May 3rd, 2012

Have trouble getting to sleep?

I don’t usually push products, but this is one I’ve been addicted to for over thirty years.

You’ve probably seen and maybe even heard all those newer and fancier sound machines that are supposed to lull you to sleep. They’re digital, and they feature gushing waterfalls and ocean waves and chirping crickets and other sounds that are purported to soothe you into dreamland. But all their sounds have a tinny quality to my ear, an unnaturalness that the old tried and true “Sleepmate” lacks.

I’ve learned there are two types of people in the world: those who want absolute quiet when they sleep, and those who prefer low and monotonous sound, especially if they need to mask the snoring of a loved one or the sirens of city traffic, or even the spring peepers in the country (a sound I happen to love, but not for sleeping).

35 Responses to “Have trouble getting to sleep?”

  1. Gringo Says:

    I am the sort who wants absolute quiet when I sleep, perhaps the result of spending the first half of my life in the sticks.

    My guess is that those who use a slow and monotonous sound to mask sound grew up in the city. For my freshman year in college I had a roommate who hailed from the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I could never understand how he turned on the radio to go to sleep.

    Another urban-rural difference is that my roommate from the upper West Side once got freaked out when a horsefly got into our room. My reaction: just some more wildlife, like the mice and flying squirrels that inhabited my childhood house. Or the dying fox we found under a crawl space. Or the skunk, woodchuck and deer that raided our garden. Or the possums and raccoons that raided our compost pile.

    I grew up next to a swamp, and never had any problem sleeping to the sound of the spring peepers. I need absolute quiet when I sleep. Somehow I adjusted to the spring peepers. As their sound was a harbinger of spring, I welcomed their sound- and somehow slept well.

    Go figure.

  2. carl in atlanta Says:

    LOL, we’ve got three of those things!

    My wife cannot sleep without one; packs it for every trip out of town, has panicked on those rare occasions when she’s forgotten it.

  3. neo-neocon Says:

    carl: are you and I married :-)? Or perhaps your wife is my long-lost twin, separated at birth?

  4. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    I’ve just heard a radio commercial for some sleeping tablets—I guess the commercial didn’t work very well because I can’t recall the name of this magic potion–but it struck me again that we here in the U.S. are way, way overmedicated. A pill to get you to sleep or to keep you awake, a pill for anxiety, or depression, psoriasis, inability to concentrate, to lose weight, grow hair back, stop restless leg syndrome, stop smoking, for osteoporosis, gout, erectile dysfunction, and on and on and on.

    And, I can’t help but notice, that as the pills proliferate–and apparently get more powerful–the side effects increase in number, and get more and more horrendous and life threatening. Thus, the ever lengthening list of warnings of this or that reaction or side effect that include things like addiction, heart attacks and strokes, cancer, fatal infections, permanent involuntary motions, suicidal thoughts or uncharacteristically dangerous actions and, perhaps my favorite, driving or engaging in other activities without having a memory of doing so.

    It seems like we want our every ache and pain, tough time, the changes brought about by age, and anything that is not just perfect to be washed away; we want to be protected against our normal human lot and to be coddled, and I suggest that such protection, and coddling, such a reach for “perfection” comes at a heavy price.

    Hospitals can harbor some very powerful infections, and bad things can happen in them, accidents and mistakes do happen in hospitals and doctor’s offices, and drugs and medical procedures have no guarantee of success.

    Thus, as a former military corpsman, my preference is to stay away from doctors, hospitals, and medicines unless I absolutely need them.

  5. neo-neocon Says:

    Wolla Dalbo: Did you ever notice how, in those TV ads for medications, the list of side effects is often the longest part of the ad—even when the announcer races through them at lightening speed?

  6. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    Neo–Lawyers i.e. sharks circling the boat just after the chum hits the water.

  7. Indigo Red Says:

    I never got used to the 24/7 traffic drone of southern California cities where I lived for 30 yrs after growing up in the Gold Country of the north state where crickets, grasshoppers, and frogs were the orchestra of the night. While in the south state, I tried recordings of babbling brooks and gentle ocean waves, but those were more annoying than the traffic. An alarm clock with recorded crickets did the trick; not even the airliners flying low to a John Wayne Airport landing bothered me.

    Last week, a meteor exploded in the sky only 18 miles away from me over Coloma and Lotus with the force of 1/3 the Hiroshima bomb. I was asleep and didn’t hear a thing. In the morning, I wondered what caused the funnel-shaped contrail that abruptly ended unlike all the jet trails criss-crossing the sky.

