Can A Brown Noise Machine Help You Sleep Better? A Physician Explains

This white noise alternative might be the relaxing brain massage you’ve been looking for.
Aleksandr Zubkov via Getty Images

The first time I heard brown noise, I was instantly lulled into a state of deep relaxation. The tones were much more velvety and lower-pitched than the better-known sound of white noise, which, to me, has always sounded staticky and impossible to sleep to, despite what many people say about its somnolent properties.

Aside from sound clips on TikTok and anecdotal claims in support of its soothing ability, it was difficult to find a lot of information on brown noise and why it affected me this way. But Courtney Paré, a Rhode Island-based naturopath who specialises in mental health guidance, said it may possibly be due to a degree of neurodivergence.

“[The reason] why individuals with ADHD and/or sensory processing issues may find brown noise so soothing and silencing could be due to ‘stochastic resonance,’” Paré said. ”[This] is a phenomenon seen in electronic devices as well as human physiology, where adding a certain amount of noise actually increases signal transmission.”

As someone with a history with sensory processing difficulties, this made sense to me, since, as Paré explained, many neurodivergent symptoms are related to a lower rate of signalling between neurons.

Most of available studies touting the benefits of noise therapy centre around white noise, but Paré said brown noise is technically one and the same — just at a different frequency.

“White noise encompasses sound from the complete spectrum,” she said. “Brown noise, also known as red noise, or ‘brownian noise,’ consists of only low frequency sound, giving it more bass-heavy notes.”

This deeper resonance, according to Paré, can often remind people of sounds in nature, like wind rustling trees or calm ocean waves.

“As such, I find it can be a very grounding sound and help move the body from a ‘fight-flight-freeze’ state back into ‘rest-and-digest’ state,” she said, adding that the benefits of such a state shift can include everything from improved focus to increased sleep time and quality.

Like many healing tools, Paré stressed that noise therapy really comes down to individualised care and personal preference. If you’re not yet sure how general white noise will impact your sleep, it’s a little-known fact that iPhones have a free white noise feature you can try, although its brown noise options are very limited.