An exploration of sleep and insomnia, with a single destination in mind:
a good night's sleep.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Use the Net to Get a Good Night's Sleep

Raise your hand --the one holding the coffee cup-- if you ever have trouble sleeping.

I have good news:  The Internet will rescue everyone who has trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, waking up, or who dreams about term papers and staff meetings instead of Hawaiian beaches.  And I'm not talking about using the Internet to read the Congressional Record online (though that's not a bad idea if you have trouble falling asleep.)  There are some great tools on the net for eliminating what ails your sleep without having to resort to reading the US budget.

Up high on the list of causes for insomnia is noise. Truck backup beeps, car alarms, dogs doing a tap dance on the floor of the apartment above, jets, crows, snoring spouses, smoke detectors that shout "low bat" only between 1am and 6am -- all of these can make it hard to sleep.

Savvy sleepers use white noise machines to block out these kinds of noises. White noise machines produce a combination of all frequencies:  If an unwanted noise is of the same frequency as the sound generated by the white noise machine and is of lower volume, you won't hear it. White noise machines sound a bit like air conditioners or fans, without the blowing-loose-paper-around part. 

There are various stand-alone white noise machines that you can spend money on, but the Internet has some great free sleep sound websites. Why buy a white noise machine when you can use your laptop as the perfect sleep sound machine?

My favorite is Simply Noise, which generates pure white noise.  And if you're willing to be a little edgy when it comes to your white noises, give Simply Noise's pink noise generator a whirl. Pink noise sounds different from white noise; pink noise is calibrated more closely to how the human ear hears.

White noise is produced by equal energy on all frequencies, while pink noise comes from equal energy on each octave. Simply Noise also offers brown/red noise, which is...never mind what it is: You'll hear the difference, and you can choose whichever masking sound you like.

If simple sound generators aren't enough for you, there's Sound Sleeping, which puts most store-bought sound generators (even the ones that cost $100 and up) to shame. Sound Sleeping lets you mix a variety of sounds to suit your sleep needs. You can include flute, thunderstorm, bonfire, creek, ocean waves, wind chimes and more. No two nights need be the same.  Another is White Noise 24/7, which, like Sound Sleeping, offers more than just white (or pink or brown) noise.

Nature sounds, in addition to masking outside noises, also make it hard to think about work, money, relationships and other problems that plague our minds as we try to sleep. Try ocean waves, a thunderstorm, crickets or a wind chime, and you'll find it impossible to think about your worries, or anything at all. You'll drift off in the darkness.

Here are two other free websites that can turn your computer into a sleep sound machine:

Now that you've solved the falling and staying asleep part, you can use the Internet to solve what is perhaps the even harder problem:  getting up in the morning at the exact moment in your dream when you're about to get that part in the latest Hollywood romantic comedy. For that, once again it's the Internet to the rescue. MetaClock, is a handy Internet-based alarm clock. Just open a tab in your browser and set the alarm. There's also Klokoo, which offers a realistically irritating rooster sound that I promise you won't be able to sleep through -- though it might cause you to throw your laptop off your night table. (Important note: Internet alarm clocks do not have an easy-to-slap snooze button.)

If a rooster isn't enough to get you out of bed, Naked Alarm Clock, perhaps the coolest looking web alarm clock on the planet, will blast reveille at you at a volume sure to wake the neighbors, too. There are numerous other internet alarm clocks, including the very minimalist Online Alarm Clock. But my favorite online alarm clock is Sleep FM, which can wake you up to the weather, time, day (in case you tend to not to know what day of the week it is when you first wake up), or other information. Oh yes, Sleep FM wakes you up with either a male or female voice who will soon become your favorite morning companion. Sleep FM's alarm will continue to work even if you lose your Internet connection, making it a very useful alarm clock.

If you're still having trouble sleeping, despite being lulled by ocean waves or a calming rainstorm, you can use the Internet to analyze what's making you toss and turn. iSleepDriary will help you track your sleeping patterns and change or eliminate those things that are keeping you from spending quality time with your pillow. iSleepDiary is easy to use; you start the process by answering 10 questions when you get up in the morning.  

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