  8. Dustoffmom Says:

    I use the timer on my TV, set for 20 minutes on the lowest possible volume. I rarely ever hear it go off. But that is since I discovered Melatonin a few years back. It saved my darn life! 3 mg 20 minutes before I am ready to stop reading and turn off the light….I sleep like a teen with not one bit of ‘hangover’. (but still like that bit of background noise on the way to sleep)

  9. Francesca Says:

    I have one of those sound soother things (digital), and what drives me crazy is the repetition of the sound patterns. They are on a circular ‘tape’ (I don’t know the digital term for this), and I stay awake waiting for the sound of the waves, thunder, rain, whatever to start again from the beginning. Doesn’t soothe me at all.

  10. Curtis Says:

    The best noise to put you to sleep? Farm animals: cooing of chickens, horses munching, and the well pump.

    Of course that follows a fucking hard day of work!

  11. Curtis Says:

    Where do retarded people and retired people differ?

    Retarded people have a purpose.


    Lose the idea that retirement is a deserved benefit. Then you will began to dismantle the welfare state and make it the United States.

  12. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Curtis: “Lose the idea that retirement is a deserved benefit. Then you will began to dismantle the welfare state and make it the United States.”

    A bit far from the topic of sleep, but I’ll rise to the bait. There are many jobs (mine, commercial airline pilot was one) that have mandatory retirement dates or a date when one can no longer do the work. I don’t think many people can or want to carry hod, dig ditches, or even most construction work in their late 60s or older. I knew there was a date certain when I would no longer be able to ply my trade. We saved, invested, went without, and made do to the point that my poor wife has always thought of me as a miser. It did pay off though.

    I entered on retirement with much trepidation. Could we live on the reduced money? Would the money last? What would I do with all that spare time? How could we make the money go far enough if we both lived into our 80s or 90s. Etc. Long story short – we kept living on less than what was coming in and investing (I now had more time to look at the opportunities) and even when the company pension was reduced, we managed to adjust to less income. If the Social Security goes away we can still make it. If Medicare goes away, we will probably die a bit younger, as the money to prolong life with expensive procedures won’t be there.

    19 years since I parked my last airplane. It’s been an adventure completely different than my working life. But in my own way, I have continued to do what I can to be useful to my family and community. In fact, I heartily recommend retirement as a new way to be in the world. But it takes preparation and that starts early. (It also helps to have a gowing economy that produces decent investment returns on a range of investments. ABO – 2012!)

    As to sleeping well. My life as an airline pilot ruined my circadian rhythms. And I have never been able to normalize things. Have tried a lot of things. What works best for me is to have worked out and gotten myself physically tired. Even then it’s an iffy thing.

  13. John in Dublin Says:

    I spent the first 38 years of my life in Manhattan, and the sound of the streets, firetrucks, car alarms, night work by ConEd, muggings, and the West Side Highway were sounds that lulled me to sleep. I’m not kidding.

    After 23 years in California, the bay area, I got used to absolute quiet at night. Then the mockingbirds happened at 3 am. Then the Canadian geese happened at 5 am. Now I still can’t sleep unless its absolutely quiet, but I don’t sleep long. The mockingbirds I can deal with (except for the monster that decided to imitate car alarms at 3 am) but the geese? If only it were legal to shoot a gun within town limits, I’d shoot every last one of those feathered sh*t machines and be all the happier for it. CANADA! Damn you for your geese. PLEASE take them back.

  14. Curtis Says:


    No retirement to Moses, only death
    and Moshe understood the power of G-d’s breath
    Making the shaking of Egypt’s failed power
    Less than more a return to Eden’s flower.

    Ahh, women, I know it’s good for you to have
    him back again, we are only your black slave,
    please release me, and please, let me love again.
    Who is it, not me, please, who said that I sinned?

    Lived and demanded, without God,
    Justice. Some fool left the car door
    open and the rain fell and mold
    put a face where God could have been.

  15. vanderleun Says:

    I don’t know. I have to say that that SleepMate Electro-Mechanical White Noise Machine looks like just some odd pile of sleep snakeoil. I’d never, ever, have one in my house.

  16. Curtis Says:


  17. Donna B. Says:

    Once I go to sleep, I can sleep through most anything. I even slept through a small tornado that tore up stuff in our yard once. I’ve dreamed I got up and went to work. (And no, the boss did not buy that excuse but he gave me 1/2 a point for creativity.)

    But getting to sleep is sometimes a problem. According to my mother, it’s one I’ve always had. I don’t want to stop… just one more… whatever.

    Years of shift work didn’t help.

    Though I’ve never tried one as a sleep aid, I know what Francesca means. I call them loops. Toys that play this sort of thing are popular at baby showers and my grandchildren have had them. They drive me nuts and have never worked very well with the babies either.

  18. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    The Whatsits have that very same machine, Neo, and oh how we love it. We live on a farm, where it drowns out not just spring peepers, but bawling calves, sleepy dawn robins, passing trucks, rain drumming on the roof, the waterfall in the creek on the other side of the road, the cat scratching at the bedroom door to say wake up, wake up, wake up already. These are all lovely sounds — but not when we’re trying to sleep.

