How Pink Noise Can Reduce Stress & Anxiety

Pink noise has become a popular option among color noises, and early research suggests it may help drown out those more distracting noises at night.

A dense forest with a pink overlay. Text reads: Pink Noise
Leo Medrano

It’s possible for color noises to become trendy; pink noise may be the noise of the moment.

While white noise can be traced back to the 17th century, pink noise wasn’t discovered until the 1970s. Pink noise is a broadband sound in the color noise spectrum, like white noise, but it reduces the intensity of higher frequencies.

Fans of pink noise say it can sound naturally soothing, almost like rainfall or a flowing river. While there are no proven health benefits of pink noise, some people find it to be so relaxing, they use it to counteract stress and anxiety, and even support better sleep.

How pink noise helps sleep

Pink noise is among the newer color noises and is less well-known than white noise. But that does not diminish its usefulness. Early studies have shown that pink noise may offer several sleep benefits.

Get to sleep faster: A proof-of-concept trial in 2020 found that listening to a pink noise track that gradually softens as you drift off helps reduce how long it takes to fall asleep and slip into a sound sleep.

Enhance deep sleep: In a 2020 study, participants spent more time in stage 3 sleep, or deep sleep, when they heard pink noise at certain points throughout the night.

Promote stable sleep: Steady pink noise was demonstrated to lower the complexity level of brain waves and promote stable sleep time with fewer interruptions in a 2012 report.

Block distracting noises: Pink noise, along with other consistent sounds, can create a masking effect that can block out sudden noises, per the Cleveland Clinic. This could help you sleep through distracting noises in the night, such as a barking dog, noisy neighbors, or car alarms.

It’s important to note that the research on pink noise and other color noises so far is extremely limited. Small groups of participants, very short-term trials, and lack of clearly defined noise colors used in studies are among the problems with the current research, says Dr. Mathias Basner, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, who has co-authored a systematic review of broadband noise as a sleep aid, making it difficult to draw firm conclusions on how pink noise (or any other color noise) can improve sleep or provide additional health benefits.

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Pink Noise Example

What does pink noise do to your brain?

There isn’t much research yet on the ways pink noise affects the brain, but early studies have provided some limited insight. In 2012, researchers found that pink noise synchronized brain waves and made brain activity less complex. A 2020 study on rodents demonstrated that pink noise seemed to reduce signs of pain and increase the density of sleep spindles, which are bursts of brain activity that occur during non-REM sleep. Pink noise may also help improve the brain’s ability to recall specific words after sleep in older adults, according to research from 2017.

More studies are needed to determine exactly what pink noise does to your brain.

Can pink noise damage your hearing?

While pink noise played at a low volume appears to be safe for short-term use, it’s unclear how it may affect our hearing over the long run.

Any sound can damage your hearing if played too loudly for too long, and that includes pink noise. Keep the volume as low as possible and only use pink noise for the minimum amount of time needed to promote rest and relaxation, in order to reduce your risk of hearing damage.

Is it good to sleep with pink noise all night?

Early studies have shown that pink noise may help you fall asleep more quickly and promote more stable sleep, but research has yet to determine whether it’s safe to sleep with pink noise in the background all night long. If you plan to sleep with pink noise all night for an extended period, keep the volume low and set a timer that turns off the noise 30 to 60 minutes after bedtime, just to be safe.

Is pink noise good for anxiety?

While some people find pink noise soothing, no study has proven that it can provide relief from anxiety. However, one way it may work is by masking unwanted noise. Anxiety and depression are twice as common in areas where there are high levels of disruptive or annoying sounds, such as road traffic and planes flying overhead. Finding a way to block out triggering sounds, such as with pink noise, could potentially provide some relief from anxiety, but more research is needed.