Lull to Sleep

The other night an old pickup truck was waiting for the light to change right outside my bedroom window. It’s engine revved unevenly, with fits and starts interposed into a few seconds of normal idling. I found the unpredictability of the sound to be soothing and soporific (that word was solidified into my vocabulary by Wit, a horrifically sad but well acted movie with Emma Thompson).


So many people I know use either fans or white noise machines to help them sleep. For them, the sameness of the sound  lull them to sleep. It is the exact opposite for me. If the sound never varies, it is as if the volume is slowly increasing. I can’t ignore it – it is ever present.

I think this is why I can’t listen to songs while trying to fall asleep, especially ones I know: my brain always anticipates what is next and doesn’t shut down.

When I was in England, the stress of grad school caused many a sleepless night. Someone recommended playing classical music as I went to sleep. It worked like a champ! I wasn’t that familiar with it, and it didn’t have any voices for my mind to hang on to. Occasionally I would stumble across a melody that had been repurposed by Billy Joel, but after that passage had passed, out I went.

It was really nice having something that worked for me. It did become a bit unfortunate when I started taking advantage of student pricing for cultural events. I was able to get £30 symphony tickets for only £5!

Guildford Sympony

I remember my first concert. I was all dressed up, and I had walked over to the hall from my flat. I took my seat about 15 minutes early so I could have the joy of watching the seats fill up – I love that! Finally the musicians came in and were seated. We all politely applauded the conductor. The lights dimmed, the classical music (it was a Mostly Mozart Night) began, and my eyelids became heavy. I hadn’t realized that the Pavlovian response wouldn’t only kick in when I was in bed!

I was not going to be the American who slept through the performance. That was when I learned that there is a definite visual component to a live musical performance. It was so much fun to watch the build up in the score by seeing the different instrument sections enter the glorious harmony.

Learning to have the concerts be a visual as well as auditory experience is what broke the classical music always equals sleep cycle, much to my entertainment pleasure.

Am I the only one who finds white noise distracting? or Has anyone else watched a symphony?

6 thoughts on “Lull to Sleep”

  1. Music is way too active for me to use to sleep – always has been. Somehow, though, I’ve become very used to the sound of my Husband’s C-Pap machine. Perhaps because there isn’t much choice about that one! Usually, though, white noise bothers me. I think it’s my ADHD – I hit a point in the day where any more sensory input just sends me over the edge. So I much prefer the silence to anything else.


    1. It is good that your husband’s CPAP machine doesn’t bother you!

      Perhaps part of my problem with music at bedtime is the stimulation. I do prefer quiet, but sometimes it is an open invitation for my brain to run wild and not sleep.


  2. No – I’m right there with you Tammy. I like absolute silence and absolute dark. The only sounds that work for me, if they must interject, are breezes through pine trees (probably from having grown up in the mountains they are soothing) and like you, classical music – very, very softly. Oh – and Reiki chants – they work like a charm.
    Wishing you lullabies of classical music and silence my friend.


    1. That is a wonderful wish. Thank you, Barbara.I could definitely sleep to breezes through pine trees as well. What a pleasant intermittent sound!


  3. That’s interesting that white noise doesn’t do anything for you, but the sound of a pickup truck will. I have a weird quirk with sleep too. I had a roommate who would make a lot of noise when he woke up, but it wouldn’t wake me up. But on some days he was quiet, but for some reason when he was quiet I always woke up. So I’m a little weird that way. I wake up to soft noises, but louder ones don’t do much for me.


    1. Your mind knew something was different, so it woke you up to investigate! I have found that even some crazy things like having my cat sitting and staring at me will wake me up. It’s amazing how aware our bodies remain even when we are asleep.


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