I vividly remember having a sleep-over at my cousin’s house when we were, like, 5 or 6 – the worst part about it was that my cousin insisted on having some cheesy kids music playing while he fell asleep! Not only was it baby music I was too cool to want to listen to, but it was so distracting that I practically had to sit there and listen to the whole album before I could get some peace and quiet enough to fall asleep.
Needless to say, I didn’t need white noise to fall asleep for the majority of my life. I’m a pretty sound sleeper, but it’s always been difficult for me to actually fall asleep. The thirty or so minutes where I wait to fall asleep is the time I do most of my thinking and processing, so sometimes it’ll take upwards of an hour or more to actually conk out. But that was all I ever knew, and any erratic noises like my dad snoring or a faucet dripping were amplified in my mind and made it harder to relax.
Fast forward to my college roommate, sophomore year, Tim. Tim insists on keeping a fan on in his room during the night – year round. Now, in Chicago during the summer, our box fan was on high blast 24 hours a day to keep us from drowning in our own sweat during the night, but in the winter it’s a whole other story. The issue became how frigid our room would become, but I quickly grew accustomed to the constant hum of the fan at night. Because it has a consistent sound, it never became distracting, and it helped to mask any potentially distracting noises – it was a pretty great revelation, and I could tell I was falling asleep quicker than usual.
Unfortunately, this became a bit of a crutch and sleeping in hotels or at other people’s houses became more difficult without a fan. I experimented with playing Youtube videos of fans, but it was a nuisance to the people around me. When I got my own room senior year, I decided to make a soothing playlist, much like my cousin did all those years ago. It worked fairly well, but then I found myself just listening and singing the music in my head which only kept me awake longer. Then I started listening to long form Youtube videos that I had already heard before – lectures and analysis that I could kind of zone in and out of, but still find entertaining night after night. I still kind of use this method, but I have most of them practically memorized so I end up with a similar problem to the playlist solution.
My latest discovery was an app called “Rain Rain” which offers a lot of the same white noise sounds like fans, the ocean, fire crackling, and of course rain, but with some nifty features like slow fade and combining multiple sounds. I always loved sleeping through rainy nights and I realize now that I always kind of preferred having white noise. I love the sound of crickets and cicadas, I used to have an alarm clock with the sounds of the ocean, and even falling asleep during movies or while watching TV. While I still tend to go without my white noise while I’m sharing a room, if given the choice I’d always prefer to be lulled to sleep with some kind of sound rather than silence.