What Exactly Is Brown Noise? Try These 5 Ways To Tune In at Home

published Jan 25, 2023
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You might be familiar with using “colored noises” such as white, pink, and green noise to aid with sleep. Brown noise, a deeper, lower-frequency sound (think the sound of an airplane in mid-flight), is one of the latest mental health trends to take over TikTok — the hashtag #brownnoise currently has over 107 million views and counting.

TikTok users have touted the benefits of brown noise, claiming that it has helped them improve work productivity, manage ADHD, reduce stress, and even practice mindfulness. Mental health and trauma counselor @ask,courtney, who has 620,000 TikTok followers, has shared that brown noise may help reduce racing thoughts and improve focus.

However, emerging research over the last decade suggests that brown noise is more than a passing TikTok trend, and that it may help you work, learn, and even sleep better. Curious to give it a try? Here’s what you need to know about brown noise, including its potential benefits and how to give it a try it at home.

What Is Brown Noise?

Brown noise is a deeper, lower-frequency sound that involves a combination of various random frequencies of white noise. As a result, brown noise may be more soothing and appealing to people who find white noise irritating or distracting. 

While it would be natural to assume that brown noise is named after the color, especially when you’ve likely heard of white and pink noise, brown noise is actually named after Brownian Motion, a type of random microscopic motion discovered by botanist Robert Brown in 1827, according to Sleepeezee, a British mattress brand that supplies to Royal households. (Fun fact: Albert Einstein used Brownian motion to explain the existence of atoms in 1905, when he was still a virtually unknown theoretical physicist). 

Brown Noise vs. White Noise

While brown noise is actually made from white noise, the two sounds are quite different from each other. White noise is spread across the sound spectrum, presenting low, medium, and high-frequency sounds, while brown noise includes deeper, lower frequencies that sound more consistent.

Sound machine producer Adaptive Sound Technologies likens white noise to the sound of a waterfall where various streams are falling at different speeds and hitting different types of surfaces, while brown noise is a more consistent, steady sound akin to a gentle, rolling surf that can get stirred up during a storm. Brown noise has also been compared to the consistent purr of air conditioning in a hotel room and a gentle thunder storm. 

Potential Benefits of Brown Noise

While research shows that noise can be associated with sleep disturbances and rises in stress and blood pressure, brown noise can actually drown out unwanted noises (think: loud coffee shop chatter or street traffic) when you’re in need of peace and quiet. Emerging studies have linked this type of noise to having special benefits for those living with ADHD and learning challenges. Göran Söderland, a professor of special education at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, has conducted more than a dozen studies on the subject over the last 15 years. 

Söderlund’s research has linked the use of white noise with improved reading skills and memory recall in children with learning disabilities and improved cognitive performance for those with ADHD, among other benefits. He  believes that brown noise would lead to similar results. Interestingly, Söderlund  also found that various levels of white noise can mimic the effects of dopamine, the  “feel-good” brain chemical that those living with ADHD are often low in. It  may be worth listening to different types of noise if you are seeking to manage your diagnosis. 

Benefits also seem to exist for more neurotypical people. A 2022 study published in the prestigious journal Nature found that the use of brown noise helped participants sustain a healthy attention span, perform tasks more accurately and faster, be more creative, and reduce stress. While the study was small (there were only 40 participants), the promising results will surely lead to continued research on the potential benefits of brown noise. 

Credit: Getty Images/LaylaBird

How to Try Brown Noise at Home

If you’re ready to give brown noise a try, there are endless way to incorporate it into your routine at home. Access brown noise via YouTube, Spotify, among other music and video platforms, allowing you to play it anywhere, anytime. Don’t forget your earbuds if you’ll be traveling or trying it out at the office.

Use it to ensure your 9-to-5 stays that way. 

Listening  to a true crime podcast or a feel-good playlist during the work day can be tempting. However, simply switching to brown noise when you really need to focus on a task could help you perform better and more efficiently.

Turn it on as you engage in mindfulness exercises.

Whether you’re a journaler, meditator, or avid reader, listening to brown noise at just the right level could help you be able to focus better on the task at hand and possibly improve memory recall later. 

Crank it up while you paint (or sculpt, or draw).

Try out a brown noise video or playlist while you work on a creative project, be it a commission for a client or decorating your nephew’s birthday cake. You just may find it to be your new favorite tool for harnessing your imagination. 

Make it your new study hack.

Struggle with paying attention to flashcards you spent hours making  before a big test? Maybe you need help putting together a study guide from all the notes you took this semester. See how listening to brown noise  affects your ability to stay sharp, on-task, and confident in your recall abilities come quiz time. 

Let it be a lullaby.

Whether you struggle with racing thoughts when trying to fall asleep at night or you’re in desperate need of a 20-minute power nap , playing brown noise before rest could help you find the quiet you need to get some shut-eye.