Stressed? Let ‘Green Noise’ Transport You to a Place of Calm

Photo: Getty Images/ 10'000 Hours
Some people need complete silence to relax while others may find the absence of noise to be unnerving. The fuzzy sounds of white, pink, and brown noise—whether from a sound machine, app, or the Internet—has the power to deliver serenity. Another such option comes in the color green.

Experts In This Article

Green noise belongs to the broadband spectrum of colorful noises, and it’s thought to offer listeners a sense of calm. When you tune into its frequency—and with eyes closed—it’s almost as if you’re listening to the rush of a waterfall or ocean waves breaking on a beach, transporting you from your workstation to a verdant refuge someplace far, far away. At the very least, it may help drown out other unwanted noises that constantly steal your peace.

What is green noise?

As is the case with pink noise and brown noise, green noise is “a variation of white noise,” says clinical audiologist Amy Sarow, AuD, CCC-A, a lead audiologist at Soundly. When you listen to it—or any sonic color, for that matter—you are hearing a mixture of all the frequencies that the human ear can detect, resulting in a sound that is reminiscent of static.

What differentiates one noise from the other is the volume level with regard to the power distributed across the various frequencies. With green noise, there’s more power in the lower frequency range (it centers at 500 hertz or Hz, to be exact, according to Dr. Sarow), making it sound less harsh to some ears compared to white noise, which has that bright hiss that happens when you turn into an unused radio frequency or TV channel. The resulting sound is said to mimic many of the noises heard in nature, like heavy rain, waterfalls, and ocean waves, says clinical psychologist Shelby Harris, PsyD, director of sleep at Sleepopolis. This is also, perhaps, what gives it its name and why people also refer to it as “the background noise of the world.”

Does green noise help you relax?

The idea of green noise might sound relaxing, but can it actually promote relaxation? While there’s some evidence that white, pink, and even brown noise can offer listeners some calm, most, if not all, the reports about the relaxing effects of its cousin are currently anecdotal. However, it has gained popularity online, with many people singing its praises. Listeners have claimed that it has quelled their nerves, and people have also mentioned that it has helped lull them to sleep at night.

Why it has this effect on people might have to do with its auditory associations with nature, though Dr. Sarow has another theory as to why people may find it relaxing. She points to a study, published in 1994, by researchers at the Queen’s University at Belfast. The study concluded that at around 19 weeks of gestation, babies in the womb show a response to low-frequency sounds in the 500 Hz range which, as noted above, is the same output of green noise. With this in mind, she theorizes that when people tune into green noise, they might subconsciously associate it with being back in the womb, a place of respite—which, in turn, may bring them a sense of safety and calm. However, Dr. Sarow underscores that this is only a hypothesis, and more research is needed to find out more about its effects.

Green noise may also help promote relaxation, just as its fuzzy-sounding relatives, by muffling any other noises, like the whoosh of passing cars or late-night chatter, that can stand in the way of peace, especially before bed. “Broadband sound reduces the difference in volume between the noise you’re hearing as you drift off and any jarring sound,” Raj Dasgupta, MD, FAASM, previously told Well+Good.

However, if you’re looking to listen to it in order to relax before bedtime, Dr. Harris wouldn’t typically recommend listening to it through the night because it could disrupt rather than improve sleep quality. That said, “you can put on green noise before bed to help you relax and unwind,” she says, for as long as it’s kept at a low volume. Dr. Sarow echoes her claim, suggesting that you keep it to a volume that can adequately mask bothersome noise but not enough to the point where it becomes disruptive.

Keep in mind that for some people, this noise may have the opposite effect, and its persistent “shhh”-ing can aggravate instead of calm you. All that is to say, whether you find listening to green noise relaxing or not is typically a matter of personal preference—and there is certainly no harm in listening to it for yourself, says Dr. Sarow. “Just listen to it and see how you feel,” she says.

Where can you listen to green noise?

You can listen to green noise on YouTube or Spotify, or even through an app on your phone. There are a wide range of options available, which allow you to listen to green noise as is, though you will also find varieties that combine it with actual sounds from the natural world. The latter might appeal to those who are curious about listening to green noise, but might not find the sound of pure and unadulterated fuzz quite as pleasant.

Green noise to tune into

1. Green Noise by Green Noise Therapy

Comprising 10 tracks, the album offers a sampling of green noise in its many varieties, allowing listeners to pick and choose which option resonates with them. There aren’t stark differences among the tracks, save for track eight, which combines the noise with the sound of rainfall—and might serve as a welcome respite for all the fuzz in the album. It’s available to stream on Spotify, YouTube Music, and Apple Music.

2. Green Noise by Thunderstorm Universe

This album consists of 20 tracks. Track one to track seven are ideal for those who want to listen to just green noise, with an output of 500 Hz all the way to 4,000 Hz, the latter of which has a sound that is closer to white noise. Track eight onwards (with the exception of tracks 13 and 16, which is geared towards sleep) combines the verdant noise with real-world sounds, like the crash of ocean waves or the song of whales. It’s available to stream on Spotify and YouTube Music.

3. Green Noise for a Quiet Mind by Green Noise Therapeutics

The single-track album is simple and straightforward. The song of the same name allows listeners to tune into pure green noise for a whole hour. Its steady consistency provides the perfect background music for relaxation, even in spite of the occasional fade-out once every minute or so. As its name promises, folks are promised easy listening should they find the sound of green noise pleasant. It’s available to stream on Spotify and YouTube Music.

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