Why do I like to fall asleep with TV or movie on?
June 28, 2011 8:51 PM   Subscribe

Why do I like to fall asleep with TV or movie on?

Easy one this time.
Why is it so comforting?
posted by Senor Cardgage to Health & Fitness (40 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know, but I do it too. Maybe it's soothing somehow?
posted by Maisie at 8:56 PM on June 28, 2011

I've been wondering that, too. I have always had trouble falling asleep, so I think silence lets me stress about falling asleep in a way that I'm less likely to do if I'm watching TV.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:59 PM on June 28, 2011

It's enough noise, and the right kind of noise, to take your mind off of being there trying to fall asleep and just fall asleep.

About the best: commentary tracks.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:05 PM on June 28, 2011 [6 favorites]

I can't fall asleep without the TV or a podcast on. With all the talk about the best way to get babies and toddlers to sleep, I wonder if people like us learned to sleep in slightly noisy or talky environments. I am the fourth of five kids--I doubt it was ever quiet when I was a baby.
Sorry I don't have an exact answer, except that you might have learned to sleep with at least a low level of noise, and so its become normal and soothing.
posted by swingbraid at 9:06 PM on June 28, 2011

Because you're a horrible savage who wants to disrupt other people in the room who prefer to sleep in peaceful, quiet darkness.

But in all seriousness, it's likely because your brain can consciously tune out of watching, but it gives you something to unconsciously focus on rather than letting your mind wander to things that may keep you awake.
posted by mikeh at 9:07 PM on June 28, 2011 [7 favorites]

posted by swingbraid at 9:07 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I get some of my best dreams by sleeping with the radio on.
posted by maudlin at 9:10 PM on June 28, 2011

There are two most likely reasons: The first is that it's a habit you've gotten into. I slept with the radio on for years and that came to a stop as soon as I started living with other people; breaking the habit was difficult and I had sleep problems for a while. The second is that white noise is comforting, and some people are made uncomfortable with silence.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:12 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I prefer to sleep with talking-noise in the background, because it makes me feel less alone. Alone-ness sometimes creeps me out and by default, utter silence, which implies aloneness, creeps me out. So having some noise, like news or something, in the background is somewhat comforting. Even though I'm completely aware that I *really* am alone and that its just noise from a podcast/TV show.
posted by joyeuxamelie at 9:15 PM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

I do this because it makes easier to fall into the just before you dream narrative - that sort of moment where you're putting together pieces of a story from another voice fades very easily into the haphazard world of dreams. It also tends to quell those late night worries that start up about the time you want to fall asleep.
posted by ajarbaday at 9:20 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think it's because falling asleep to the sound of talking keeps you from thinking, whether that's anxious rumination, or happy planning... it keeps your brain from keeping you awake.
posted by moxiedoll at 9:23 PM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

I do this in times of anxiety, because the sound of the television is usually enough to drown out the screaming of my mind.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:27 PM on June 28, 2011 [8 favorites]

In the quiet you can think, and thoughts keep you awake. TV gives you something to occupy your mind, which shuts up the voices in your head.
posted by madcaptenor at 9:32 PM on June 28, 2011 [6 favorites]

I used to do it because of my slight tinnitis. Now I can get by with the street sounds near our window, they're pretty loud. Ear ringing will keep you awake at night, but at least it won't wake you UP.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:34 PM on June 28, 2011

Why do I like to fall asleep with TV or movie on?

Because you're my girlfriend and like to annoy me?

Probably it's just the background noise, the human voices - it's more comforting to many people to have something going on around them, so as not to feel alone. Me, I prefer silence, but nooooooo.
posted by tumid dahlia at 9:40 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

ADHD? I do this because otherwise my brain isn't stimulated enough to sleep. It gets bored and I sit around being angry at random people because my brain is desperate for excitement. Or I start fucking around on the internet.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:49 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Until two weeks ago, I did it because I couldn't stand to be in complete silence. I have many intrusive thoughts, from general anxiety to fear of death, and utter silence terrifies me. I literally cannot feel okay if I didn't have some form of visual stimulation or auditory noise.

Now its all those reasons, but I also need some noise to drown out my tinnitus.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:52 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I used to fall asleep listening to the radio. Can't do that now since I live with my boyfriend and he goes to bed much earlier than I do. I do fall asleep in front of the TV many nights, though.
posted by SisterHavana at 9:53 PM on June 28, 2011

It's your campfire.
posted by hermitosis at 10:06 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Do you then wake up and wonder at the strange turn the plot has taken...it seems to be an entirely different movie. Because it is.
posted by bad grammar at 10:07 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

The answer is all of the above reasons. Your brain has been conditioned to fall asleep when everything is just so. For me I like to listen to the radio or listen for the train to whistle by 10 miles from my home. I hear it across the valley and I am conditioned too! One can also become attracted to quiet hums of fans.
posted by nogero at 10:15 PM on June 28, 2011

I do this too, due to anxiety. It started when I was in my early 20's and some serious issues were going on, though I've had difficulty sleeping due to anxiety my entire life.

