I’m not getting paid for this but I really should be. If you have trouble sleeping, you’re gonna wanna read this.
How Do You Sleep At Night? It’s a question we ask of villains and bad politicians (who may also be labelled as villains). What if you’re neither? What if you have trouble sleeping because of circumstances beyond your control and not because of a plot to ruin the world?
The circumstance beyond my control that stops me from sleeping is my neighbour. My neighbour snores. He’s loud. Like, really loud. It’s not really a topic you can bring up when you catch each other at the mailbox or on the stairs. That is not polite. That is awkward. Our rooms share a wall. It’s brick.
I started using ear plugs to block the sound. I could still hear him. I have an app on my phone: Atmosphere, which plays a whole range of different kinds of sounds from camp fires, to cats, to building sites. You can play more than one sound at a time so I tried the campfire and rain and popped my phone on my bed beside my head.
I could still hear him.
A couple more brands of ear plugs later and still no luck. Even the ones my Mum gave me which works for her, didn’t work for me.
When you notice a sound—a clock ticking, a tap dripping—you focus on that sound. You seek it out. You can’t unhear it.
Silicone/putty ear plugs blocked the most noise, they block any sound from entering your brain holes, but they’d fall out at night so I’d wake up and rummage around the pillow. I could feel them as well, they were uncomfortable.
Then, I found a website that would change everything.
Welcome to Noisy World
“At NoisyWorld, we develop and review tools, gadgets and techniques to reduce and preferably even eliminate the negative effects of noise.We do our best to remove noise, unwanted sound, from our environment. It disrupts our sleep and work, poses a risk to our hearing, or simply annoys us.”
They review everything.
“[A]t Noisy World we also investigate tools, gadgets, and techniques with which you can use sound to improve your well-being, happiness, and performance.”
This place is a gold mine for people who like a bit of FRIKKEN SHUSH PLEASE.
When I first found the site I was hunting for ear plugs. Specifically, ear plugs that would block sound and not hurt my ears—I sleep on my side so my ears get squashed on the pillow from my big head.
This page taught me everything I need to know about ear plugs* but was too afraid to ask. *this is a film reference. Did you know the size of your ear canal can affect the effectiveness of ear plugs?
I bought one or two brands on this list from my local chemist. They didn’t work. I even popped two plugs in the one ear, just in case. Nope.
To the top of the list I went: Flents Quiet Time. I ordered some from eBay and waited.
*some time later*
They arrived in the mail. I was so excited. Bedtime! I popped those push purple plugs in my ear holes and waited.
I could hear my neighbour snoring. I was devastated.
All I wanted was to sleep. I was being bullied by sleep. I take a Valium every now and then but I don’t want to have to rely on medication to get a decent night’s sleep.
Back to the website.
I skipped the section on headphones because, again, I sleep on my side. White noise machines were expensive, and when I played white noise on my phone and put it near my head I could still hear the snoring.
The wonderful people on this website also keep in mind those of use who don’t sleep on our backs. Comfort is good for sleeping. Discomfort is not. I ordered the recommended brand, MAXROCK, and waited.
They arrived in the mail.
Excitement again but with some hesitance. The clock struck bedtime and I popped the earbuds in my ear holes and played the lovely campfire and rain sounds on my phone and oh my gosh,
I couldn’t hear him snore.
I toss and turn all night—I am a tosser—and I kept getting tangled in the cord. Also, I could feel the buds in my ears. Dang. So close to a solution. Maybe I should try wireless earbuds, ones that aren’t ridiculously expensive.
Back to the website. More things to learn.
I was very curious about the headbands with speakers in the sides. I couldn’t get either of the brands on the website and I’m glad I couldn’t, because they were wired and that would have meant more midnight tangles.
This sleep headband is on Amazon and it is wireless and it has great reviews and it is very reasonably priced and I was so excited.
I ordered one.
It arrived in the mail. Please, jeebus, please.
I was very, very, very good.
