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TexasDude's avatar

Why do I become extremely sensitive to sounds when I am trying to go to sleep?

Asked by TexasDude (25244points) February 9th, 2011

Last night as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep, my ears suddenly became attuned to a rhythmic, repetitive sound coming from the neighboring room: my neighbor was rapping.

I tried to tune the sounds of his rapid-fire rhymes out, but my brain kept anticipating the next beat, or the next verse. He wasn’t even being particularly loud, but I started to go a little crazy and I got up and asked him to tone it down. He graciously obliged. A few minutes later, I began to listen to the sounds of my suitemates playing Cawadoody Black Awps Gnatzee Zombies in the living room. They weren’t particularly loud, but once again, my brain began to anticipate the things they would say and the sounds they would make. I stuffed earplugs in my ears, but that just made me uncomfortable. I became restless and anxious, and didn’t fall asleep for several hours.

This is not the first time this has happened to me. In fact, it happens a lot. If the room isn’t perfectly quiet (perfect silence is almost impossible to find on a college campus) then my mind will look for sounds, focus on them, and anticipate patterns, as I mentioned before… almost how people subjected to the famous Chinese Water Torture would go supposedly go insane from anticipating the next drop of water.

Help me Fluther… what can I do to overcome this weird issue? Do any of you guys/gals/etc. experience the same thing? How do you deal with it?

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38 Answers

Cruiser's avatar

Ear plugs or white noise or both works for me. Shooters ear plugs work great and are comfy too

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I have a radio on low playing light music when I go to sleep. I have a hard time sleeping with random noise in the background.

gailcalled's avatar

Go to more movies. Soon you will have severe hearing loss.

Austinlad's avatar

I’ve gotten more sensitive to night noises as I’ve grown older—especially barking. I don’t much like the feel of earplugs, and white noise sometimes is more annoying than the sound it’s only partially blocking. My best defense is to turn on classical music.

ucme's avatar

I’ve no idea why, but know that i’m about the same. I mean, once i’m asleep that’s it WW3 could officially break out right over my roof…....oblivious i’d be. Different story when i’m in the first stages of sleep however. Every single bloody noise I hear, like a mouse trods on a pebble in the garden….whassat? As I say, i’m not going to be of any help on this issue. Just thought i’d express a touch of empathy s’all.

Seelix's avatar

I’m the same way a lot of the time. Trying to fall asleep while Mr. Fiance is in the living room playing video games or watching TV can be really hard. I sometimes use earplugs, and sometimes I listen to my iPod on low playing Dr. Jeffrey Thompson’s Delta Sleep System. It’s very soft, relaxing music with no real discernible tune or anything, so there’s nothing to anticipate – just soothing music which helps to drown out other sounds. I live smack in the middle of downtown Toronto and very near to a fire hall, so there are always honking horns and sirens outside. The Delta System works for me – there are samples you can listen to on the site I linked.

john65pennington's avatar

I have worked all shifts as a police officer. My hardest attempt at sleeping, would come from working the AM shift and attempting to sleep in the daytime. All the noises of daytime activities kept me awake forever. I finally discovered ear plugs, antihistimine, and eye patches. When all else failed, this combination worked for me.

marinelife's avatar

I suggest white noise which you can get from having a fan on in your room or some natural sounds.

deni's avatar

I asked almost the same question a while back. I have always had this problem. Even if I can hear my boyfriend breathing beside me I can’t fall asleep. It is super annoying and inconvenient. Earplugs definitely help. However I don’t have earplugs anymore so I just keep laying there until my mind wanders off enough and I’m not concentrating on the annoying noise anymore. Then I fall asleep.

KatawaGrey's avatar

Maybe the problem is that things are too quiet when you go to sleep so any noise is instantly an alien thing that seems much louder than it actually is. For nine years, I lived nestled under a highway and I could always hear it. This actually helped me sleep because any other noises blended into the sounds of the highway and just became normal, background noise. When I moved to college, There was not nearly the degree of white noise but there would be the occasional laughing person out in the parking lot or the sound of television from the next room. I had never had so much trouble sleeping in my life. Now that I’m in an apartment right near the main street in town and down the road from a couple bars, I have no trouble sleeping again because those noises just blend into the background.

