I'm too old for this $#!&
September 30, 2009 5:30 AM   Subscribe

My bedroom creeps me the #%^* out. What can I do to alleviate my (somewhat) irrational fears? (hacks, consumer products, etc.)

I'm 9 months into living in an old, ollllld house -- one with lots of creaks and cracks. Add that to my incessantly hyperactive and paranoid imagination, and I have a lot of trouble sleeping.

For a while at first, I was sleeping with the light on. Then, I ended up taking care of my cousin's dog, and things got a lot better. However, I still have a flagrantly hyperactive imagination. After I saw The Ring and The Grudge in fits of self-masochism, I had trouble sleeping for weeks. Even now, I don't even need to see the previews of movies like Paranormal Activity for me to start getting creeped out. Right now, the dog is sound asleep on the bed, but here I am typing (and jumpy)...

As such, it's not really burglars/criminals/etc. that I worry about (humans, I can deal with), but the imaginary (and not-so imaginary) hibbidyjibby creepers. When I used to live in urban Philly, the ambient street noise at night was an excellent lullaby. Now, in suburban Honolulu, the quiet just accentuates the bumps.

I've read a little into the previous MeFi posts on this topic, and while they're somewhat useful I still can't seem to dispel the feelings of vulnerability and fear that I feel when I turn the lights out. For me, that period between lights out and sleep is one of the most stressful times of my day.

What can I do/buy/try to make me feel better?
posted by the NATURAL to Grab Bag (46 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Someone mentioned this in the post you link, so how do you feel about white noise? You could generate white noise in the background to mask the sounds. I've done this to avoid the noises of living next to a highway before with some success.
posted by tybeet at 5:38 AM on September 30, 2009

A subtle night light? A bit of light might make you feel more comfortable.

A radio/cd player/whatever with a sleep timer? This could be drown out the creaks and cover the silence, but won't stay on all night.
posted by knapah at 5:41 AM on September 30, 2009

#1. Rent Monsters, Inc. seriously... monsters aren't scary... if you touch them you won't be scared of them and they won't be able to generate power... they're just as scared of you as you are of them.
#2. Get something to generate some white noise - a white noise generator is one way to do this. Fans and AC units, which as an added bonus circulate cool air.
#3. Night lights are ok, as are blankies and stuffed animals. Girlfriends and boyfriends are better.
#4. Embrace the fear - take this opportunity to build pillow forts, closet traps and other such things. Ask any 8 year old - these things work.
#5. Dispose of the evil looking clown doll that sits on the chair by your bedside - trust me... its not helping.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:44 AM on September 30, 2009 [6 favorites]

Thirding white noise-- but also, why not just leave the lights on, as you say you did before? (Does the dog mind? If so, would he be better off in a bed in the closet or in a shady corner?) You could try a sleep mask if you're worried about your own biorhythms; sometimes just knowing that it's light out there (even if you see only dark) can help calm things down.

Also, instead of/in addition to the white noise, could you try listening to some talk radio or leaving a TV on? That'd help simulate the human company nanukthedog suggests.

And stop watching scary movies. Maybe try a dose or so of Scooby-Doo to remind yourself that Sarah Michelle Gellar is just an actress, mmmkay?
posted by Bardolph at 5:53 AM on September 30, 2009

I'm one of the posters from that older thread. I can totally see how this would be freaky, but I'd give one thing a go before much else. During the daytime, lay down on your bed, put something over your eyes so no light gets through, and just listen. Get an idea of the normal noises during daylight and that should help you to identify the abnormal ones at night.

Remember: *We* are the things that go bump in the night. So get on with it. Haunt your own house if you need to. :-)
posted by jwells at 5:54 AM on September 30, 2009

Get a cat. It's an early warning system in case something really is awry. And as an added bonus they're great company and very therapeutic. I know you're looking after a dog, but it's not quite the same, especially if you know it is only a temporary solution.

