noise spectrum analysis
What platforms does the White Noise app support?
Our White Noise App is available for iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows. The white noise flash app featured at the top of this page can play in any browser with Flash installed. It is also available as a chrome app too.
Can I download mp3 versions of the colors noises featured here?
Yes. The color noises are available as 10 minute MP3 tracks. Just enable 1-track repeat and you will be off to sleep in no time. Download from iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and other online music stores. In addition to color noises, we have streaming media in audio and video formats that you might find helpful.