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Monday, January 30, 2023

How Listening To Pink Noise Can Aid Your Sleep

The sound is a soft roar—kind of like a distant waterfall, or the wind whistling through your car window on a long drive. It’s continuous, fuzzy, and surprisingly soothing.

Welcome to “brown noise” — the latest trend to help improve concentration.

While most of us have heard of white noise — that blizzard-like static you hear on TV channels when they go out of service — brown noise is made up of lower-frequency, deeper sounds.

It has become popular on social media as a learning aid—on sites such as Tik Toka video of people hearing brown noise for the first time garnered millions of views.

Advocates gushed about a profound sense of calm, while some with ADHD claimed it focused their minds better than drugs.

It’s not just brown or white noise; there’s “pink” noise, which is said to help you fall asleep and sleep longer; and “binaural beats,” to help focus and relieve anxiety.

It’s become popular on social media as a study aid — videos of people hearing brown noise for the first time have racked up millions of views on apps like TikTok

But while we might be interested in the idea that different sounds can improve our focus, mood and productivity, “it’s important to find out what the real impact is on the brain,” says Nilli Lavie, a professor of psychology and brain sciences. University College London.

So what’s the science behind these sounds – all of which are freely available on YouTube – and can they really help us? When I tried them out to see if the noise had any effect on my concentration, Professor Lavie gave her conclusions.

The sound is a soft roar—kind of like a distant waterfall, or the wind whistling through your car window on a long drive. It's continuous, fuzzy, and surprisingly soothing.Welcome to 'brown noise' - the latest trend to help improve concentration

The sound is a soft roar—kind of like a distant waterfall, or the wind whistling through your car window on a long drive. It’s continuous, fuzzy, and surprisingly soothing.Welcome to ‘brown noise’ – the latest trend to help improve concentration

White Noise

It was a familiar sound, similar to the ‘shh’ of a hair dryer. Engineers identified it as far back as the 1920s to include all frequencies audible to the human ear, between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz – a very low organ pipe might produce a sound at 20 Hz, while a dog whistle can produce 20,000 Hz Hertz sound.

This span is why it’s called “white” noise, for the recognition of light that turns white when all light frequencies are in one beam.

Professor Lavie said “some studies” showed it could improve concentration, both in people with ADHD and others. “And there’s a good explanation,” she added. “White noise contains all the frequencies of a mixed sound, so it helps to mask the surrounding sounds very well. Concentration is better when there are no distracting distractions – white noise will help to eliminate these distractions There is a compelling reason for its efficacy and a good mechanism behind it.

My conclusion: To test the ability of white noise to improve concentration, I sat at the kitchen table and listened to write. There are plenty of options available online, some will run for ten hours or more, and are clearly intended to be used at night. I found that I did feel more focused. Maybe the white noise filters out background noise — like my cat’s paws on the kitchen floor — that temporarily distracts me.

This span is why it's called

This span is why it’s called “white” noise for the recognition of light, which turns white when all light frequencies are in one beam

pink noise

Like white noise, pink noise contains all frequencies detectable by humans. The difference is that the higher frequencies are intentionally turned down, i.e. muted.

This should mean that pink noise may be particularly effective at masking high-frequency noises—for example, the annoying screeching beep of a car alarm—because the low-frequency sounds in pink noise are relatively more intense.

Professor Ravi said: “The amount by which pink noise alters the sound energy – simply put, the intensity of the volume – is inversely proportional to the frequency. So it makes high frequency sounds appear quieter.

“It’s interesting, although it hasn’t been studied as much as white noise. Because of this attenuation of high frequencies, it might sound more pleasing to some people than white noise. If you know you’re specifically trying to block more high-pitched sound, then this might be worth a try.

My conclusion: Like light rain, this is less jarring than white noise, but has a similar cocooning effect. I try it around 3:30pm when I know the kids are leaving the nearby elementary school – a reliably high-pitched time of day – and it works great.