Plus, cats actually look like they understand. Dogs just look at you gormlessly.

You could also consider a light that you only need wave on and off. They dim also, so you can have it full on, or dimmed, depending on how bold you feel.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:00 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

There are a ton of white noise-type mp3s on Amazon (search "sleep sound"), most of them less than a dollar. I like the ones that are around an hour or 74 minutes, they can either be put on CD or put in an iTunes playlist (so they'll stop when it's over, or at least not go on to some sort of jarring song in your music library), which I use with a little speaker. If "gentle rain" or whatever isn't your thing, when I'm staying in hotels alone (which is when I'm much more likely to get creeped out) I like to play a couple of old episodes of This American Life on my laptop for background noise. Shorter audiobooks with a pleasant narrator are also good.

I am a little bit night blind, so my house is fairly well lit at night. I have a lamp in the kitchen that stays on all the time, a nightlight in the bathroom, and one of those plug-in, come-on-when-the-power-goes-out flashlights in the hall right outside the bedroom that has a nightlight on it. I am 37 years old and not ashamed of nightlights.

Give yourself a safety phrase to use when your anxiety starts to rise, like "Nothing here can hurt me" or "there's no such thing as monsters" or "I prefer my french fries with gravy," just whatever works for you. And give your brain something to do rather than fret - I like the Alphabet Game, where you pick a subject like car models or book titles and start going through the alphabet: Accord, Bonneville, Corvette, Dakota, etc.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:03 AM on September 30, 2009

Nth white noise. An air filter is excellent for that.
posted by bigmusic at 6:04 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Buy a gun. For many, there is a sense of security that comes with having a 9mm next to the bed (false sense or not).
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:07 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Melatonin 30-45 min. before bedtime.
posted by sharkfu at 6:08 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I totally get this way, too (slept with my light on for several nights after seeing The Ring). We bought a house built in 1852 this year, and I was extremely and irrationally worried about ghosts for a while. What has eased my irrational fear- pets. I figure if paranormal stuff actually exists, then it stands to reason that animals would be more sensitive to that stuff than we are. So I figure, if the bunnies are fine and aren't acting freaked out by anything, then there is nothing there for me to freak out about. If the dog is sleeping, there's nothing you can't see worrying it! So when you're done taking care of the dog, if you can get a pet, that just might work. Also, I find it easier to rationalize away the bumps and thumps in the night that wake me up if I can blearily blame it on the bunnies. What was that weird noise downstairs? Probably Grendel jumping around in her cage. Back to sleep!

I think a nightlight is a great idea, too, if that's an option. To a certain extent, sleeping with someone else is also a good way to get over it a bit just by virtue having to suck it up for the sake of the other person's sleep comfort (like I can't be jumping out of bed every time I hear a weird noise downstairs because that would wake up my husband, who does not find bumps in the night scary and would be annoyed to be woken up constantly).
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 6:09 AM on September 30, 2009

2nding a cat. Cats always hiss and attack evil supernatural things. Dogs usually just go running into the woods after mysterious noises and never come back, leaving you to deal with the reincarnated mummy alone, or whatever.

No, I kid. Check out this similar askme thread for other ideas.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:27 AM on September 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

The dog is a good indicator, if the dog is not alert and barking at a corner or something, everything's fine. Otherwise, instead of fighting against the fear, go with it and arm yourself. Break out the holy water, crosses, line the windows with salt, etc. See if that relieves your anxiety. If it does, keep it up. There's no harm in it.
posted by crankylex at 6:34 AM on September 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think a big component of a fear reaction is the unknown. Becoming more familiar with the house might help. If it were me, I think I might start by doing a thorough cleaning of the bedroom that included moving out some/all of the furniture. Wipe down every surface, especially the dark hidden spots behind and under furniture, and inside the closet. Shine bright lights on those spaces while you're working.

