Measure how noisily I sleep :-)
March 15, 2010 7:40 PM   Subscribe

I have a pretty bad case of night terrors. I am turning to the hive mind to help me identify a cheap and effective solution/device that will record the times when I'm audible throughout the night. I don't want to know what I'm saying as it sometimes freaks me out (nothing scary, I'm just weirded out by listening to myself yell/whisper subconciously). So a tape/voice recorder is out of the running. In short, I need to know what time I make noise, and maybe a little squiggle or number on a piece of paper/read out screen letting me know how loud I was relative to the rest of that night (I'm thinking of the needle that scrbbles on rolling paper with a time stamp next to it like a seizmograph). Any suggestions? This can be hand made or purchased as long as it's not too expensive :-)
posted by WhereAmI to Technology (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know about noise, but if you already have an iphone/ipod touch, Sleep Cycle ($1!) will measure your periods of movement and will plot it out into a nice graph that will detail when you're getting deep, REM sleep, and when you're awake, fitful, and dreaming. The sensor is pretty sensitive, and I suspect that you'd be moving around during your night terrors, so it might do the trick.
posted by suedehead at 7:43 PM on March 15, 2010

Someone with more technical know-how might be able to provide a more elegant solution, but one solution would be to make digital recording that you don't actually listen to. Since you'd essentially be dealing with speech vs. periods of relative silence, you'd probably be able to just open the files in something like Audacity and look for the times of the relevant patterns in the visual output it displays.
posted by heyforfour at 7:48 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is the point to truly measure the loudness? Or to see the times when you're least restful?

Hopefully someone can recommend some sort of DIY sonograph if it's the first, but if it's the second ... there are a number of new devices are becoming available that allow you to track your sleep patterns, and they graph your awake times, your REM times, transition times, and so on. One of them is FitBit, another is the Zeo, and another is the WakeMate. You'd be able to see the times when you're most "active" at night, and could, perhaps, set alarms that would help you avoid the night terrors.

(On preview: suedehead covered some of this.)
posted by Alt F4 at 7:49 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you leave your mobile phone next to the bed recording you while you sleep (any decent memory card will give you more than enough capacity for this) then you can load the resulting recording into Audacity and look at the waveform graph. A night-long recording compressed into a screen's width will show periods of loudness pretty clearly, and you can select the whole thing and tell Audacity to normalize the volume, which will make the loudest peak show as full height. You can then get a good idea of how loud the other stuff is by comparison. You can also zoom in to look for rhythmic stuff like snoring without ever actually doing any playback.
posted by flabdablet at 8:01 PM on March 15, 2010

Audacity also lets you see the waveform in minutes and seconds, so (provided you know when you started the recording) you'll be able to figure out the when of your noise.
posted by davejay at 10:30 PM on March 15, 2010

The resulting file would be huge, though. 600MB per hour x 8 hours = 5 gigabytes of data.

Even if you could record to compressed audio, Audacity may need to decompress the file in order to work with it & unless you have a very powerful computer, I don't think 8 hours of audio will be easy to deal with.

I don't know why you need to know the times, but a basic understanding of sleep cycles - night terrors usually occur during Stage 4 sleep (now called N3 sleep), and the typical sleep cycle is 90 to 110 minutes in length, with less Stage 4 sleep and more REM sleep as the night progresses - should give you a starting point.

I'm not really aware of anything that will plot SPL (sound pressure levels) vs. time, but again - why do you need this? Are you disturbing someone with your talking? One of those wristwatches that tracks your movement to track your sleep cycles could tell you more about your sleep cycles in general, though not the intensity of the night terrors or how loud you talk.

Really, I think you should see a sleep specialist. If you're in NYC I can recommend a great sleep specialist. They even have rooms where you can stay overnight for monitoring.
posted by MesoFilter at 11:11 PM on March 15, 2010

I've used the phone+Audacity technique to monitor my own snoring, and data size is not a problem.

Phones don't record CD-quality audio. They generally capture only one channel, the sampling rate is generally closer to 10k samples per second than 44,100, and samples are not usually 16 bits. My crappy LG phone makes compressed .amr files that use up something like 6MB per hour, not 600, and when I expand an 8 hour recording to a 16 bit mono .wav on the PC, I get something like 500MB which Audacity handles without drama.
posted by flabdablet at 1:02 AM on March 16, 2010

Seconding sleep cycle for the iphone... works great. Are you taking Chantix?
posted by muscat at 1:29 PM on March 16, 2010

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