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Forget white noise. 'Pink noise' will help you sleep better

By Markham Heid, Prevention

You've probably never been jealous of an elephant, but you're about to be. Elephants need only three to four hours of sleep per night in order to be their happy elephant selves during the day. So what's Dumbo's secret? Deeper, more stable sleep--and new research may have found the secret to helping you achieve elephantine-levels of repose each night: Pink noise.

You've likely heard of "white noise," says study author Jue Zhang, Ph.D., an associate professor at China's Peking University, which is produced when the sounds of different frequencies are combined. Pink noise, on the other hand, is a type of sound in which every octave carries the same power, or a perfectly consistent frequency, Zhang explains. "Think of rain falling on pavement, or wind rustling the leaves on a tree," It's called pink noise because light with a similar power spectrum would appear pink, he says.

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To see how pink noise would affect human sleepers, Zhang and his team recruited 50 people and exposed them to either pink noise or no noise during nighttime sleep and daytime naps while monitoring their brain activity. The results: An impressive 75% of study participants reported more restful sleep when exposed to pink noise. When it came to brain activity, the amount of "stable sleep"--the most restful kind--increased 23% among the nighttime sleepers exposed to pink noise, and more than 45% among nappers, says Zhang.

What's going on here? Sound plays a big role in brain activity and brain wave synchronization even while you're sleeping, Zhang explains. The steady drone of pink noise slows and regulates your brain waves, which is a hallmark of super-restful sleep.

To experience the benefits of pink noise in your own bedroom, Zhang recommends fans or noisemakers that produce steady, uninterrupted sound or that imitate falling rain or wind. You could also download an application that will play pink noise through computer speakers or your cell phone, such as the Perfect Sleep application. Just don't wear headphones, which can disrupt sleep, he says.

For more ways to get your best night's sleep ever, check out 20 Ways To Sleep Better Every Night.

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