If you have the ability to see into the attic, crawl spaces, etc, I would go in there and spend at least 10-15 minutes just looking around. Take note of exit and entry points. Look around for any signs of animals, bugs. There's probably nothing there, and its good to learn that there is, in fact, nothing there.

Another piece of this problem is that your brain reinforces the fear reaction every time you have it. But you can actually retrain your brain to stop doing that by taking control of your emotional state. Find a stack of really hysterically funny books or DVDs and read/watch them in your bedroom. Get used to feeling safe and relaxed in there. Laugh your ass off.
posted by ben242 at 6:43 AM on September 30, 2009

sharkfu: "Melatonin 30-45 min. before bedtime."

Careful - while this might help you fall asleep I personally had the experience that melatonin can lead to really wild, vivid dreams. Which can be nice if you're dreaming nice things, but I wouldn't discount the possibility of intense nightmares, considering the setting and mindset you're starting out with.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 6:50 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Watch one or two episodes of a funny TV show before bed, or listen to stand-up comedy. Try to get rid of negative thoughts.

And stop watching scary movies.
posted by alligatorman at 6:52 AM on September 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

When I'm alone at night and have trouble sleeping, my irrational fears can get the better of me, too. Often getting up, turning on the light, and doing something else for half an hour does the trick.

Consider that even if ghosts and the like do exist, they don't really seem to do much more beyond messing with electrical equipment and occasionally drifting down hallways. There's probably nothing out there, but if there is, it's not gonna get you - it's just going to clang around for a while like a bothersome roommate. A while back, I posted this question, and the answers that helped me the most were the ones that took the "well, what could a ghost actually do?" tack. Maybe that perspective would help you? (For the record, the whole time I lived there nothing out of the ordinary happened.)

It also helps me, if my fear gets the better of me, to confront the creepy stuff head-on. When I was all alone in a giant two-bedroom apartment, some nights I'd just get up and walk through every room all "HEY, potential burglars! Come out and FIGHT!" If there's a shadow that freaks you out, instead of squeezing your eyes shut and turning away, look directly at it. Talk to it - "hey, shadow, if you're going to do anything freaky, how bout you do it to my face." Things look a little less creepy when you look straight at them than they do in your peripheral vision.

It's kind of a weird recommendation in this context since you're not particularly worried about human attackers, but The Gift of Fear actually helped me deal with the spooky fears, too.

Finally, if there are any objects in your room that seem to trigger these thoughts, remove them or move them out of your line of vision. For me it's electronics - it's pretty easy to imagine a TV spontaneously turning on, and blinking lights often get a hey-what-was-that reaction. If there's something in your bedroom that seems to be a vector for these thoughts, better to move it to a daylight-only part of the house.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:55 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've been the same way all my life in ANY bedroom. I find that having music or a movie playing when I go to bed helps to keep the flittery bits of me preoccupied enough that the rest of me can go to sleep.
posted by Billegible at 6:58 AM on September 30, 2009

Okay, so you're afraid of irrational, non-existent, imaginary entities... who nevertheless, despite lacking any form in consensual or objective reality whatsoever, have incredible power to disrupt your peace of mind?

Humans have been dealing with these creatures of the night for as long as we've been human. We managed to cope just fine with these fears during the millennia during which common wisdom held that vampires were literally real in the same way as turnips. You can too.

What you need, my friend, is magick. Instead of simultaneously feeling terrified and berating yourself for irrational fears, just go ahead and play the game. Accept that there's a part of your mind in which these monsters are real, in which they have real effects on you (see: insomnia), and put that part of your mind at rest instead of trying to deny it exists. You can't fight that part of your mind with a rational process... it doesn't work that way. If it did, horror movies wouldn't keep me you up at night.

Perhaps you could adapt the Golden Dawn's Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. You can probably pare it down a bit, though, if that seems like too much work before bed.

