How Brown Noise Can Improve Sleep Quality

What exactly is brown noise, and how can its low frequency help you get better sleep?

A rocky landscape with a waterfall sprouting from the top. Text reads: Brown noise
Leo Medrano

Brown noise, also known as red noise or Brownian noise, is a broadband color noise like white noise, violet noise, gray noise, and pink noise, which includes all the frequencies a human ear can hear.

Brown noise is named after Robert Brown, a Scottish botanist credited with documenting the frenetic motion of pollen, a phenomenon now called Brownian motion. The resulting signal noise from the movement is brown noise.

What does brown noise sound like?

Every color noise differs in which parts of the audible frequency spectrum they emphasize. Brown noise boosts the intensity of lower-frequency sounds, leading to a deeper rumble than pink noise or white noise, which can make it sound more pleasant and soothing. Likened to rushing water or rainfall, the water-like sound of brown noise has helped some people reduce racing thoughts and get better sleep, but more research is needed to understand this sound and its effect on human health.

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Brown Noise Example

What is the science behind brown noise?

Brown noise is a broadband sound that contains every frequency the human ear can detect. It sounds deeper than the other broadband sounds, including white and pink noise, due to its emphasis on the lower end of the frequency spectrum. Anecdotal reports suggest that brown noise may affect the auditory system, brain, and other biological systems in beneficial ways, which can lead to improved sleep. However, the research is extremely limited, and more studies are needed to understand the science behind brown noise.

Can you reduce racing thoughts before bed with brown noise?

Scroll through TikTok, and you’ll come across videos of people listening to brown noise, claiming their brain has never been so calm. There are countless anecdotes of people reporting that brown noise helps them calm anxiety, stop overthinking, feel less overwhelmed, and silence their minds. While those experiences are entirely valid, unfortunately, there’s no research that proves brown noise can reduce racing thoughts better than any other color noise, or even at all. However, despite the lack of studies, this type of sound could provide mental health benefits to some individuals.

If racing thoughts make it difficult for you to get to sleep, it could be worth experimenting with brown noise in your bedtime routine to see if it helps. Simply training your brain to associate brown noise (or any other sound you find relaxing) with sleep could help you wind down more quickly.

“If you turn brown noise on every time you’re going to bed, just the act of playing brown noise signals to the brain that now is the time to sleep,” explained Dan Berlau, Ph.D., professor of pharmaceutical sciences at Regis University.

What is brown noise best for?

Scientists have yet to figure out whether brown noise provides health benefits, but some individuals say it works magic on a busy, anxious mind. One of the best things about brown noise might actually be the sound itself, though.

“Brown noise is perceived as being more pleasant. People are more likely to use it because it sounds good,” said Berlau.

So, if you find brown noise helps with a particular health concern, such as anxiety, it could be an easy, enjoyable tool for you to incorporate on a consistent basis.

What does brown noise do to your brain?

Since there are limited studies on brown noise, scientists have yet to understand what brown noise does to the brain. However, research on the effect of music on the brain could provide some clues. A 2020 report indicated that slow, repetitive rhythms often provide a sense of safety and familiarity, which can stimulate the brain’s sleep response. It’s possible that brown noise may provide a similar effect, but further study is needed.

Is brown noise good for anxiety?

While no large-scale studies have been conducted on the health effects of brown noise, some individuals say it helps calm their anxiety. This may be due to brown noise’s ability to mask other annoying sounds, or it could simply be because the deep, static-like tone makes them feel calm.

Can brown noise stop overthinking?

A lack of research means there’s still a lot of mystery around brown noise and its purported ability to stop overthinking in some individuals. In other words, there’s no proof yet that it will (or won’t!) put an end to your ruminations.

Brown noise could be used as a way to distract yourself, however. Experts say a healthy distraction can be a helpful tool to combat overthinking. So, if brown noise happens to be a healthy distraction for you, it may indeed interrupt your overthinking and offer some relief.