You’ve heard of white noise but did you know there’s such a thing as pink noise? It’s something that I have only come across recently and, I have to be honest, it’s revolutionised my baby’s sleep! I’m not exaggerating either.
Before I started using pink noise, there was a solid month when he would not nap unless I took him for a walk in the pram. Knowing how important sleep is for babies' development I tried everything. Rocking, shushing, longer wake windows, shorter wake windows, white noise, baby carrier, different feeding schedules – I tried everything. The only way I could get him to sleep in the day was to walk him in the pram and even then, as soon as I got home, he'd often wake up. Pink noise, like white noise, is made up of all the sound frequencies that humans can hear. Whereas white noise plays each frequency at the same amplitude, pink noise puts more emphasis on the lower frequencies while diminishing the higher ones.
White noise such as the hum of a vacuum cleaner, hairdryer or fan, does a great job of blocking out background noise but often the higher frequencies can seem harsh or abrasive to listen to. That’s because many people’s ears naturally zone in on the higher frequencies. As pink noise is reducing the intensity of these high frequencies it’s softer to listen to. Indeed, many natural sounds; rainfall, wind rustling the leaves in the trees and waves crashing on the beach, can be described as pink noise. What’s more, research into the effects of pink noise have found that listening to it while sleeping increases slow wave brain activity which is associated with deeper, longer sleep and improved memory. Many sleep aid machines play white noise rather than pink noise. If you’re looking at purchasing one, I would definitely look at buying one that offers both options so you have the flexibility to switch between the two depending on your child’s preference. Alternatively, if you search YouTube, Spotify or Amazon Music you’ll find dozens of pink noise tracks. We play ours through a phone, or stream it through our speaker system. I’ve seen and heard people advise parents to simply turn up the volume of the white noise if their baby doesn’t fall asleep. Whilst an increase in volume does often help, please be aware of the recommended safe listening volumes for babies. This is between 50-60db – somewhere between the hum of a fridge and the buzz of an electric toothbrush. If in doubt, download a free decimal meter which will tell you the approximate volume of your machine. Be aware also that many sleep aid machines actually have the capacity to play sounds that would be damaging for your baby’s hearing if they were played continuously. If you do turn the volume up past 60db, make sure you turn it down again as soon as possible and that you keep the device at least 3 metres from your baby’s head. My advice to you is to experiment and listen to a few different tracks to see which one your baby likes the most. My baby likes a particular pink noise available on Spotify and, at five months old, will often happily lie down and fall asleep listening to it (if I get his wake window right, currently every two hours) on his own. Other times I have to rock him gently with it playing and then pop him down. If the noise stops for any reason, he will wake within 30 seconds. It really is like magic.
I hope my experiences can help you. I know how stressful it can be to have an overtired baby who seems to fight sleep at every opportunity. I honestly dreaded naptimes because I knew it would be such a mission every time. I'm not one of those smug 'my baby is a perfect sleeper' parents, let's face it, this pattern of good naps may all fall apart tomorrow, but for the moment, pink noise seems to be our solution and I just hope that my experiences can help some of you who may be going through the same thing. I’d love to know if you’ve discovered pink noise too and if it’s had a similar miraculous effect on your baby!