You wear it around your head like a tennis headband and you can even lower it to cover your eyes to block out light. The battery lasts for… well I haven’t run out of battery while I’ve been asleep. I charge it every morning. It lasts for hours and hours (I get a lot of sleep). Charging plug is USB Micro.
No wires, no tangles. It is also washable. Take out the wires and the Bluetooth thing (port? controller?) and wash the band in soapy water. DO NOT wash the Bluetooth thing (port? controller?).
It wasn’t great though—the padding around the earphones is noticeable and gets uncomfortable after a while—there’s a bit too much pressure on the ear cartilage.
I had an idea. I popped off to the chemist and bought some make-up sponges. I cut a round one in half and tucked it into the band and over the earphones so I wouldn’t be able to feel them as much.
Now, this was great.
Then, I played my campfire/rain sounds on my app.
HOLY WOW! I could not hear my neighbour’s snoring.
But wait, it gets even more solved. Solveder even.
The app I use, Atmosphere, can play white noise. I tried that, it sounds like a swarm of mozzies which is something you do not want to hear in Australia.
I read about different frequencies and was delighted to see on the app, next to white noise, was pink and brown noise. Brown noise is not like the brown note. Google that if you must.
To me, brown noise sounds like rain. Lovely, lovely rain. When I’m at a coffee shop writing and there are people around nattering and chattering, I pop my earbuds in and listen to brown noise to reduce the sounds of the people. I’m doing it right now. Although not now now because I’m at home now.
Choose which colour noise you like best.
The Story So Far: I listen to brown noise through my fancy-but-not-expensive sleep headband with make-up sponges covering the earphones and things are pretty sweet.
But wait, there’s even more. Morer even.
I don’t know about you but my brain will not shut the heck up at night. I’m either counting in my head to one thousand or ducking to the kitchen for some Valium at two in the morning.
Getting to sleep is not fun when you’re analysing everything you’ve ever done, or having new story ideas, or get a song stuck in your head that just won’t gosh darn leave (looking at you “Hamilton”).
There’s another app I had been using for a few months before all the ear plug quest began. It’s called Insight Timer. I don’t know what that means and I don’t use it to time my insights. Why would insights need timing in the first place?
I was using Headspace a while ago for their sleepcasts. A sleepcast is like someone reading you a bedtime story. How good were bedtime stories when you were a kid? Well guess what, they are still good now that we’ve all grown up and have bills to pay and everything aches when we stand up.
Headspace has a subscription method and with that subscription you get access to the sleepcasts. I had to cancel my subscription so I looked around for another source of sleepy story time.
One app only told a story for twenty minutes – it would cut off abruptly whether or not the story had actually finished.
One had ads—why would you want ads during a bedtime story?
So Insight Timer it was. They do have a subscription service but you don’t need that to access stories or meditations. You do need a subscription to rewind or fast forward through a story which is one of the weirdest bonus features I’ve ever heard of. To beat that, just refresh the story.
If you’re going down the path of listening to someone read you bedtime stories, you need to find someone with a voice, THE voice. Genders, accents, cadences—if there’s something in someone’s voice that nags at you, you are not going to enjoy it.
I found Glenda Cedarleaf (what a name) on the Insight Timer app and I only listen to stories read by her. She’s like the American grandmother I never knew I had. It’s free to listen but you can make a donation on her page.
Her recordings vary in length so I try and go for the longest to keep my brain focused enough to stop the constant thinking. She also has sleep meditations, her wonderfully calming voice unwinds your brain and your body while you listen to soft music and ocean waves until you drift off to sleep and Zzzzzz.
Gosh these are good.
Finally, we’ve reached the end of this very long journey that has included earplugs and apps and masks, oh my!
My gold medal-winning combination that blocks the sound of my neighbour snoring, shuts my brain up, and gets me to sleep quicker is this:
The only time I hear my neighbour snoring is when I’m still reading and he’s gone to bed before me. When this happens, I pop on my sleep headband and play some brown noise. I do wake up sometimes when the band has moved around my head causing the speakers to move away from my ears but that is such a small thing compared with the crap I put up with before.
And that, ladies and germs, is how I sleep at night.