I think your best bet is some kind of white noise machine. A fan works best for me. It’s rhythmic and loud enough to block out other sounds, but not loud enough to keep you awake.

Barring that, try adjusting your nightly ritual. Do you read before bed? If not, maybe you can start. That way, you will get used to the sounds around you while you are lying down and that might help you transition into getting used to them while you try and fall asleep.

Coloma's avatar

Because you’re a sensitive guy! lol

I think this is true for many peeps. I want complete silence when falling asleep, other than a mellow instrumental cd playing on occasion to lull me into dreamland or the usual nature sounds over this way, owls, crickets, frogs. lol

When the body is preparing for rest so is the mind, all systems are in defrag mode and a quiet mind becomes ultra aware.

I am extremely spoiled living in a very quiet rural environment, when I travel I have a hard time sleeping in noisy cities. Sensory overload.

6rant6's avatar

I use a fan to cover the noise.

gailcalled's avatar

New Yorkers who love to fall asleep to taxi horns, police sirens, alarms and so forth have a terrible time at my house. The sounds of silence, they say, are very disturbing.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@gailcalled: I just dog sat for a professor of mine for three weeks while he was away. His house is out in the middle of nowhere and it was eerily quiet. Every sound had me bolt upright in bed. I know how those New Yorkers feel. ;)

Coloma's avatar


Haha, I know, I get the same thing from my city and out of town friends. They say ‘it is TOO quiet!’ Not to mention the night sounds in the forest freak them out. lol

I think silence freaks out a lot of people, OMG…it’s scary to tune into to your own frequency when you’re not used to it.

thorninmud's avatar

Noise isn’t what disrupts my sleep; it’s the annoyance that accompanies some forms of noise. I notice that unintentional noises don’t keep me from going to sleep. But if there’s someone responsible for the noise, someone who ought to be more sensitive to the fact that people may be trying to sleep, then the annoyance factor kicks in, the anger chemicals start flowing, and it’s that, not the noise, that keeps me awake.

Dutchess_III's avatar

It’s an instinct to become hyper sensitive to everything as you’re sleeping, simply because you’re extremely vulnerable at that time. It gets particularly fine tuned when you become a parent. As far as blocking it out…you’ll just have to practice!

wundayatta's avatar

Run a fan. Listen to your own music on the radio or your mp3 player. Anything that will take your mind to sounds you like instead of sounds that bother you. It’s white noise, and since I live in the city, I have to use it a lot, especially in the summer and the backyard neighbors are having party practically underneath my window.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Fan is very good…

WasCy's avatar

I think the posters who say “it’s too quiet” are onto something.

Here is your answer: Ghettones™. You can help us market this thing.

Coloma's avatar

Uh uh….no sound like silence.

City dwellers are out of touch with their wild side.

Thats why they have to get out of the city on a regular basis to retain their sanity. lol

tragiclikebowie's avatar

I don’t know but the same shit happens to me. It’s infuriating. I put pillows over my head, but the only noises I have to deal with are owls, snow plows, or the heat pipes making noise this time of year. I can’t listen to music or anything because it’s too loud :(

DominicX's avatar

Same thing happens to me. I need it as silent as possible. Try falling asleep when your neighbors have a party that lasts from 2 A.M.-6 A.M. (went to bed at 2, fell asleep at 5:30. It was hell).

Coloma's avatar


I thought you were a college kid, the curmudgeon zone is upon you already?
$%^#&**#@ neighbors kept me up half the night! lol ;-)

DominicX's avatar


Well, most of the parties I go to (and have thrown) end around 2 or 3 at the latest. Who parties until 6 in the morning?! :P

gailcalled's avatar

Here’s the sound you might hear chez moi. The yellow-bellied sapsucker looking for insects in my cedar siding.