Too weird in your world view? Well, the Lord's Prayer is the Christian equivalent of a banishing ritual. Pay attention: every line counts, and protecting you from The Ring falls directly under "deliver us from evil". And if, beyond all expectations, you hear something, simply call out: "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, I command you back to hell. In Jesus' name, I command you back to hell." The boogieman feeds on fear, so don't let your voice waver; but spoken forcefully, no creepyjeepy can bear to hear the Lord's name nor can it disobey a command in His name.

Wait, you're Jewish? Well, there's this prayer that I found in a bit of googling--with a claim it's from the Babylonian talmud. A rabbi could probably give it to you in Hebrew.
O Lord, grant that this night we may sleep in peace. And that in the morning our awakening may also be in peace. May our daytime be cloaked in your peace. Protect us and inspire us to think and act only out of love. Keep far from us all evil; may our paths be free from all obstacles from when we go out until we return home.
Personally, I don't bother with all of the complexity of the above. Whether I'm being stalked by a vampire or a leprechaun, despite being an atheist, I have just one go-to mantra: the old tetragrammaton. The Holy Ineffable Name of God. YHVH. יהוה. Given that only the (hidden) descendants of the high priest of the Temple of Solomon know the true pronunciation, I don't bother to try to pronounce it. I find that it has great powers if simply pronounced as letters, as a kind of mantra: Yod Hey Vow Hey [non-standard transliterations for instructive purposes].

You could also make artifacts and distribute them around your property to serve as monster repellent. Dreamcatchers. The hagal. Horseshoes. Small mounds of salt (careful of your garden). Anything you've ever heard of granting "good luck" is actually something that, at some point in our not-too-recent-history, prevented the fair folk or the night creatures or the demons or whatnot from entering your home.

Buy a gun. For many, there is a sense of security that comes with having a 9mm next to the bed (false sense or not).

A 9mm is, in fact, my security blanket. When I'm all alone and up all night ('cause my wife's at work), I carry that chunk of plastic and metal with me everywhere in the house. But then my paranoia revolves around human monsters.

But, even if you don't like guns, or don't want one, or can't have one, a weapon of some sort helps tremendously. A knife's the wrong way to go here... you want a bat or a sword. Something with a little bit of range. And, while you're at it, get it blessed.
posted by Netzapper at 7:09 AM on September 30, 2009 [10 favorites]

Have you thought of moving your bedroom to a completely different part of the house, even if it's making a cozy place in the utility room or den? My wife had this very same problem a couple of months ago, so we moved the bedroom and it totally worked. And seconding the dog... if you can take care of one, you'll have someone looking after you at night.
posted by crapmatic at 7:16 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

i once referred a friend with similar fears to episode 10 of podcasts of "Logically Critical".
Episode 10: Live! From the Realm of the Dead Listener Favorite
Do ghosts really have nothing better to do than sit around making noises? If they’re trying to scare you, is THAT the best they can do?

She claimed it really helped her.
You might want to give it a listen too.
posted by kryptos at 7:25 AM on September 30, 2009

If I'm feeling a little freaked out about the possibility of zombie hordes (this usually only happens when I'm house sitting) I move the furniture around a little bit, like pulling a chair into the middle of the room. that way the zombies, or burglars, will trip on it and wake me up in time.
posted by Sara Anne at 7:33 AM on September 30, 2009

A tv or radio with a timer on a station without commercials often works for me, volume low. It takes me back to childhood, the grownups awake and talking elsewhere in the house, keeping me safe.

Lights on is not a good idea, it messes with your internal clock.
posted by mareli at 7:35 AM on September 30, 2009

Nthing-nthing white noise and night lights. Also pets. If it doesn't bug the cat, it shouldn't bug you. (Contrariwise, I've discovered that if my cats run off to investigate, I'd better follow them.)
posted by thomas j wise at 7:36 AM on September 30, 2009

Got a new age friend? Get a sage cleansing of your home.
posted by bunny hugger at 7:38 AM on September 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Good lord, don't get a cat. I have three cats, and I love cats, but they do have the unnerving habit of staring very alertly at a spot in an empty corner as if something were there. And they are often the source of WTF-was-THAT? noises rather than the solution.