Brownian noise

The popularity of brown noise may be relatively recent, but it’s actually named after Scottish botanist Robert Brown, who in 1827 discovered “Brownian motion”—the phenomenon observed under a microscope of objects suspended in Pollen grains in water move randomly.

Brownian noise mimics this oscillation, in which the sound signal changes randomly from one moment to the next, creating an overall impression of static—which is said to improve concentration. Some users described it as “life changing”.

Professor Ravi said: “Brown noise is like an exaggerated version of pink noise. So while pink noise reduces the intensity of high frequencies to make it sound quieter, brown noise does the same, but in a more extreme way. – so the impression left is only low frequency and bass-heavy notes.

As a result, the sound is lower and more boomy than pink noise. Like pink noise, it may help block out high-pitched noises, and some fans believe it may actually be more effective at helping you fall asleep.

My conclusion: This sounds more comforting than pink noise or white noise. It’s deeper, like a gust of wind, which makes me feel extra comfortable and focused in front of my laptop.

binaural beat

For this, you need a pair of headphones. This is because binaural beats are created when two slightly different sound frequencies are played in each ear, and your brain then breaks down the difference.

For example, if you hear 400 Hz in your right ear and 410 Hz in your left ear, your binaural beat is approximately 10 Hz. But that sound only exists in your own head – it’s an auditory illusion. This, fans say, is where the magic comes in. Instead of hearing two competing sounds, your brain produces its own sound, which is rhythmic rather than continuous.

“The brain is ‘tricked’ into perceiving them as one sound coming from a middle position, and the difference in frequency is what creates the perception of beats,” explains Professor Ravi. She says there is some research showing that listening to binaural beats may Improve concentration. “The hypothesis is that this approach causes the brain to generate brain waves at the same frequency as the sound it perceives, and sometimes it seems to work.”

By stimulating particularly beneficial brain waves, binaural beats are supposed to enhance cognitive and emotional function—potentially improving memory and concentration, reducing anxiety and promoting better sleep.

“This is a completely different masking mechanism than white noise,” Professor Ravi said. “There have been studies measuring brain waves while people perform a task that requires concentration — listening to binaural beats — that do show brain entrainment, but overall these studies are far from conclusive.” People claim that binaural beats should be treated with caution precisely because of their effect on brain waves.

My conclusion: Binaural beat lovers recommend listening for 45 minutes before concentrating. I’m trying this with an old broken headset. It sounds a lot like a vibrating bell, and the effect is dramatic—I get goosebumps listening to it, and feel extra awake while working.

Overall Verdict: The binaural beats had the most noticeable effect on my mental state, but they weren’t background noise – so I thought I’d probably use them before starting something, then brown noise since I found it the most soothing.

Professor Ravi said: “When you find something that helps you focus, you feel like you’ve hit the jackpot. Our research shows that when people can focus, they feel happier.

By stimulating particularly beneficial brain waves, binaural beats are supposed to enhance cognitive and emotional function¿May improve memory and concentration, reduce anxiety and promote good sleep

By stimulating particularly beneficial brain waves, binaural beats are supposed to enhance cognitive and emotional function—potentially improving memory and concentration, reducing anxiety and promoting better sleep

old medicine new trick

New uses of existing drugs.This Week: Colchicine

This compound has been used as medicine for over 3,000 years and is found in the fall crocus plant. It was originally developed in the 18th century as a treatment for gout.

Taken in tablet form during a gout attack, colchicine suppresses inflammation caused by uric acid crystals that accumulate in joints, thereby relieving pain.

But while it’s only licensed in the UK to treat gout, doctors have been using it for years to treat pericarditis – an inflammation of the sac-like covering around the heart that causes chest pain and difficulty breathing.

In the late ’80s, Spanish doctors — aware of colchicine’s anti-inflammatory properties — successfully tested it on three patients with pericarditis who had not recovered. After that, the drug was favored by cardiologists.

A 2014 study at the Maria Victoria Hospital in Italy found that giving colchicine to patients with pericarditis not only helped them recover faster, but also halved their risk of relapse.

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