The Science of Green Noise: How to Use It for Better Well-Being

Research have suggested that nature has an ocean full of benefits for human health. But what about listening to the calming sounds of nature without ever leaving your home? Learn how green noise works and if it can improve your sleep, stress, concentration, and overall well-being.

What is green noise?

Green noise is aptly named to describe soundscapes of the serene ambiance of nature. Think of the sound of a gentle wind blowing through a leafy forest or a babbling brook in the middle of the mountains. It’s meant to help you feel as though you’re there and gain that similar sense of calm. It’s about connecting with our natural desire to be outdoors and feel its peace, renewal, and balance.

Specifically, green noise includes nature sounds that we usually perceive as soothing. Unlike white noise, green doesn’t follow a uniform frequency distribution. It includes a mix but with an overall harmonious sound.

What does green noise sound like?

Green noise can include a variety of sounds that create a serene, natural environment, such as:

  • Birdsong
  • Flowing water
  • Distant thunder
  • Rustling leaves
  • Wind through forests or fields

Benefits of green noise

Nature has been researched to support mental health challenges and, potentially, heart health. Listening to nature sounds may offer some benefits, such as:

Improved sleep

The steady flow of green noise can help us fall asleep by masking environmental sounds, like motorcycles or noisy neighbors. Since the sounds of nature can also help reduce stress, it might reduce the amount of time needed to fall asleep and even minimize nighttime awakenings.

From researcher: the hyperlinked source supports relaxing properties of sound therapy, but does not explain how it may affect sleep. Include a more relevant source, if no available, formulate health claim in a safer way, disclaiming the need for research to substantiate benefits for sleep

Increased relaxation

Nature sounds activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which induces relaxation.

It's linked to biophilia hypothesis, our innate inclination to connect with nature. Closing our eyes and listening to the sounds of leaves rustling, streams flowing, and birds chirping can make it much easier to imagine ourselves surrounded by greenery in a forest far away.

Better concentration

When we’re trying to concentrate, but our environment is full of disruptions, like helicopters, sirens, or loud coworkers, our brains naturally lose focus. Background noise, like green noise, can enhance our cognitive function. This includes attention and working memory in terms of accuracy and reaction time. It’s like it keeps our brain’s background attention busy, helping to make the important material to focus on easier.

Sound masking

We all know how frustrating it is when we’re trying to sleep or work in a noisy environment. With green noise, however, you hear a consistent ‘shhh’ sound that may mask these unwanted noises. You can pay attention to the relaxing ambient noise, tuning out the sounds going in and out of your peripheral focus.

Tinnitus relief

Tinnitus is a symptom where you hear a ringing or buzzing in your ear. It can be constant or come and go, but frustrating enough that you have a hard time concentrating. Sound therapy, like green noise, might help with tinnitus, especially if used with other therapies like education or medication. Background sounds might help mask tinnitus symptoms and make it easier to carry out daily tasks and sleep. However, further research is needed to confirm whether or not green noise, in particular, is more beneficial than other sounds.

Recommendations for listening to green noise

Whenever listening to music or color noise, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Set a comfortable volume. Certain color noises can seem overpowering, so you’ll want a level that’s audible but not so loud that it grabs your attention. It should feel like a soothing part of the background, not the main event.
  • Choose high-quality recordings. If you’re listening to winds in the forest of burbling brooks and streams, you’re going to want the real deal. Low-quality experiences might be distracting or even irritating, taking you away from feeling like you’re in the calm setting you’re looking for.
  • Create a cozy environment. Even the best sound quality won’t help if you’re listening with old headphones or speakers in a noisy space. Invest in noise-canceling headphones and set your space to be as relaxing as possible. Studies even show that plants in your office can reduce stress.
  • Get consistent. To get the full benefits, work on making color noise a part of your daily routine. Have a playlist ready to go for the first thing when you wake up, start work, or get ready for bed. You can even practice closing your eyes for the first minute to visualize the scenery, further calming your nervous system.

Where to listen

It’s easy to find color noises on almost any musical platform, like streaming services or apps. Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube all have a multitude of playlists and individual songs to choose from. Some relaxation apps can also let you mix and match sounds to create your own green noise environment.

There are also sites dedicated to ambient noises, letting you customize every detail of your soundscape. For example, you can decrease the sound of the wind and add a flowing stream.

Green noise compared to other color noises

Every color noise has its own frequency spectrum, so depending on what you need at the moment, you can compare their characteristics.

White noise vs. green noise

White noise is that static-like sound you’re used to hearing from an old TV set with no signal. It’s made up of all the frequencies audible to the human ear and at an equal intensity. Compared to the calming effects of green noise’s natural sounds, like rustling leaves or a gentle breeze, white is more consistent and works well to mask noisy environments. That’s why it’s one of the most popular color noises for sleep and concentration.

Brown noise vs. green noise

Brown noise is usually lower in frequency and richer in depth than green or white noise — just imagine the deep rumbling sounds of a strong wind or distant thunderstorm. While green noise is more about simulating natural environments as closely as possible.

Since brown noise is low frequency, it's commonly used for sleep since it can offer some depth to drown out jarring noises. It’s also great for relaxation and concentration if you find higher frequencies disturbing or distracting. However, if you’re especially calmed by the sounds of the outdoors, green might be best.

Pink noise vs. green noise

Pink noise is a bit of a balance between white and brown. It has a frequency that decreases as the pitch increases, which gives it a softer, more even sound. Think of light rainfalls, warm breezes, or even heartbeats. Many consider pink to be more natural and soothing than white, making it great for sleep and relaxation.

Compared to green, pink doesn’t necessarily capture the essence of nature as closely. In the end, though, the best sound depends on each person and their preferences and needs.

Side effects of green noise

Listening to green noise is mostly beneficial, but be mindful of the volume and the length of time you listen. Overly high volumes may lead to ear or hearing issues while listening for extended periods.

Finally, remember that what's relaxing for some doesn't necessarily work for everyone. Color noises don't always reduce stress, and if the sounds are too intense for you at that moment, they might even exacerbate stress or frustration. As with any therapeutic tool, moderation and awareness of your reactions are key.

Overall, though, if you’re looking to get a better night’s sleep, feel more relaxed, or have an easier time working, green noise might help. Nature sounds are simple to find, free, and easy to make a part of your daily routine. Think about putting on the sounds of distant birds chirping first thing in the morning or a flowing stream when you start your work day. Making it into a habit is your best bet to ensure you use it daily to reap the maximum benefits.

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