Nthing the white noise machine, music on a sleep-timer, and/or just leaving a light on. Or, for a few nights running before you go to bed, walk around your place and say hello to "everyone" there. Introduce yourself. Talk a little bit about what you like about your new home, and tell "them" how happy you are to be there.

I grew up in Hawaii, with a Hawaiian grandmother who was happy to tell me lots of Hawaiian ghost stories (and there are lots). Except for the Night Marchers, Hawaiian ghosts aren't really the scary-freaky-chase-you-around-with-a-butcher-knife kind of ghosts. In the Hawaiian concept of the afterlife, you just kind of go on living the way you did when you were alive - tending your taro patch, surfing, etc. And the Night Marchers aren't going to be walking around in your house - you'd have to be wandering outside to meet them, and to avoid having to join them for eternity, just don't make eye contact; my grandmother used to say that it was best to take off your clothes and lie face-down, avoiding looking at them, and they'll leave you alone.

I house-sat for a friend of the family, years ago, who had a big old house up in the Manoa valley. The first night, I went to sleep fine, but was awakened hours later with the feeling that someone was looking at me. I got up and turned on a couple of lights, and noticed that the record player was on, with the needle hissing softly on the inner part of a record that was going around and around. I hadn't played the stereo the night before. I met the friend I was house-sitting for for lunch (she was taking care of a sick friend on another part of the island) and mentioned this to her. She apologized to me for not having told the house spirits that I was going to be staying there, and was sorry they woke me up - they just wanted to know who I was and what I was doing there. We went back to the house after lunch and Caroline talked to them, explained what was going on and why I was there, and for the rest of the time I was there I didn't have any trouble or weirdness.
posted by rtha at 7:41 AM on September 30, 2009 [4 favorites]

Welcome the fear. Allow yourself to feel just as fearful as you do. This may not seem to make sense, but sit quietly and try it. At first, try it in a different room and at a time other than bedtime. Rinse and repeat. Fighting the fear response only increases adrenaline and perpetuates the cycle.
posted by Wordwoman at 7:58 AM on September 30, 2009

I have gone through phases (as an adult) where sleeping at home alone would really freak me out, especially while my husband would travel for business for weeks at a time. Some things that help me relax and calm down:

1) (This is technically bad sleep hygiene, but whatever.) Put a tv with a "sleep" function in your room and turn it onto something pleasant like the Cartoon Network, TV Land, the Food Network, or the Game Show Network (you get the idea) and have it on quietly as you fall asleep. It will turn itself off after an hour, but if you wake up and still feel afraid, just turn it back on until you fall asleep again. Have the volume on low, and turn the brightness of the screen down pretty low so that it isn't too bright.

2) I vote against pure white noise for fear -- especially if you've seen movies covering "EVP" (do NOT watch White Noise -- while everyone I know thought it was stupid beyond all belief, it scared the shit out of me). Instead, try a machine that produces nature sounds. Less opportunity to imagine creepy things.

3) I always liked having a computer in my room (also poor sleep hygeine), and leaving it on and logged into IM. It was comforting to know that at any time I needed I could get up and one of my insane night-owl friends would probably still be logged in to calm me down. Maybe weird, but this habit started when I was in college in a dorm room, and I would often awake feeling scared/lonely in the middle of the night and feel better just by seeing proof that some of my friends just a block or two away were still awake and working on something on their computers.

4) Nightlights are good, but what I always preferred was leaving a hall light on and keeping my door open. You could also try a soothing moving light, like a lava lamp.
posted by tastybrains at 8:01 AM on September 30, 2009

You're not actually afraid of the noises or the potential for paranormal beasties. You're fighting with yourself every night, trying to tamp down the irrational fears.

