What Is Brown Noise? Exploring Its Soothing Benefits

While not as famous as white noise, brown noise playlists are becoming more popular thanks to their deep, soothing vibes. Imagine a thunderstorm rumbling nearer or a heavy waterfall after a rainstorm cascading around you. Its intense sounds and steady bass make people say it’s great for sleep, focus, and relaxation — but what does the science say?

What is brown noise?

Brown noise, also called red noise, is quite different from white or pink noise. Its sound spectrum is unique in that it has a power density that decreases with increasing frequency. That means it has a high energy and low frequency. It might sound most similar to white noise, but it’s technically deeper and heavier on the bass. It decreases in intensity by about six dB per octave, giving off its deep, rumbling character.

What does brown noise sound like?

Examples of what you might hear with brown noise include:

  • Heavy rainfall
  • Roaring waterfall
  • Strong winds through a forest
  • Steady and large ocean waves
  • Low rumble of an approaching thunderstorm

Brown noise benefits

Research is still in its early stages where brown noise is concerned. Currently, there’s more evidence surrounding white or pink noise for relaxation and sleep. However, some studies show certain benefits for beta-range frequencies, which are low and similar to brown noise. Either way, the purported benefits of brown noise aren't yet fully backed, but there is potential for these areas:

Noise masking

Like most color noises, brown noise can drown out disruptive sounds like street noise or loud neighbors. Since it’s low-frequency, it might offer a sound-masking backdrop that can work for both the office and home.

Improved sleep

Thanks to its noise masking capabilities, brown noise might make it easier to fall and stay asleep. There’s research behind white and pink noise improving sleep, but for now, more research needs to be done on brown noise to confirm its sleep potential as well.

Soothing for infants

Although only anecdotal, some say brown noise’s deep and consistent frequency could mimic the sounds of the womb. They claim it might soothe infants, potentially reducing crying or prolonging sleep. While some research exists on white noise to lessen newborn crying, brown noise studies still need to be conducted.

Relaxation and stress reduction

It’s easy to feel jumpy or on edge when our environment is full of disruptive sounds. Like other color noises, brown’s low frequency might help to create a more calming environment.

Enhanced cognitive performance

Thanks to its range of low-frequency sound that can mask other high-frequency noises, brown noise might improve executive function and psychomotor speed. It creates a consistent backdrop, potentially helping to reduce distractions and keep you focused.

Brown noise for people with ADHD

People with ADHD tend to have a hard time concentrating on one task at a time. Currently, there’s evidence that white noise or pink noise may help improve task performance in those with ADHD. While investigation on brown noise still needs to be done, a 2021 study showed that low-frequency beta waves might help people with ADHD focus. This is not to say that brown noise, in particular, was used, only that 12.5–30 Hz was helpful. Overall, there isn’t enough evidence to suggest that brown noise is helpful for ADHD.

Recommendations for listening to brown noise

You can add brown noise to your daily routine to gain its potential benefits by setting it to play as you fall asleep or first thing in the morning. It might even be helpful at work to drown out office sounds and get into a focused state of mind. You can also consider using it for meditation or relaxation, getting into a comfortable position where you can concentrate on your breathing.

If you find you’re getting annoyed by the sounds — check your volume. It’s usually best to play it at a low enough level where it's masking unwanted noises but not taking over your attention, where it becomes the disruptive noise itself. You can try listening at around 50 decibels to start and adjust as you feel best, depending on how noisy your environment is.

Finally, don’t forget that color noises don’t work for everyone or all the time. There might be some days where it sounds more irritating than helpful, which is a sign to give yourself a break. Continuously listening to anything, even the relaxing sounds of nature, can become annoying at some point. Try using it just when needed, like for work, meditation, or sleep.

Options for listening to brown noise

You won’t run out of options to find brown noise online. Here are just a few of the ways you can access a multitude of brown noise options:

  • Online platforms. Check out sites like YouTube searching for brown noise or brown noise nature sounds if you prefer.
  • Streaming services. Choose between Spotify, Apple Music, or other streaming services to find brown noise options. You can even create your own playlist with the sounds that suit you best.
  • Mobile apps. Thanks to color noise popularity, you can find specific apps dedicated to relaxation noises. For example, White Noise Lite includes brown noise and even lets you mix sounds so you can create your own sound environment. Noisli also lets you adjust and combine sounds so you can tweak what works best for sleepy or productivity playlists. MyNoise also lets you customize soundscapes with brown noise generators.
  • Noise machines. There are several high-quality color machines on the market, such as LectroFan, Marpac Dohm, and Sound+Sleep SE. Each one offers a wide range of sound environments, and some can even adjust the volume automatically depending on your environment.

Side effects and risks

Color noises don’t have many reported side effects when used appropriately, but there are always a few things to keep in mind:

  • Volume-related hearing damage. Try not to listen at a volume louder than a normal conversation to avoid hearing damage.
  • Over-reliance. If you become accustomed to falling asleep with a color noise, you might notice you have a harder time sleeping without it. Relying on it to fall asleep could lead to a reliance where silence or environmental sounds become difficult to manage on your own.
  • Overstimulation and irritation. For some people, any sort of constant background noise can become disruptive. It might feel like overstimulation, making it hard to relax, sleep, or concentrate.
  • Unknown long-term effects. Since color noise studies are still in their infancy, we don’t know their long-term effects. There’s no scientifically agreed-upon guideline for a specific volume, frequency, or length of time — and even if there were, what’s best would still vary per person.

As the science behind color noises continues, we’re learning more about how deeply our sound environment impacts our ability to sleep, focus, and relax. Brown noise research still has a far way to go before we can safely back its health claims, but for now, we can at least see the potential. As white and pink noise evidence grows, brown noise may also be highlighted for similar benefits of improved rest and calm in the future.

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