Using continuous noise to help babies fall and stay asleep is relatively well-established as good practice. As the auditory system develops in utero, a fetus begins to hear voices and environmental noises in addition to the mother’s internal bodily noises. Thus, they are not born into the world from silence or even relative quiet.

My personal experience as a mother of three children under the age of 4 is that using noise has been essential in getting consistent daytime and nighttime sleep. We’ve used white noise, pink noise, and rain sounds, all with decent success. So, what sound should you use, and how should you use it? In this article, we’ll dive into the world of baby sleep and using pink noise for babies. 

What is pink noise?

You are likely familiar with white noise, which sounds like static, a fan, an air conditioner, or a vacuum cleaner. White noise has equal power across all frequencies that are within human audibility. Pink noise has reduced higher frequencies, while brown noise has an even lower emphasis on the high frequencies than pink noise and sounds a bit rougher. The differences are subtle, though some find pink noise to be more soothing than white noise because of the attenuation of higher frequencies. Nature sounds such as rainfall, leaves rustling, or waves crashing are more commonly linked to pink noise.

What are the benefits of pink noise for babies?

Most of the studies on using noise for baby sleep have been done using white noise. One randomized trial found significant effects in helping babies between two and seven days to fall asleep by using white noise versus quiet (Spencer et al., 1990). Another study looked at the difference between white noise and swinging to soothe babies, and again, the white noise performed significantly better than swinging (Sezici & Yigit, 2018). 

As pink noise is a variant of white noise, it is reasonable to assume that the effects of pink noise on baby sleep would be comparable to those of white noise. There is a common belief that pink noise more closely mimics what babies hear in the womb, which would be largely lower frequency (pitch) sounds. This is in part because of the nature of the sounds (bodily, environmental, voices) and in part because the sounds would be muffled from inside the uterus. 

Babies are quite sensitive to sound when they are born and also have a strong startle reflex; therefore, the presence of white or pink noise can help them to stay asleep if there are sudden impulse sounds in their environment (think a dog barking or door slamming) that would otherwise wake them. The presence of consistent sound can help people of all ages fall and stay asleep, quieting the mind and preventing distraction.

How should I introduce pink noise into my baby’s sleep routine?

The most important part of the question above is the word “routine.” With babies, consistency is key. Your bedtime routine does not have to be long or contain multiple steps; it should be something that you feel you can reasonably maintain. You might put your baby in pajamas, read a short book, put them in a swaddle or sleep sack – depending on age -, feed them, and lay them down to sleep with pink noise on and the lights off. You should do this as often as possible for naps as well as bedtime.

Certainly, your baby will have to nap on the go sometimes, but if you can have at least one nap per day at home with this routine, they will adjust to it faster. My older daughters (2 and 3) have an almost Pavlovian response to white noise now, where they fall asleep as soon as we turn it on and wake up when we turn it off. This is from the repetition of always using it to help them sleep.

You do want to be mindful of the volume of the noise because if it is too loud, it could damage hearing over time. The pink noise should be about 70 to 75 decibels (you can measure this easily with a sound level meter app or website), and the source of the noise should be at least three feet away from the baby’s head, if possible.

You may want to give yourself a little room to grow, either by turning the noise down slightly after the baby is asleep or moving the sound away from them, depending on how you are generating it. Many sleep training techniques advise turning the noise up in volume when the baby fusses at night, so you don’t want to reach a point where it is too loud. 

How can I play pink noise?

In our house, we rely on Google for sleep sounds. My husband even set up a shortcut where we can say, “Hey Google, it’s bedtime,” and the lights turn off, and the sound comes on. But he would have to be the one to write the piece about how to connect a lightbulb to a Google Home.

If you use any kind of Google, Amazon, or other smart devices in your house, it is easy enough to put a speaker into the nursery. This has the added advantage of being able to control it from elsewhere in the house; if you need to turn up the noise slightly when the baby is fussing in the middle of the night, you can do it without leaving your bed.

We also use small sound machines for naps on the go. There are a variety of options out there- we have the YogaSleep Hushh and the Dreamegg Portable Sound Machine, though neither of these has pink noise as an option. If you are looking to try pink noise for baby sleep, specifically, here are some options:

Euky Bear Sweet Dreams Sleep Aid ($79.95 from EukyBear.com)
In addition to pink noise, this device also offers heartbeat sounds, waterfall sounds, and lullabies. It also incorporates light therapy to support circadian rhythm and an aromatherapy humidifier. 