Like Netzapper says, play the game. You need a bit of magic. Humans have been dealing with this sort of fear before they were humans and there are millions of different coping methods.

I'm also the type of person who watches scary movies, or even previews, when she really, really shouldn't. I can't make my brain shut up. My parents have an ancient farmhouse in the middle of Nowhere, Maine with a foundation from the 1800s and mysterious fields and old graveyards down the road. When I'm there for a visit, usually I'm so relaxed from the day's pastoral loveliness that I can ignore the terrified part of me just thinking of the view. But sometimes? I can't. There's lots of things that can help, however.

Some people engage in purifying rituals in every part of their house, maybe burning some herbs and thoroughly cleaning every nook and cranny. This has the added benefit of combating mustiness but can be a touch too much work for those of us who are downright lazy.

When I was small, like 3-4 years old, I had an elaborate setup of my stuffed animals and blankets so as to maximize protection; I had a very large stuffed cat that I was quite rational about during the day but at night, he was very definitely capable of springing into action and defending me from any and all psychic and paranormal attack. Grownups can have versions of this, perhaps not a stuffed animal the same size as them, but a dreamcatcher, or a necklace, or something else you can put all of your worries and fears and faith into so you don't have to feel responsible for constant vigilance.

Try to minimize new things in your bedroom and maximize a feeling of familiarity. You could fill it with the same smell every night before bedtime, maybe jasmine or lavender, or if you need something manly, some cedar. Try to keep it at the same temperature, too. If you haven't already, rearrange your furniture so that your back is to the most solid part of the wall and farthest away from any doors or windows. The goal is to give you a feeling of control of your own environment; master of your domain and all that. If you put enough faith in your things and smells and territory, you can let yourself relax in the knowledge that your bedroom is an island of utmost safety, charged up by you during the day.

Get a bedside table with an easily accessible drawer in a moment's notice and keep things like candles, matches, salt (a nearly universal purifier and protector), whatever flavor of religious talisman you prefer (I've never been Buddhist or Catholic but I love prayer beads in nearly any form), your most comforting book, and anything else that makes you feel protected. For some people this could be a bible, others it can be a rock or feather they found, for me it's a box I've filled with things since I was small. Even if you never need any of these in action, knowing they are there is what makes you feel safe. Work on envisioning a bubble of protection: your bedroom is the safe zone, and all other floors are made of lava. So you can hear those bumps and feel those drafts and see the shifting light, but you're totally safe inside your bubble and your unshakable belief in it is what powers it, so you're golden.

When all else fails, sing to yourself.
posted by Mizu at 8:04 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Watch one or two episodes of a funny TV show before bed, or listen to stand-up comedy. Try to get rid of negative thoughts.
posted by alligatorman at 9:52 AM on September 30 [+] [!]

Actually, I think this is the best advice yet. There's nothing like laughter to make previously spooky circumstances seem safe. If you're feeling freaked out, watch some stand up comedy, or the Pink Panther, or the Three Stooges, or whatever gets your funny bone.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 8:11 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh - one other solution: exercise regularly. It's a lot harder to be awake and paranoid if your body is craving sleep.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:16 AM on September 30, 2009

Buy a gun. For many, there is a sense of security that comes with having a 9mm next to the bed (false sense or not).
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:07 AM on September 30

Hibbidyjibby creepers are immune to piercing weapons. What you want is something more like a silver-tipped mace or flail. Having gotten the combat portion out of the way, I like Netzapper and Mizu's suggestions. Rituals, either secular or arcane, should be a comfort.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:56 AM on September 30, 2009

I'm here to advocate sin - things that I have found to put me in a relaxing state before bedtime are smoking weed and/or masturbating.

Not everybody reacts to smoking weed the same way, so if you've never done it before, I'd recommend against it, because it can make some people even MORE paranoid, and that would suck. But shit, you're in Hawaii, and you can get really good stuff easily and for cheap. Take a weekend, do a daytime experiment; you may find yourself wanting to take a nap.

as far as masturbating, your mileage may vary, but in males it tends to be sleep-inducing.

