The Ultimate Guide to Colored Noise

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colored noise spectrum

Colored noise has been taking the world by storm little by little over the past few decades. People swear by their white noise machines and post on their socials how much they adore newer colors like pink, green, and brown noise. While the best color noise for sleep varies from person to person, some evidence shows certain colors may help more than others. In this article, we’ll break down the different color noises and their benefits.

Long Story Short

  • Noises of all colors can help you sleep. You may prefer the hiss of white noise, the deep hum of green noise, or another choice in the rainbow of options.
  • Many have found they can fall asleep quicker and stay asleep better when surrounded by colored noise, although research doesn’t always agree on how much it helps.
  • You can use an app, online videos, or a white noise machine to find your perfect sleeping sound.

What Is Colored Noise? 

The color of a noise describes its power spectrum: its strength and frequency. (1) Sound comes at us in waves: tight, short waves (high frequency), long, loping waves (low frequency), or anywhere in between. 

For example, blue noise has a high frequency and sounds like a hiss, whereas brown noise has a lower frequency with a deeper sound. When colored noise fills the room as you sleep, it can mask other disruptive commotion that might otherwise wake you up. 

White Noise 

White noise, also called broadband noise, includes all frequencies equally and hisses like TV static. (2) Or for all those born after 1990, think of the sound a vacuum or hair dryer makes. “Some people might prefer white noise, as it’s good for masking other sounds, which can be helpful if you’re trying to sleep in a noisy environment,” Dr. Chester Wu, MD, sleep medicine physician, tells Sleepopolis. 

Dripping faucet? Active nocturnal cat? City life outside your window? You may not hear this nighttime cacophony as well if white noise masks it. (3, 4) Additionally, white noise does more than just help you sleep. Studies suggest it can: (5,6,7)

  • Boost memory
  • Improve ADHD symptoms
  • Increase reading and writing speed
  • Soothe babies

You can find white noise on most sound machines, download a white noise app on your phone, or find a looping video on your computer. You could also leave your vacuum running all night in your bedroom corner, but that may not be the most efficient option — a more realistic choice could be investing in an oscillating fan; though it’s not technically white noise, the effect is similar. 

Brown Noise

Like white noise, brown noise uses all sound frequencies but turns up the volume on the low end. Brown noise, also called red noise, is more turbulent than other frequencies. (2

You may like brown noise for sleep if white noise feels too high-pitched, as it has a deeper sound than other colors. This can make brown noise more soothing to some people, says Wu, and is often compared to the sound of a waterfall or heavy rain. Research has found that brown noise can promote: (1

  • Faster reaction time
  • Improved memory
  • Increased executive function (organizational skills) (8)
  • Longer attention span (continuous performance)

Brown noise may not be for everyone. One small study reported some participants complained of irritation and discomfort when listening to brown noise. (1) You can find brown noise on YouTube or on many different colored sound apps on your smartphone or tablet and give it a try.

Green noise 

Compared to other colored noises, green noise is fresh on the sleep sound scene. TikTok videos of soothing green noise have exploded recently, and people are going gaga for this new frequency. (9) To get an idea of green noise vs. white noise, imagine the sound of wind or a gentle flow of water compared to a vacuum or an airplane engine. 

Research on green noise is lacking, but the internet masses claim it can do many of the things other colored noises can do, including:

  • Calm anxiety
  • Improve sleep quality
  • Promote relaxation

The TikTok crowd says green noise is the most relaxing. You may enjoy green noise if you are sensitive to sound or if you want a more chill soundtrack to your snoozing.

Pink Noise 

Pink noise is a mix of white and red (brown) noise, which gives it its name. “[Some] prefer pink noise, which sounds deeper and warmer than white noise,” says Wu. Pink noise is reminiscent of a calm, steady rain, wind-rustled leaves, or waves crashing on the beach. Pink noise pitch stays more steady than other colored noise, giving it a flat, soothing sound. (3)

Like other colored noise, pink noise can help filter out ambient sounds in your sleeping environment and help your sleep stay uninterrupted. Research also suggests pink noise can improve: (3,10,11)

  • Continuous performance (attention span)
  • Focus
  • Memory
  • Productivity

How does pink noise do this? Experts think pink noise waves may trigger a part of the brain called the hypothalamus to transfer messages to and from the brain faster. (1) You may enjoy pink noise over white or brown for its uniform, calming sound. You can find pink noise on most white noise apps and on YouTube. 