TexasDude's avatar

Sweet Jesus, I go to class and take a nap, and I come back to a slew of great answers. Lurve all around for e’erybody.

@DominicX, that sucks dude. I’ve had the exact same thing happen to me on several occasions, so I feel your pain. I usually just yell at people and tell them to shut the fuck up.

@marinelife, I used to have one of those when I was little and it helped back then. I dug it back out and tried using it recently, but it did the same sort of thing to me. And as much as I enjoy classical music (especially Bach and Pachelbel, @Austinlad, it does the same thing to me when I’m trying to sleep.

@KatawaGrey, that’s a pretty good point. I sleep like a log when I’m at home, even if I can just slightly hear my mom’s horror movies playing through the walls. I guess that after 2.5 years, I still haven’t gotten used to the chaos of college. My before-bed ritual is random and depends on what has been going on during the day. Sometimes I’m out by 11 or so. Sometimes, I’m out terrorizing my town until God-knows-when. A lot of times, I don’t really have a choice.

@gailcalled, oh God. I love birds, and animals in general, but I’d probably be breaking out the bb gun if that thing was tormenting me like that.

@thorninmud, excellent point…. One time, there was a fly buzzing loudly in my room at home. It started driving me crazy because I couldn’t un-hear it… it just kept buzzing and buzzing and buzzing. I turned on my light and tried to track the fly as it buzzed around my room… unfortunately, it was camouflaged against all the posters and other crap I had hanging on my wall. I tried swatting it several times to no avail. It continued to buzz mockingly around my head. In desperation, I grabbed a can of body spray and a lighter. I tracked the fly as best I could, raised the can of body spray, flicked the lighter, and unleashed a hellish stream of fire in its direction. The fly was cooked. So was my paper lantern that was hanging from my ceiling at the time. I put out the fire and went to sleep amid the smell of burnt paper and victory.

@tragiclikebowie, yeah I pretty much have the same issue. Everything, even the most soothing sounds bother me. Hell, the soft sounds of a million nymphs in orgasmic ecstasy would piss me off when I was trying to sleep.

@everybody, the problem with ear plugs that I forgot to mention is that once I do fall asleep, I sleep very deeply and often don’t hear my alarm (thus causing me to miss class). Earplugs would just make that worse. I guess I could get someone to wake me up, but we all have wildly different schedules. I guess I just need to stop being such a bitch about it :-p

tragiclikebowie's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard Or you could get this. I got my ex one, and trust me, no one can sleep through this thing.

TexasDude's avatar

@tragiclikebowie, I actually used to have an alarm that launched a little mini helicopter and the beeping wouldn’t stop until you returned it to base.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard—You slept through all of us chattering in the other room about you?? YOU’RE HEALED!!!!”

TexasDude's avatar

@Dutchess_III, holy shit… you’re right.

flutherother's avatar

I like a quiet room at night and my mind focuses on any distracting noises and even on the silences when they stop. Fortunately it is always quiet around here at night.

WasCy's avatar

Tape a Pittsburgh Pirates / Cincinnati Reds doubleheader someday (they’ll have one this coming season, won’t they?) and play that on low volume. I would imagine that you’d be out by the third inning of the first game, and if you should happen to wake at any time, there’s always that nightcap to put you right back down again.

deni's avatar

@WasCy HAHAHAHAH genius idea!

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard what if you resorted to earplugs and set your alarm on your phone so it vibrated when it went off and you FELT IT rather than having to hear it? hm?!?!?!

TexasDude's avatar

@flutherother, lucky you.

@WasCy lolololololololol

@deni, I actually tried that once. I wound up knocking it off my bed in the middle of the night. It landed on the floor and the battery flew out. I woke up on my own around 1pm having slept through all my classes :-(

Dutchess_III's avatar

turrible, turrible

TexasDude's avatar

@Dutchess_III, did I say you could chime in?~

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