The quest for a good night of rejuvenating sleep is a noble and, let's be honest, never-ending pursuit. When it comes to healthy sleep, there are so many factors in play – from your mental and emotional state to the practicalities of your physical well-being, diet, fitness regimen, hormonal balance, and more.

And while a quiet, tranquil sleeping environment seems to be a no-brainer, this quest has led many to explore various auditory aids. As it turns out, a bit of noise can go a long way!

 

Noise and sleep

 

In the world of sleep sounds, white noise is a well-known companion. It includes a mix of frequencies with equal intensity and a steady cadence. This consistent sound is famous for blocking external noises, creating a steady background. These kinds of sounds aim to create a relaxing environment, but they use different sounds to achieve this. Understanding the principles of how these sounds are generated helps us see how they might impact sleep. 

 

Understanding noise colors

 

Not all sleep-aiding noises are created equal. While all sorts of sounds, such as pink noise, white noise, and green noise, can help ease your mind and aid relaxation, the principles behind how they work are quite different. 


Noise Color

Inspiration

Examples

Frequency Spectrum

White noise

 

Steady, equally loud noise to drown out the distractions, help focus, or fall asleep.

TV or radio static, gentle hum of a ventilator, ocean surf.

Flat – includes all the audible frequencies which are equal.

Green noise

 

Nature-inspired, random, bright but soft, with variable loudness mimicking real sounds found in real life. 

Murmur of a crowded room, the sound of rain, rushing waterfalls, or gusts of wind.

Lies in the center of the frequency spectrum with a limited range.

Pink
noise

 

Similar to white noise, but with a lower pitch, resembling certain natural sounds as if muffled or heard from a distance.

Heartbeat sound, steady wind, or rain.  

Gradual decrease in power octave-by-octave. 

Brown noise

 

Deep kind of noise with a lot of bass, creating a cozy, comforting sensation.

Thunder rumbling, heavy rainfall, crashing waves.

Broadband – contains all frequencies but power increases at lower frequencies.

 


Out of all the noise colors, white and green are most commonly used as a sleep aid. 

White noise, with its steady frequencies, acts as a buffer against sudden sounds that could prevent you from falling asleep or waking you up. 

On the other hand, green noise, by concentrating on lower frequencies, taps into the calming effects linked to natural elements which seems to have a calming effect on the human psyche. 

 

What exactly is white noise 

 

White noise, characterized by a blend of frequencies spanning from 20 hertz to 20,000 hertz played at a consistent intensity, mirrors a "shhh" sound akin to radio static or the whirring of a fan. It finds application in various settings, including doctor's offices, where it serves to safeguard privacy. The essence of white noise lies in its ability to serve as a sound masker, particularly beneficial in situations where external noises, such as traffic or pedestrian chatter, interfere with sleep.


The color-coded terminology in audio engineering likens white noise to white light in the color spectrum, representing the amalgamation of all audible frequencies. This pure and fundamental nature earns it the designation "white noise," distinguishing it from other noise categories like black noise, associated with silence due to its link to darkness and light absence. In essence, white noise is revered for its simplicity and efficacy in promoting a serene auditory environment conducive to restful sleep.

 

Green noise

 

Now, the green noise, which is derived from the more natural calming sounds often found in the outside world, offers a serene auditory experience reminiscent of a lush forest with leaves rustling in the breeze. It provides a refreshing escape from the daily hustle and bustle, creating an atmosphere conducive to relaxation and focus. Often utilized as background noise, green noise aids in enhancing concentration and improving sleep quality.


In its essence, green noise is a variant of white noise, except for the fact that it emphasizes mid-frequency tones to generate a more balanced and natural auditory blend. It leverages the calming elements of nature, like the rhythmic waves on a beach or the gentle patter of rain, activating the rest-digest response in our brains. Its consistent and rhythmic pattern contributes to lowering stress hormone levels, fostering a sense of calm and tranquility in our daily environments.

 

Read about: 5 Key Ways Deep Breathing Helps Calm Anger

 

Choosing your personal sleep soundtrack

 

The decision between green noise and white noise often boils down to personal preference. Some individuals find comfort in the steady hum of white noise, which acts as a reliable shield against disruptive sounds. Meanwhile, those drawn to the calming effects of nature might prefer the grounding embrace of green noise. Exploring both options will allow you to determine which sound aligns with their preferences, contributing to a more restful sleep experience.

 

Go one step beyond

 

When after some trial and error, you figure out your personal preference and start using white or green noise to help you sleep, don't stop there! As we mentioned earlier, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of factors that can influence sleep – and luckily enough most of them are within your control. 


Breathing exercises can also play a pivotal role in promoting restful and rejuvenating sleep. The idea here is similar to using green or white noise to fall asleep: in contrast to the hustle and bustle of daily life, controlled breathing introduces a rhythmic and deliberate pattern that communicates a calming signal to the brain, signaling the transition from wakefulness to a state of relaxation. The gentle cadence of intentional breaths serves as a conduit to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, often referred to as the rest-and-digest response. At bedtime, consider using live biofeedback breathing devices, like Oxa

that has a wide range of guided breathing exercises to fall asleep faster. 

With some practice, controlled breathing can become a bedtime ritual. As you engage in slow, deep breaths, your body responds by lowering cortisol levels, the stress hormone, and promoting the release of calming neurotransmitters like serotonin. This orchestrated symphony of physiological responses creates an optimal environment for a seamless entry into the world of sleep. It's a simple yet profound practice, transforming the bedroom into a sanctuary of tranquility.

 

 Get to know: Managing Workplace Stress with Breathing Techniques

 

FAQs

 

Q: What is the primary difference between white noise and green noise for sleep?

A: White noise comprises a mix of frequencies, while green noise emphasizes mid-range frequencies, creating a more balanced and nature-inspired sound. Green noise often incorporates soothing elements like rustling leaves and babbling streams, offering a distinct auditory experience compared to the uniform sound of white noise.

 

Q: How can controlled breathing improve sleep quality? 

A: Controlled breathing induces a state of relaxation by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing stress hormones, and promoting the release of calming neurotransmitters. This conducive environment contributes to improved sleep quality.

Stéphane Janssoone
Published:
February 8, 2024

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