For a long time, we’ve heard about the calming effects of white noise, such as leaving a fan on while you sleep. Many people find white noise helpful to fall asleep, stay asleep, or tune out other distractions. But lately there’s been more talk about brown noise – especially on TikTok. In this article, we’ll cover what brown noise is and how you can benefit from it.
What is brown noise and how is it different from white noise?
There are technically three types of noise landscapes: white, pink, and brown:
- White noise encompasses low, mid, and high-range frequencies.
- Brown noise only encompasses low frequency and bass-heavy notes. As a result, brown noise is much deeper in sound than white noise and more ideal for those who find the high frequency notes in white noise uncomfortable (like the whirring of a fan).
It’s important to note that white and brown noise are both found in nature, so both are considered naturally harmonious to the human body. White noise is like gentle rain showers and crashing waves. Brown noise is like thunder or strong wind.
Is listening to brown noise beneficial?
It depends. There is no conclusive research on the benefits, mainly because everyone responds to it differently. According to the New York Times, “not everyone agrees this always works. There is also the power of the placebo effect, especially as people seek out brown noise already convinced that the sound can soothe them.”
That being said, many people find brown noise therapeutic and calming. While there might not necessarily be scientific evidence to support this, it doesn’t make it any less effective for the people who it’s genuinely helping. Placebo effect or not, we’re a fan of grounding techniques like this one.
What’s the correlation between brown noise and ADHD?
There aren’t many studies looking at brown noise specifically yet, but we have seen research that suggests noise in general, whether it’s white, pink, or brown, does have a positive impact on people with ADHD.
Based on this study covered in the New York Times, people with ADHD performed better on a 30-minute test when they listened to white noise through headphones, than those who didn’t listen to anything.
For people with ADHD, white and brown noise tend to help them concentrate better.
This is likely because people with ADHD have a prefrontal cortex that struggles to filter out stimuli they encounter in their environments, such as background conversations or nearby visual cues like a flashing screen.
People with ADHD may not have enough dopamine, which is a chemical that impacts attention. Without enough dopamine, their brain is “hungry” for distracting stimuli. This also helps explain why so many of us instinctively pick up our phones. We often get addicted to the dopamine rush of notifications and information online. Our brains are “hungry” for more dopamine in the tech-heavy environments we live in.
White and brown noise help us tune out this “hunger” for dopamine by giving our brains something else to focus on. With it, we can better tune out background conversations and other stimuli.
In this article, Dr. Diaz describes listening to white or brown noise as assigning your brain a task. You’re telling your brain, “You listen to this, while I focus on this task.”
How to create your own brown noise soundscape
Spotify and Youtube both have options. If you simply search “white noise” or “brown noise,” you’ll find options. But if you don’t have time to search, try listening to ours.
The best ways to use brown noise for sleep, relaxation, and productivity
If you’re excited to try white, brown, or pink noise, we recommend experimenting with different sounds as you work or fall asleep. You might find the presence of noise helpful or distracting depending on your brain chemistry. You can also try mixing and matching different types of noise to different parts of your day. For example, you might enjoy white noise while trying to fall asleep, but brown noise while trying to concentrate. It’s also possible your brain will enjoy all sounds equally. As with most things, find what works for you!
The potential downsides of using brown noise
There is no research to suggest that brown noise is harmful in any way. It’s a natural frequency like thunder or ocean waves. If you find it soothing, just be sure to keep the volume down to protect your hearing.
A few years ago, white noise was popular. Now with TikTok, brown noise is making a splash. As with most mental health tips, it’s important to keep in mind what works for you. Not everyone finds background noise helpful, but for some people, it’s a lifesaver. Brown noise can be uniquely calming because of its deep frequency. Check out our playlist here.
For more grounding techniques like brown noise, check out our 5 grounding techniques for hypersensitive people.