Search IconSearch
April 28, 2022/Living Healthy/Sleep

Can Pink Noise Help You Sleep?

How this colorful noise makes you snooze better

Pink soundwaves, showing high and low noise frequencies.

If you find that your brain starts revving up as soon as your head hits the pillow, or you’re prone to tossing and turning when you should be snoozing, you’re not alone. Stress and anxiety can make your ZZZs feel far away.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

White noise machines (or phone apps that play white noise) are common solutions for sleeplessness.

But if you struggle with getting restful sleep, “you can experiment with different types of sound,” says sleep medicine expert Michelle Drerup, PsyD, DBSM.

That includes a different color of sound — such as pink noise.

What is pink noise?

We can’t see noise with our naked eye, only hear it. But noise exists on a colorful spectrum — think of it like a rainbow.

“There are all different colors of noise,” explains Dr. Drerup. Both pink and white noise contain all of the frequencies that humans can hear (ranging from 20 hertz to 20,000 hertz). With pink noise, though, certain frequencies — the lower ones — are more prominent.

“White noise is perfectly balanced across all frequencies,” says Dr. Drerup. “With pink noise, the higher frequencies are actually turned down. Pink noise sounds lower-pitched than white noise.”

As a result, you perceive these colors differently.

Pink noise vs. white noise

There haven’t been research studies comparing pink and white noise. But the two colors of sound do resemble different things.

“The best comparison is probably pink noise is the sound of a waterfall,” says Dr. Drerup. “White noise is more like static.”

Pink noise is often associated with certain relaxing sounds you might find in nature. Common comparisons for pink noise include:

  • Ocean waves.
  • A rushing river.
  • Leaves rustling in plants or trees.
  • Gentle, steady rainfall.

It doesn’t matter what kind of pink noise or white noise you pick, Dr. Drerup notes. Not everyone finds the sound of a babbling brook soothing, after all.

“Whatever you find relaxing works,” she says. “I had a patient who found techno music relaxing to help fall asleep. For me, that would be the last thing. But it has a steady beat, and it worked for them.”

How pink noise helps you sleep

Pink noise, white noise or any type of sound is generally safe for anyone to use. It helps you sleep by covering up distracting sounds that might disrupt your snoozing.

“That consistent noise creates a masking effect that blocks out sudden noises that might cause you to wake up,” explains Dr. Drerup. That might include a snoring bed partner, a barking dog or something outside, like a garbage truck.


“This noise tunes your auditory focus to that constant sound. You can find this to be soothing. It can also help you fall asleep — or fall back asleep — after waking.”

Certain kinds of noise might also affect you physically. In one study, pink noise increased deep sleep and improved memory in older adults.

“The pink noise actually enhances brain activity that’s associated with deep phases of sleep,” says Dr. Drerup

Using pink noise on a consistent basis can also lead you to associate pink noise with falling asleep.

“It’s like the child who conditions herself to fall asleep with a teddy bear,” says Dr. Drerup. “If she doesn’t have the teddy bear, she won’t sleep as well. Is the teddy bear changing her sleep? No, but she associates it with falling asleep.”

Thankfully, technology has also made this conditioning much more manageable to rely on.

“Before, people who used a fan to fall asleep couldn’t bring the fan with them when they were flying somewhere,” Dr. Drerup notes. “So, they’d have to go and buy a fan once they got to their destination.

“But now that there are apps, you’re not likely to be without it,” she says. “It’s easier to have a consistency with it.”

Tips for using pink noise

Pink noise is generally OK for anyone who wants to try it. But Dr. Dreup recognizes that if you live with hearing loss or are sensitive to sounds, you might find pink noise a bit frustrating. Even still, she says there’s probably not any concern if people want to try it out.

You might wonder if using earbuds to listen to pink noise is better than simply having a noise machine play. Dr. Drerup stresses that comfort and personal preference should be your guide. Some people, she says, like headphones that are like a headband, so they don’t have to have the earbuds in their ears.

There’s also no hard-and-fast rule regarding volume. “Some people might like it a little louder. For others, softer is better,” she says.

You can find pink noise in a variety of places, including sound machines, downloadable apps, or videos streaming on YouTube.

Dr. Drerup also adds that pink noise also isn’t a magic bullet to cure bad sleep hygiene.

“You need to make sure you get enough hours of sleep, have a consistent sleep schedule and don’t overdo it on caffeine,” she advises. “If you’re having difficulties sleeping, it’s not usually a one-trick pony that’s going to help you.”


Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Reiki being performed by practitioner, with hands hovering person's abdomen
July 16, 2024/Wellness
What Is Reiki? And Does It Actually Work?

Reiki is an energy-healing practice that many people describe as deeply calming and therapeutic — but it shouldn’t be used in place of conventional treatments

Person sleeping as alarm clock goes off
July 8, 2024/Sleep
Sleep Inertia: What It Is and How To Get Rid of It

A morning routine called RISE-UP may cut down the time you spend groggy and disoriented after waking up

Older person smiling, taking in the outdoors
June 13, 2024/Mental Health
Put Intention Behind Your Walking Meditation

While walking, be mindful of your body, your mind, your place in the world and all five of your senses as you pave a path forward, one step at a time

Happy couple sleeping in bed together, holding hands
June 3, 2024/Sleep
The Scandinavian Sleep Method: A Surprisingly Simple Fix for Couples Struggling With Blanket-Hogging

Sleeping with separate blankets can help you get the ZZZs you need — without fighting for covers all night

Person sitting on bed in pjs with head in hand, eyes closed
May 29, 2024/Sleep
Here’s What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep

Stress, weight gain and forgetfulness are just a few effects of losing sleep

Person in bed experiencing nightmares
May 22, 2024/Sleep
7 Reasons You’re Having Nightmares

Stress, alcohol, sleep apnea and (you guessed it!) scary movies are a few common causes of bad dreams

Person sitting in chair writing in tablet
May 21, 2024/Sleep
Should You Be Keeping a Dream Journal?

Recording your dreams may help you become more mindful, understand your thought patterns, process your emotions and even reduce your stress

Person sitting in bed in the evening, reading a book, with cup of tea on bedside table
May 15, 2024/Sleep
Restless? Try These Bedtime Teas for Better Sleep

Chamomile, lavender and valerian root teas may offer a faster route to dreamland

Trending Topics

Female and friend jogging outside
How To Increase Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

Focus on your body’s metabolic set point by eating healthy foods, making exercise a part of your routine and reducing stress

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals may make life easier — but they aren’t always so easy on the human body

jar of rice water and brush, with rice scattered around table
Could Rice Water Be the Secret To Healthier Hair?

While there’s little risk in trying this hair care treatment, there isn’t much science to back up the claims