If you struggle to fall asleep at night, a new Tik-tok trend could be the answer to all of your troubles. You’ve probably heard of white noise, but recently the Tik-tok community has been exploring many other types of ‘coloured noise’ - all with different benefits when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep.
Research has found almost 1 in 5 people in the UK aren’t getting enough sleep and this can have serious physical and mental health impacts. But ahead of World Sleep Day on March 17 behavioural science expert James Picken at Startle explains how TikTok’s colour noise trend could improve your sleep.
What is TikTok’s colour noise trend?
New parents will be familiar with using white noise to help send their babies to sleep, yet many adults won’t have considered putting on a nondescript soundtrack at night. Global TikTok creators are singing the praises of different types of background noise to fall asleep to, with #pinknoise and #brownnoise videos being viewed over 90 million times on the platform – and counting.
Background noise can aid sleep by masking exterior sounds that you can’t control, like traffic or talking. It can also help distract the mind from anxious or intrusive thoughts that can keep you up at night. Essentially, calm, consistent sounds relax the mind and prepare it for sleep.
What is ‘coloured’ noise?
Coloured noise is a random sound signal playing at a constant spectral frequency. There are many different types, and each colour of noise has a particular density. The three main types are outlined below:
The most well-known coloured noise. It contains all audible frequencies in the sound spectrum at equal intensity and mixes them to create a steady, humming sound. It may be perceived as high-pitched because the human ear hears high frequencies louder.
Examples include a fan, radio or TV static, and air conditioning. Studies have shown white noise can improve sleep quality and duration and can be particularly beneficial in high noise environments like cities.
Like white noise, pink noise is a steady background hum. The key difference to white noise is that it uses deeper sounds and lower sound waves, making it smoother and more relaxing.
Since higher frequencies are perceived louder, the energy levels of pink noise drop by three decibels per ascending octave so that each octave is perceived evenly. The result is a more even, flat sound, like falling rain, rustling leaves, or ocean waves. Many people find it the better choice for sleep and concentration.
Brown noise, also known as red noise, creates a rumbling sound with a bass-like tone even deeper than pink noise. Sound level decreases as frequency increases.
Some sleep apps use this sound instead of pink noise to give it a deeper, grainier effect. Studies have shown that many sufferers of Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) prefer the softness of brown noise for treating their symptoms. It’s also shown to enhance your thinking skills, so next time you need to focus, give it a go.
And there’s more...
There are various other coloured noises, including violet (high frequency), blue noise (all treble and no bass), grey noise (a more balanced take on white noise, emitting noise at both high and low frequencies), and green noise, focusing on the mid frequencies found in nature.
What happens if you and your partner don’t agree?
If you’re sleeping next to someone who sleeps fine already, they might not want you to play these sounds out loud. Or you might disagree on what coloured noise is the most soothing to fall asleep to. If this is the case, there are special headphones designed for sleeping that use a soft headband to keep them in place. Alternatively, try all the coloured noise to see if there is one you can both agree on.