Personal Growth

For Deeper Sleep and a Stronger Memory, Listen to "Pink Noise"

A love for sleep is what unites all of humanity. Probably. In any case, many people are on a never-ending mission to elevate their snooze sessions, from choosing the perfect pillow to setting the perfect room temperature. One more tip to take your bedtime to the next level: pink noise.

Sweet Dreams Are Made of Pink

You may not have Arianna Huffington's incredibly involved nighttime ritual, but at least you know not to overuse your smartphone when sleep time is coming near, right? Whether you put maximum or minimal effort into getting a good night's rest, throwing "pink noise" in the mix is another low-effort, high-impact strategy for getting the most out of your sleep. You've probably heard of white noise. Pink noise is a lot like that, except with a special blend of high and low frequencies that sounds a bit more pleasant and balanced. According to Berkeley Wellness, pink noise is a little deeper than white noise and mimics natural sounds like rustling leaves and rushing waterfalls. White noise is more akin to a hissing teapot and that familiar buzz of TV static.

Listen to Pink Noise Here

Studies have shown that both pink and white noise can help people fall asleep and stay asleep. In a 2012 study published by Chinese researchers in the Journal of Theoretical Biology, analysis participants' brain waves showed that they slept— and napped — much better when pink noise was playing. In another study, published in Neuron in 2013, German researchers synced up pulses of pink noise with participants' brain waves. Whenever the participants were identified as being in deep sleep, the pink noise would play. Compared to no noise at all, the pink noise corresponded with longer periods of deep sleep. It also gave the participants a bonus jolt of memory: The morning after a night of pink noise, they were able to recall pairs of words they read before going to sleep much better than they were after a night of no noise.

Pretty Sleepy in Pink

A 2017 study of pink noise found similar results for a specific demographic. "We wanted to see if it would work in older people, too," senior author Dr. Phyllis Zee, a professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, tells TIME. Published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, this study looked at 13 subjects age 60 and older for two nights. Each night, they were given a memory test, then either slept in silence or with a series of short bursts of pink noise playing.

"The noise is fairly pleasant; it kind of resembles a rush of water," says Zee. "It's just noticeable enough that the brain realizes it's there, but not enough to disturb sleep."

Similar to the results of the 2013 study, the subjects slept more deeply and performed much better on a memory recall test the morning after a pink noise sleep than after a silent one. Given that older adults are at risk of memory impairment and tend not to sleep as deeply, the results are pretty promising. Score one more for pink noise.

Though multiple studies support the idea that some noise can improve your sleep and your memory, no study has pitted the different "colors" of sleep against each other to see which might reign supreme. For now, anyway, it's all up to your preference. If you prefer the higher pitched frequencies and want to have a go at better sleep, try white noise. If rushing water is more your jam, try pink noise. Happy snoozing!

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Ready to elevate your sleep? Check out the "Pink Noise for Relaxation, Meditation & Sleep" audio CD. We handpick recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Joanie Faletto April 3, 2018

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