You’ve probably heard of white noise before, whether you’ve slept with it or used it to concentrate ― but did you know there are different color noises?
“Green noise” is sweeping social media lately; TikTok users are swearing it’s the key to a restful night’s sleep. One user claimed it’s a “game changer.” Another said: “I haven’t slept so good in a while” after listening to green noise.
Unlike white noise, which contains all sound frequencies across the spectrum in equal measure, green noise refers to a particular variant of white noise. “Green noise is generally at or around a frequency of 500 Hz,” said Dr. Chris Winter, a neurologist, board certified behavioral sleep specialist and Mattress Firm sleep advisor.
Sounds that seem like soft ocean waves, waterfalls and rivers all fall into the green noise category.
So is green noise all that we’ve been dreaming of? We asked Winter and other sleep experts to break it down.
Green noise may help you fall asleep initially.
Sarah Silverman, a holistic sleep doctor and behavioral sleep medicine specialist, said that green noise may help with sleep onset in some cases.
“Overall, there’s limited data on green noise and sleep, but there is some evidence that it may potentially aid with improving sleep onset rather than sleep maintenance,” Silverman said. “When there’s reduced high frequency sounds (like green noise), you may find that you’re able to fall asleep faster or more easily.”
But don’t pin all your hopes and dreams on green noise keeping you asleep for the entirety of the night. Kristen Casey, a clinical psychologist and insomnia specialist, added that green noise usually isn’t used during the whole sleep cycle.
“We suggest setting a timer for noise to cease throughout the night so the person is able to maintain their sleep,” she said. Noise after a certain amount of time can become more disruptive than useful.
Of course, each case varies. “It truly depends on the person because they may find it easier to stay asleep with green noise in the background all night,” Casey said.
Each ‘color’ of noise can serve a different purpose and offers a different type of sound.
Aside from green noise, there is white noise, pink noise and brown noise ― each of which have different frequencies.
“Generally, white noise is composed of higher frequency sounds (i.e., contains all frequencies at equal intensity), and it can mask loud sounds,” Silverman said. “Pink and green noise tend to be softer, less harsh sounds and at lower frequencies.” Brown noise is a bit lower and more erratic ― think thunder or more intense ocean waves.
Silverman said that each of the noises are generally recommended for different sleep issues.
“White noise is often recommended for insomnia, especially if you live in a noisier area and higher risk for noise pollution while you sleep,” Silverman said. This type of pollution could be loud cars on a highway, a snoring partner or loud neighbors.
“Pink and green noise may be helpful for facilitating sleep onset based on your preference,” Silverman continued. Sounds like green noise can also be helpful for drowning out outside noise; you may also find it soothing to focus on if your thoughts are racing.
Green noise may be beneficial if you have trouble falling asleep, but experts generally don't feel you need it for the whole night.
There’s no harm in trying green noise, but it’s not necessary if you’ve already found methods that work for you.
If you’re interested in trying green noise or any other type of noise, Silverman recommended investing in a white noise machine that has a selection of noise color options, so you can experiment with the different sounds and frequencies and figure out what you would prefer to listen to at night. Streaming services like Spotify and YouTube also have some options available for free.
If you’re not using a timer, you should also test out the volume levels to make sure you’re not being woken up suddenly by any changes in sound.
Aside from using noise, prioritize other sleep-promoting habits. Restorative rest really comes down to proper sleep hygiene.
“Reducing stress before bed can make a big difference when it comes to falling asleep,” Casey said. “It’s difficult to fall asleep when we are more stressed and anxious. The more relaxed we are, the safer we feel, and the easier we’ll fall asleep.”
Casey also recommended deep breathing as a way to relax before bed, reducing electronic usage and dimming the lights to prepare yourself for a solid night’s sleep.
Overall, green noise is not a prerequisite for a good night’s sleep ― it’s innocent enough to try, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.
Winter said he believes green noise can be beneficial for creating an optimal environment ― particularly if your surroundings are noisy. But if you’re already doing fine on your own, “sleeping in silence is perfectly fine.” At the end of the day, it comes down to personal preference and what you find most helpful.
If you don’t have success with any healthy sleep methods, then you may want to consider seeking professional help to get to the underlying cause of your sleep issues, whether that’s your primary care physician or a sleep expert. In some cases, trouble sleeping may stem from undiagnosed issues like sleep apnea or anxiety.
Regardless, prioritizing your sleep will benefit your overall health both mentally and physically ― and that’s not something to take lightly.
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