A new study conducted by Northwestern University has indicated that pink noise—soft, random sound stimulation—may improve memory recall and the quality of deep sleep.
The study, which involved thirteen people aged 60 and older, has produced some promising results for those looking to slow down age-related memory loss. Subjects who were exposed to pink noise in their sleep demonstrated three times better memory recall the next day than those exposed to a sound placebo.
This is promising research for anyone worried about mental acuity. Keep reading to learn more about this pink noise phenomenon and how you can take advantage of it.
Pink noise—and other colored noises like white and brown noise—refers to ambient background sounds that fall on particular parts of the sound spectrum.
White noise, which is better known than pink or brown noise, emphasizes all frequencies equally. It can sound a bit harsh to human ears due to the intensity of higher tones.
Pink noise is similar to white noise, but it emphasizes lower tones, so it sounds much gentler and less abrasive. Brown noise goes even lower than pink noise, cutting higher octaves in favor of darker bass tones.
One example of pink noise is the sound of a rushing waterfall—a sound that’s more like a low hum than a hiss. You may already be listening to pink noise in your sleep without realizing it, thanks to the sound of a fan or steady rainfall.
How pink noise benefits the brain
In a previous study from 2013, German scientists examined how pink noise affects memory recall in younger adults. Much like the Northwestern University researchers, they found that certain sounds, when synchronized with brainwave frequencies, help lengthen deep sleep cycles and enhance memory.
When participants listened to pink noise during the experiment, they showed larger, slower brain waves, which are often linked to better memory and processing skills.
The day after sleeping with pink noise, subjects remembered 69% more words in a memory recall test than they did after a night without pink noise.
The link between sleep and mental performance is already well established, and this study further highlights a correlation between concentration during the day and sleep quality at night.
Where to find pink noise to play at night
YouTube, Spotify, and SoundCloud are all great places to find pink noise you can play gently in the background while you sleep. Just create your own playlist, turn it on each night, and wait to see whether or not your sleep health seems to improve.
You can also download an app specifically for helpful sleep sounds, such as Relax Melodies or Noisli. Even the act of falling asleep can be easier with pink noise playing, so give it a go and see how you might benefit.
Science will no doubt continue to study the effects of pink noise on memory, aging, and sleep health, but with the positive implications of the research that has already been done, you may as well implement it in your routine now. It’s an easy way to do something positive for your body and brain.
Have a friend or family member concerned about sleep health or memory? Share this article with them, and see if they, too, can benefit from the positive impacts of pink noise.
Hilary is a health and wellness consultant and journalist based in Utah. She’s written for publications like Today, PurposeFairy, KSL News, and Girls’ Life, and she’s been quoted for her expertise in publications like Reader’s Digest, Mamapedia, and Best Life. She specializes in sleep technology and science, family health and wellness and sleep disorders.