Also, another thought I just had, taking a benadryl or other anti-histamine before going to sleep. this always does it for me when I absolutely need to get to bed by a certain time, I take a benadryl an hour before. Make sure you buy the NOT non-drowsy kind (it should say "warning - may cause drowsiness" in fine print on the back).
posted by Spock Puppet at 9:15 AM on September 30, 2009

I went through this for a couple of years in my old house. (My fears also began after seeing The Ring, oddly enough.) I dealt with it the wrong way: by sleeping in the living room for the majority of the next two years.

When I finally was able to sleep in the bedroom again, what helped me was 1) getting rid of all mirrors in the room, 2) cleaning out the room from top to bottom so that only things I really wanted and needed were in there, and nothing negative, 3) making sure to always sleep with the door closed entirely, 4) sleeping with a dog. In the beginning, on particularly bad nights, I would knock myself out with trazodone or benadryl, but in the end, I was successfully able to sleep in my room again.

I was still happy as hell to move out of there.
posted by srrh at 9:32 AM on September 30, 2009

Try going to bed earlier. If I stay up too late, I can get very freaked out (hour of the wolf and all that). The closer to midnight, the jumpier I am. Try hitting the hay at 10:30 with a book and try going to sleep when you're feeling braver.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:42 AM on September 30, 2009

Have you always had this problem, or just since moving into this house?

Does your old house also have an old gas furnace? Do you have a carbon monoxide detector?

A lot of "hauntings" have been attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning from leaky gas furnaces in old houses. The feelings of unease, etc., could be a symptom of that.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:46 AM on September 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Netzapper, Mizu -- but actually, rtha!

Same structure... my friend had an actual, documented ghost. She was friendly and fun. I had a not so nice something in my bedroom. Totally used to keep me up at night, annoying little fucker.

You know what? None of that stuff matters if you are not paying attention to it! Try not believing in the hibbidyjibbidy, or get cool with the fact that it has no power over you.

Good influences (comedy tv or books, podcasts on positive subjects, prayer, nite light or dimmer, laughter, etc.) naturally dis-spell that stuff. Use them. Nthing a positive minded boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse to keep you company at night.

Moving bedrooms or moving house might be an option, too. But I really think you can make this episode a distant memory if you follow the advice above.

Good Luck!
posted by jbenben at 9:59 AM on September 30, 2009

Make friends with the ghosts. I have lived in two houses that had ghosts in them. In the first house, it was a kindly old lady who would sit in one corner and listen to ye olde time radio, and clatter about the kitchen late at night. At the other, it was an angry middle aged man in big boots who would thump about the hallways and slam doors.

Both ghosts did pretty much the same sort of thing - just wafting about, occasionally making noises. But because they had different stories, they had different effects on those of us living there. It was easier to deal with the first house, because a loud mysterious thump would be greeted with "Oh, that? Just Nan checking the cupboards" whereas the other ghost would inspire fear - "Old Mate seems...angrier... than normal tonight. Er, my bed has too many cats on it, can I sleep in with you?"

It doesn't matter whether the ghost is real or not. It is someone's nanna, checking the locks for you. Or a kindly gentleman, making sure you turned off the stove. If your imagination is causing the problem, make it work for you. Get that big busy brain of yours creating stories about how awesome your ghosts are. That creaking board in your living room? Maiden warrior defending you through the night. Rattly windows? Charming Casper pulling faces at his reflection.

Write stories about them, draw pictures about them, talk to people about them. Make them your champions.
posted by Jilder at 10:43 AM on September 30, 2009

I keep a baseball bat under the bed for when my boyfriend is traveling on business. I have a fan on for white noise. I keep my bedroom door and windows locked, and my cell phone by my bed so I can reach for it to call 911.