Euky Bear | Sweet Dreams Sleep Aid
$79.95
  • Pink noise is a soothing sound frequency found in nature that relaxes and calms 
  • Soothing sounds such as heartbeat sound, waterfall and specially composed lullabies.
  • Red light sleep therapy supports the functioning of the body’s natural circadian rhythm, or sleep cycle, which assists babies to fall asleep.
  • Eight rotating colours white, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and pink.
  • Aromatherapy humidifier gently releases ultra fine mist into the air (no heat). Use with Euky Bear's essential oil range to enjoy the natural wellness benefits of aromatherapy (from 3 months+).
  • Runs all night long
  • Cool to touch
  • Suitable for babies 0+
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LectroFan Micro2 Non-Looping Sound Machine ($34.99 from Amazon)
This device has 11 different sound options, including four white noise variations (one of which is pink noise), but it can also be used as a Bluetooth speaker. This is ideal for parents who might want their device to stream other audio, such as music or audiobooks, for their children.

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02/18/2024 05:40 pm GMT

Honeywell DreamWeaver Sleep Fan with Pink Noise ($59.95 from Honeywell)
This device can be used as a fan to generate pink noise, or the shutters can be closed to block the airflow but maintain the sounds if cooling is not needed.

Honeywell DreamWeaver Sleep Fan - Sleeping Fans, HTF400
$59.95
  • Powerful cooling with an optimized sound profile that replicates pink noise
  • Optional Auto Off Timer with 1, 2, 4 or 8 hour settings
  • Light Dimming Feature
  • USB Charging Port


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Aroma Snooze Vaporizer/Humidifier/White Noise ($55 from BabyLovesSleepCo.com)
This device can play pink noise, heartbeat, rain sounds, or a slow lullaby. Additionally, you can record your own “shushing” sounds or words and have them played on a loop. It also serves as a humidifier and vaporizer, as well as a support to Circadian rhythm with light therapy. 


Aroma Snooze Baby Sleep Aid, Vaporizer, Humidifier, White Noise, Pink Noise
$64.95
  • Humidifier and Vaporiser with built in air purifier – no heat, no steam, no condensation.
  • Red/Orange LED Light – w/ 8 sec cycle, supports sleep as it assists the body’s sleep cycles.
  • Multi colored LED light choices, for colour therapy
  • 5 x sound & music tracks; each with sleep promoting benefits


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Snooz Go ($59.99 from Amazon)


If you are looking for a portable option either for travel or naps on the go, this device is small and light and can generate white noise, pink noise, and fan sounds. It can also be used as a Bluetooth speaker and a night light.

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02/19/2024 06:23 am GMT

YouTube for continuous pink noise
If you are in a bind, you can do a quick YouTube search for pink noise and find a video, like the one below, that plays continuous pink noise for ten hours. This probably isn’t a good long-term solution, as it requires your phone or tablet screen to stay on through the night. Likewise, there are apps such as BetterSleep that serve as sound generators for sleep but would require your phone or tablet to stay in the nursery.

Any other tips for better baby sleep?

There are a lot of sleep training strategies out there (personally, I used Taking Cara Babies, and it was a lifesaver!), but many of them use common principles. A consistent bedtime routine is key. Another recommendation is to put your baby down awake but drowsy because they learn to put themselves to sleep, which helps keep them settled during the night. Swaddling in the infant stage and moving to a sleep sack once they are rolling can be a good part of the routine, and it can keep them comfortable and cozy.

Many babies sleep better in complete darkness, with the slightest bit of light triggering them and telling them that it is time to be awake. You might find that light therapy techniques work better for slightly older children. A fan or humidifier can be useful to keep the nursery comfortable. 

Conclusion

If you are really struggling with getting your baby to sleep, consult your pediatrician. The American Academy of Pediatrics has published safe sleeping guidelines, and there are many resources out there to help you develop a good sleep routine. The newborn phase is fleeting in hindsight, but in the moment, it can feel quite stressful. Remember that your own sleep is important for your mental and physical well-being, which helps you to be a good parent. Wanting to sleep is not selfish! Sleep is crucial for you and your baby. 

Pink noise can be a helpful component of a sleep routine for your baby. Providing this type of noise has been shown in research to help babies fall asleep and stay asleep, and using it consistently can cue their nervous system that it is time to relax and sleep. Pink noise can be accessed using devices you probably already own, or you can choose from a variety of devices to put in your nursery or take on the go to promote baby sleep.

erin edwards aud
Clinical Audiologist at Towson University | + posts

Erin Edwards received her Doctor of Audiology degree from Towson University in 2015 and her Ph.D. in Education and Leadership from Pacific University in 2022. She has worked with patients of all ages in a variety of settings and has a specific interest in cochlear implants, the relationship of hearing loss and dementia, and interdisciplinary healthcare.

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