Other Noise Colors 

While the above noise colors are the most popular, pretty much every hue of the rainbow has a sound assigned to it. Each color represents a different combination of frequencies and volumes.

Blue Noise

Blue noise sounds similar to white noise but at a higher frequency and pitch. Blue noise also differs from white in that as the pitch goes up, so does the volume. (12) Note

Violet Noise

Violet noise is similar to blue but at an even higher pitch. Its volume also jumps up exponentially with the pitch, even more than blue does. Some suggest violet noise can help with chronic ringing in the ears, called tinnitus, although no recent human studies confirm this claim. 

Grey Noise

Grey noise focuses on both the lowest and highest frequencies, similar to white noise but with more balance. (13) Some report grey noise is softer and quieter than white noise. 

Can Colored Noise Help You Sleep? 

Adding colored noise to your sleeping environment is a personal preference. But some evidence shows colored noise may help you sleep better. (3) One recent study review reports 38 percent of people fell asleep faster listening to white noise. (2) A different study review from 2022 found colored noise did not help people fall asleep or stay asleep, but it also didn’t cause any negative effects. (14) Basically: It doesn’t hurt to try.

Some colors may help you sleep more than others. In yet another study, researchers exposed patients in the hospital to white, pink, and brown noise. All colors helped, but white and pink helped a bit more. (15

You may prefer the steady high-pitch of white noise, or the soothing lower hum of pink noise. More choppy brown noise could be your jam or you may like the gentler green noise option. You can try different noises on different nights to see which helps you sleep the best.

Colored noise can help you sleep by blocking out other disruptive noises in your environment.

How to Use Colored Noise for Sleep

If you want to try colored noise, you can go with any of several options:

  • Apps: Search your phone or tablet’s app store for white noise apps. Many offer a large library of sounds, and some even let you mix and match.
  • Online resources: If you do an internet search for any color noise, a long list of videos should pop up. Many of these are looped to last many hours, allowing you to play it all night right from your computer.
  • White noise machine: As many noise colors you have to choose from, even more noise machines await your selection. You can find sound machines at most general stores and online.

You can fill your sleeping space with colored noise from the speakers of your phone, tablet, or sound machine. Or, if you share a sleep area, you can use headphones.

Use Caution

Colored noise can offer a fantastic sleep aid, but keep an eye on the volume. Listening to noise over 70 decibels for an extended time can cause hearing damage. (3,16)

Sounds like normal conversation or a refrigerator hum stay below 70, but lawnmowers and washing machines can push it over that limit. A good rule of thumb: if the noise starts to irritate you, it may be too loud. (17)


What color noise is best for sleeping?

One study found white and pink noise work best for sleep, but you may find a different color works better for you. “The “best” color noise for sleep can vary from person to person, as it largely depends on individual preferences and what each person finds most soothing,” says Wu.

What color noise is best for sleep anxiety?

No studies have proven one color noise can help sleep anxiety better than another. You’ll know pretty fast if a certain sound will calm you or ratchet up the anxiety, so try a few out to find which soothes your sleep anxiety best.

What color noise helps deep sleep?

Pink noise produces brain waves that look similar to those in deep sleep, so this color may help your sleep stay deep. (2)

The Last Word From Sleepopolis 

Colored noise can provide an easy, low-cost option to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. The continuous sound can help to mask any sudden noises that would otherwise jerk you awake at night. “Experiment with different types of noise to see which works best for you,” says Wu. Your choice of noise color may depend on a lot of factors, but some trial and error will direct you to the right one for you. 


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Abby McCoy

Abby McCoy

Abby McCoy is an RN of 16 years who has worked with adults and pediatric patients encompassing trauma, orthopedics, home care, transplant, and case management. She has practiced nursing all over the world from San Fransisco, CA to Tharaka, Kenya. Abby loves spending time with her husband, four kids, and their cat named Cat.