Then again, I am not afraid of ghosts, but rather humans. I live in an occasionally rough neighborhood.
posted by np312 at 10:49 AM on September 30, 2009

My version of a cleansing ritual when I'm all creeped out by my space is to turn on all the lights, put on very loud, perky music, and dance like a moron in my underwear in every room. It's important to really go all out and shake it until you feel thoroughly exhausted. I find very few hibbidyjibby creepers can survive the power of the underpants shuffle to "Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta" or "Viva Las Vegas."

That plus a couple of stuffed animals to cuddle and being sure to always watch something cheerful on TV (lately its "Andy Richter Controls the Universe" and "QI") last thing before bed usually does the trick.
posted by mostlymartha at 11:13 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I vote against pure white noise for fear -- especially if you've seen movies covering "EVP"

YES YES THIS. I mean, surely all that this white noise does is create a sound buffer from whence horrible beasties can sneak up on you and POUNCE, right? GAH.

Personal paranoias aside, any dog that has slept on your bed for more than a few days in a row will surely thereafter see you as part of its pack, and will thus valiantly protect you from nighttime creepers of all kinds.

Unless he is like MY dog, who, on leftover meatloaf nights, occasionally awakes in terror from the violent BR-R-RRRRAPP! of his own farts, attempts to flee from his own arse, and then upon further reflection slinks beneath the bed to nap off his cowardice and shame.
posted by elizardbits at 12:08 PM on September 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

If I get the nighttime heebie-jeebies, I talk to whatever or whomever I assume is in the room. I do sometimes get a vibe as if there's a presence there, watching me (there was a husband-and-wife murder-suicide in our house in the 1970s, but odds are that plenty of people have died in the house of various causes over the years). I say hello in a calm voice and ask it to leave me alone so I can sleep. It makes me feel that I've done something.

I also say out loud, "Love, light, and peace will protect me" -- can't remember where I got that from, but it's a soothing, non-specifically-religious mantra that works for me.
posted by vickyverky at 1:14 PM on September 30, 2009

I also suffer from this sort of irrational fear and have difficulty sleeping when in the house on my own. I have an MP3 player and I listen to audiobooks before I sleep. A small torch with a flip-top on my night-stand provides a little downlight that does not keep me awake but is very comforting (you can use rechargeable batteries). The mp3 player has a sleep timer so it turns off as I drift off to sleep. I can put it back on again really easily if I wake. It is very comforting if you listen to something light and familiar (I listen to Tolkien and Terry Pratchett again and again). The thread of the story keeps your mind off other things ...
posted by Susurration at 7:46 PM on September 30, 2009

I've countered years of bedtime heebie-jeebies with the soft soothing light from a flickering television screen (and the soothing canned laughter from yet another episode of Wings or According To Jim). I don't sleep well, but the evil spirits haven't gotten me yet!
posted by Mael Oui at 8:49 PM on September 30, 2009

I find it's really easy to get rid of that scary feeling by thinking sexy thoughts. Would a final tug/strum (depending on your gender) in bed put you in the right mood and make you nice and sleepy?

Alternatively, if you are a bit religious, this prayer (from the C of E Evensong liturgy) really hits the spot:

Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of thy only Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

There are quite a few rather nice nighttime prayers here, actually:

posted by low_horrible_immoral at 7:02 AM on October 1, 2009

I also have an incredibly overactive imagination and have been known to be so freaked out just from *remembering* a movie I saw years ago that I've had trouble sleeping. For me, having a cat really helps a lot - if the cat is sleeping peacefully, I feel very comfortable. Plus there's nothing as calming as petting a cat.

If you find you still need a light on, maybe you could buy a red light? Much easier to sleep with a red light on than with a blue or white light on, so long as the red glow doesn't seem scary.

Make sure you close all your closet doors before you go to sleep. Also, keeping your sleeping space generally clean means there are a lot fewer scary shadows and shapes in the room.
posted by Cygnet at 11:36 AM on October 1, 2009

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