What Is Pink Noise?

Pink noise can block out annoying sounds and may help you sleep better

Pink noise contains all the sound frequencies that humans can hear. Unlike white noise—which represents all the frequencies equally—the higher frequencies in pink noise are less intense.

For many people, pink noise can block out annoying background sounds without sounding harsh or shrill. Some people use pink noise to help them sleep.

This article will go over what pink noise is. You'll learn how pink noise is different from white noise and brown noise, why you might want to try using pink noise, and whether listening to pink noise can be harmful.

Verywell / Theresa Chiechi

How Pink Noise Works

Pink noise is a noise "color" like white noise. The colors are used to describe the frequencies that are in the noise.

Colors of Light and Sound

Using colors to describe sounds comes from how we talk about the colors on the spectrum of light that we can see.

For example, white light includes all colors on the spectrum. Similarly, white noise has all frequencies of sound in it that humans can hear.

Some common examples of white noise are a running vacuum and television static. These sounds can be used to block out unwanted noises when people are trying to focus or sleep.

The problem with white noise is that all the frequencies come through at the same intensity. Human ears don't really like high-pitched sounds, so white noise be annoying or even unpleasant for some people.

Pink noise tries to fix this problem. Pink noise still has all audible sounds, but the lower frequencies are amplified and the higher frequencies are diminished.

The key to pink noise is that the higher frequencies are less intense. Since they are "gentler," your ears are less likely to get overwhelmed by them. The calming lower frequencies can make pink noise sound more soothing.

Examples of Pink Noise

Many natural sounds are examples of pink noise—for example, waves crashing on a beach, leaves rustling in the trees, and rain falling.

That said, not all natural sounds are pink noise. Sounds that emphasize low frequencies even more than pink noise are called brown noise. For example, thunder or the sound of a far-off waterfall are examples of brown noise.

Can Pink Noise Help With Sleep?

There’s a lot of evidence that using sound to cover up background noises can help people sleep better, but most of that research was been done on white noise:

  • One study found that white noise helped hospital patients fall asleep 40% faster.
  • White noise may help infants sleep better and may even help kids concentrate in school.

Research has suggested that pink noise can help with sleep, too. Pink noise might even boost memory since our memories are stored when we're in deep sleep.

Here are a few examples of what studies have found about pink noise:

  • A 2017 study looked at the effect of pink noise on sleep in a small group of 13 older adults. The study found that listening to pink noise while sleeping increased slow wave activity in the brain, which is associated with deep sleep.
  • A similar study in 2016 found that pink noise improved sleep and memory for younger adults who were taking a daytime nap.
  • Two studies, in 2012 and 2013, also found that exposure to pink noise could lead to deeper sleep, longer sleep, and improved memory. The findings were true for nighttime sleep and daytime naps.

Should I Listen to Pink Noise or Another Color?

Pink noise is just one of several noise colors. While people often refer to any noise that’s meant to mask background sounds as white noise, not all of those sounds are actually white noise. There are actually two more colors of noise: brown and blue.

Here are some of the benefits of each noise color:

  • White noise: Represents all audible sound frequencies equally. It's good at masking background noises, but some people find it annoying to listen to because their ears hear the high-frequency noises the most.
  • Pink noise: Includes the full range of audible sounds, but the lower frequencies are amplified, and the higher frequencies are diminished. It sounds more soothing to many people who might find white noise annoying.
  • Brown noise: Brown noise contains all sound frequencies, but the low, bass tones are strongest.
  • Blue noise: Blue noise is the opposite of brown noise. It contains all the audible frequencies, but the higher-pitched frequencies are amplified. To most people, blue noise sounds harsh, so it’s not a common option for sleep support. However, some people still find it helpful.

Can Pink Noise Be Harmful?

It's not clear whether listening to pink noise (or any other color noise) can be harmful. Often, the worst thing that happens is that someone tries listening to pink sound and just finds that it "doesn't do anything for them."

However, we're still learning about how white, brown, and pink noise might affect us, including whether it has benefits for focus and sleep or whether listening to it might have health risks.

While some research has suggested that people may sleep better with white noise, experts say that it may not benefit everyone. Some studies have shown that certain colors of noise might actually make sleep worse.

Whatever color you're listening to, any noise can be harmful to you if it's too loud. If you're listening to any sounds (especially with headphones) make sure that you're listening at a safe, comfortable volume and that you give your ears a break (for example, setting your noise app timing to shut off after you've fallen asleep).

How to Find a Pink Noise Machine

A pink noise machine is not as easy to come by as a white noise machine. Some apps have clearly labeled sounds for pink noise, white noise, and even brown noise. Even if they don't, you might be able to find pink sounds if you know what to look for.

Many noise machine apps actually do have pink noise options even if they don’t specifically call it pink noise—for example, waves crashing on the beach or light rainfall.


Pink noise is one of the many "colors" of noise that some people use to help drown out background noise, improve their focus, or even help them sleep better.

There's more research on white noise than other noise colors, but some studies have shown that pink noise might help with sleep and concentration.

You won't know which noise color works best for you until you try them out. One of the easiest ways to see if pink noise works for you is to use a pink noise machine or app. If you're not sure what your pink noise options are, look for sounds like waves crashing or gentle rainfall.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is pink noise good for anxiety?

    Some people find that pink noise is best for their anxiety. Pink noise might be best for anxiety because it's a lower frequency than white noise.

  • Does pink noise help ADHD?

    The best color noise if you have ADHD isn't clear; it may come down to personal preference. In some studies, white noise was found to be most helpful to people with ADHD who were trying to focus. Other research has found that brown noise tends to be more beneficial for ADHD.

  • What if pink noise doesn't help me sleep?

    If you've been trying to get better sleep with pink noise and it's not working, remember that practicing good sleep hygiene is also important.

    Going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time each day, keeping your bedroom dark, and minimizing your use of electronics in the bedroom are steps you can take to get better sleep.

11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Boynton E. What is pink noise? Right As Rain by UW Medicine.

  2. American Museum of Natural History. The Color of Light.

  3. Barone J. Pink noise for sleep. Berkeley Wellness.

  4. Messineo L, Taranto-Montemurro L, Sands SA, Oliveira Marques MD, Azabarzin A, Wellman DA. Broadband sound administration improves sleep onset latency in healthy subjects in a model of transient insomniaFront Neurol. 2017;8:718. doi:10.3389/fneur.2017.00718

  5. Pacheco D. What is white noise? The Sleep Foundation.

  6. University of Pennsylvania. The Impact of Sleep on Learning and Memory.

  7. Papalambros NA, Santostasi G, Malkani RG, Braun R, Weintraub S, Paller KA, Zee PC. Acoustic enhancement of sleep slow oscillations and concomitant memory improvement in older adults. Front Hum Neurosci. 2017 Mar 8;11:109. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2017.00109

  8. Ong JL, Lo JC, Chee NI, Santostasi G, Paller KA, Zee PC, Chee MW. Effects of phase-locked acoustic stimulation during a nap on EEG spectra and declarative memory consolidation. Sleep Med. 2016 Apr;20:88-97. doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2015.10.016

  9. Capritto A. The secret to better sleep: Pink, blue and brown noise. CNet.

  10. Riedy SM, Smith MG, Rocha S, Basner M. Noise as a sleep aid: A systematic reviewSleep Medicine Reviews. 2021;55:101385.

  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tips for better sleep.

By Kelly Burch
Kelly Burch is has written about health topics for more than a decade. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and more.