  19. texexec Says:

    Unfortunately, they aren’t available all the time, but turning on the TV to watch a baseball game will put me to sleep in less than 60 seconds…even if a World Series game.

    International football games (we call it soccer), golf matches, or cricket games work just as well.

  20. Francesca Says:

    Hockey, too.

  21. Douglas Says:

    I listen to old time radio drama’s.

  22. Doom Says:


    Some of us have zero choice, even at a younger age. At just over 22 my heart became infected. Pumping at 20-30 percent of normal ability now I can’t work. I do good when I can stay in a normal day/night pattern for a couple weeks or months. That IS good living for me. I would rather at least be climbing mountains, or hiking those trails, fishing, working out, and definitely working. Then again, I just can’t seem to die. Trust me, I’ve tried. Not always a choice.


    As for sleep? I wish something would work. I fall into days, weeks, months even, where I am never fully asleep and yet never actually awake. Though… I don’t think there is… anything to for that. Though… how much serious noise cancellation does that device bring? While the nearby road isn’t a highway, there is traffic all night on it. With the rest of the world quiet and while I am in a quieter state that traffic can sound like a freight train passing through.

  23. neo-neocon Says:

    Doom: the device has two levels of noise. Neither are very loud, but they are loud enough to effectively mask most background noise short of sirens going off. The way it works is not just that it masks the other noises, but it also sets up a competing noise that is very monotonous and lulling and almost hypnotic (at least for me). It might be worth getting one and trying it as long as it can be easily returned if it doesn’t work for you.

  24. Beverly Says:

    I use the wave machine, because it has a pattern that I can’t easily ‘hear’ and thus memorize (and I’ve resisted doing so, for just the reason Francesca says). The “cricket” and “rainfall” loops drive me batty, because I can hear the pattern repeat and repeat. . . .

    Melatonin doesn’t do a thing for me. Nor does valerian or kava kava, or anything herbal. Even narcotics I get used to in about 3 nights flat. So I’m stuck with my insomnia, and here I am at 2:30 am, typing to you all! Nighty night.

  25. Curtis Says:

    Doom, there is little we who have health can know what your struggles are. It’s such a blessing to have you and all others who tell us by example why we should be grateful for what we have. If you were not, then this whole thing is not. But you are, so we are.

  26. Susanamantha Says:


  27. CZ Says:

    Before going to sleep I prefer tuning in to right wing hate talk radio. Where I live Mark Levin is on beginning at 9pm.

    So soothing, so comforting.

    TRUE : )

  28. RigelDog Says:

    I will have to seriously consider getting one of these machines…I just wish it was not so expensive. We sleep with a large Vornado-brand floor fan going every night, more for the white noise than the need for a fan. Now we can’t sleep without a fan/noise, and take a small fan whenever possible when we travel. I’d much rather have a small machine that doesn’t use much electricity.
    As far as getting good, consistent sleep, I take a benedryl every evening for allergies and sinus congestion, and it also helps with sleep. Keeping regular hours also works.

  29. John Says:

    One Benadryl and I sleep like a baby.

  30. Mac Says:

    I’ve never felt the need for something like this, but for those who have had problems with devices with fairly short loops of nature sounds etc.: there are many cds with natural sounds and/or soft music that might solve that problem. Put it on repeat and let it play all night–you certainly wouldn’t be able to remember a 60 or 70-minute loop.

  31. neo-neocon Says:

    RigelDog: it was my husband who introduced me to the whole white noise for sleeping concept, and he’d been using a fan for years before he met me. So I got hooked on the fan, and then this machine replaced it. The machine is portable and uses less power, but I believe there’s a small fan inside it.

  32. waltj Says:

    Sleep, one of my favorite activities, if you can call it that. I’ve always been fortunate that I sleep well in most places. I’m basically like the young John in Dublin: a born-and-raised city boy who sleeps easily in the midst of the cacophony of street noises. But I find the quiet of the countryside equally restful. And I have no problem falling asleep in a sunlit room or one that is completely dark. Having affectionate, purring cats also helps, at least until they decide to chase each other across the bed at 3 am.

  33. RigelDog Says:

    Neo: <>
    Thank you for the feedback; this information makes the machine sound like a very good replacement for our fan.

  34. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States Says:

    I’ve always used a fan, even in winter. It keeps the air circulating which helps keep the room from getting stuffy, which I seem to be rather sensitive to, and adds a white noise background that makes sleep easier.

  35. Cadet College Jhang Says:

    Cadet College Jhang…

    […]neo-neocon » Blog Archive » Have trouble getting to sleep?[…]…

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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