Sail into Sleep on Comforting Sounds

Sleep isn’t a luxury, but a necessity. Given how many Americans report getting inadequate sleep, the search for sleep aids has been far and wide.

One method that has garnered continued interest is the use of certain kinds of sound to mask environmental noise and create a soothing background for those who are easing their way into slumber at night.

Many types of noise have been tried and researched for their efficacy at promoting sleep.

These are the most commonly used “colors,” or categories, of sound and can be easily experimented with by using sound machines or finding examples on YouTube or various smartphone apps.


Its name has become a blanket term for the sleep-inducing sound industry, but actually applies to a specific type of sound. It incorporates sound levels from across the audible spectrum in equal amounts, without any emphasis on higher or lower frequencies or pitches.

Some of the noises generally categorized as white include humming air conditioners, fans, radiators or refrigerators, as well as TV static and vacuums. Many sleepers find this distribution of noise excels at blocking louder incidental noises.


Here the lower frequencies are dialed up in intensity for a lower, deeper tone. Numerous sounds from natural sources apply here such as ocean waves, heartbeats, rustling leaves, rain showers, waterfalls and wind.

Many people who find white noise too high and distracting are more relaxed when hearing these types of noises. Preliminary research has suggested pink noise can lower frequency of brain waves and improve memory and recall the following day.


These sounds are tilted toward deeper pitches still and include thunder, strong river currents and high winds. Some users find this still more relaxing, and some studies indicate it might improve concentration and work performance.


This would be silence or close to it, with very little action on any part of the sound frequency spectrum. If you already have a very quiet sleep environment and don’t have to contend with tinnitus, you likely don’t need any kind of sleep-enhancing noise.

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