I can't sleep with the radio on because I silently sing along with the songs, or listen to the conversations. My now husband got really annoyed with the tv being on when we were sleeping, even if I set the timer on the tv to turn it off, and sometimes just the instant silence of the tv suddenly turning off would wake me. Now I use a portable dvd player, and have a couple of go-to dvd's that I listen to. Since I already know the plot/story, I don't actually pay attention to the show, it is just background noise. But having that noise going on prevents me from thinking all of those anxiety producing thoughts, and I usually fall asleep pretty quickly.
posted by vignettist at 10:50 PM on June 28, 2011

I'm one if those people who can sleep anywhere no matter what is going on (gets me into serious trouble in airports). But every night I sleep alone I go to bed with some kind of audio on (movie, tv, radio, etc.) I think some people are very light sleepers and have to have silence, I don't really feel comfortable without sound. Maybe how you grew up or just hard wired, I don't know.
posted by boobjob at 10:50 PM on June 28, 2011

This is common enough that there's an entire website devoted to the phenomenon.
posted by teraflop at 11:08 PM on June 28, 2011

Ditto anxiety as a possibility. I read myself to sleep during stressful phases.
posted by salvia at 12:04 AM on June 29, 2011

The other trick is that my brain starts to follow the plot, which somehow leads to me sleeping.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:10 AM on June 29, 2011

I will nth the others who say it gives something familiar for your mind to focus on. It concentrates on the music, the words, the plot, the whatever, instead of whatever crap is floating around inside your brainpan otherwise. It's like a constant, calming distraction.

At least for me, while I fall asleep my mind ends up coming up with abstract patterns to match the music, sort of like the ambient visuals some computer music programs use (only mine are highly relevant to the music at the moment).

(Mostly unrelated commentary on teraflop's link: Budweiser next to Guinness? Really? Ewww.)
posted by Heretical at 12:20 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

College lectures and bus rides in traffic are also good for inducing sleep.

I'm not sure if the OP meant "like" as in he finds sweet comfort in falling asleep to TV, or just that he tends to do it. I tend to if I'm already really drowsy, but the frustrating thing is I then dutifully turn off the TV and the lights, get into bed, and then... I'm refreshed and wide awake! Great.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 12:25 AM on June 29, 2011

I'm not sure if the OP meant "like" as in he finds sweet comfort in falling asleep to TV, or just that he tends to do it. I tend to if I'm already really drowsy, but the frustrating thing is I then dutifully turn off the TV and the lights, get into bed, and then... I'm refreshed and wide awake! Great.

I have the same problem. There's a film night across the street from my house in a pub. I usually go, get really sleepy, but then perk up as soon as I'm at home.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:28 AM on June 29, 2011

If I don't put on a video or an audiobook or something, I just can't stop thinking and that will keep me up all night.
posted by bendy at 12:29 AM on June 29, 2011

And by thinking I mean worrying, stressing, replaying conversations in my head, wondering what various people think of me, feeling angry about things, feeling angry about people, feeling lonely, wondering why other people aren't as lonely as me, redecorating my condo in my head, thinking about my past, wondering where people are that I used to know, reliving high school, reliving elementary school, reliving college, thinking about the future, figuring out what I'll do when I win the lottery, thinking about what I should be doing with my life, imagining what I would do if I had a kid, planning my move to a foreign country, trying to figure out which country to move to, thinking about work, thinking about all the meetings I have to go to tomorrow, thinking about the meetings I went to today, figuring out when I'll do my laundry next, wondering what to do over the long weekend, planning my perfect dinner party, thinking about my family, thinking about my struggles with my family, wondering if I should find a new therapist, writing emails in my head, and so on. Anxiety, I haz it.
posted by bendy at 12:36 AM on June 29, 2011 [6 favorites]

I was conditioned as a child. It was the sound I heard falling asleep for many years, until we moved to much larger houses where I couldn't hear it from my bedroom. It was comforting in two opposed ways: the parental units had the watch, so I could stop being vigilant; the parental units were occupied, so I could stop being vigilant. The worrisome thing was when the TV was turned off.

Nowadays, I've broken myself of the nightly habit. But at very stressful times, I'll still do it: with headphones on and poor mr.likeso decked out in a sleep mask. I really really really want to get him this, sew on an elastic strap, and... get him to wear it.
posted by likeso at 2:38 AM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh, hey, there's the internet again making me feel less crazy.

I used to doze off with books, but for the past few years it's been all about ephemeral video.

How it's made, industrial process videos, old newsreels. Industrial machinery, giant earth moving machines, airplanes, old space documentaries. I "watch" a lot of the archival aviation video on the Airboyd TV channel, or publicresource.org or other similar channels. The drone of old prop aircraft in WW2 era newsreels is pretty ideal white noise.

In particular I prefer either no narration at all but with natural ambient sounds of the machinery or aircraft, or with mild, staticky and tinny-sounding narration.

Like others in the thread it's all about the distraction and tricking yourself into going to sleep. For me it's about having something that's really dry and boring, but still interesting. I've tried using like old C-span video or other "too dry" material like DoJ videos on courtroom processes and it's not interesting enough to be distracting.

Lately I've been making a point to leave my netbook unplugged so it'll turn itself off after I pass out so I don't wake up when some loud video comes up in the playlist, or so the glow of the screen doesn't wake me up.

Aaaand just talking about this is making me sleepy. Goodnight!
posted by loquacious at 2:58 AM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

For me, it's because sometimes the silence can really be too deafening. I would be in bed early, but still be awake hours later because my mind can't stop running and thinking and thinking. So to find some peace I turn on the TV or keep the radio on, because it makes me concentrate on that sound. That way I won't have to listen to myself talk, and then eventually I fall asleep.

I am trying to break this habit by keeping several journals beside the bed: one is where I write about my dreams (for times when I wake up and am unable to go back to sleep), one is where I write ideas for projects/to-do's/stuff that only comes to me when I am about to sleep, one is for prose/poems (when those lines come to me out of the blue and I just have to write them down). I find that once my thoughts are on paper, the warning bell inside my head is silenced, convinced that all these thoughts are "safe" now, that I won't forget them, that they have a place to go, and fuck yes, they finally shut up.
posted by pleasebekind at 5:32 AM on June 29, 2011

I do it for a few reasons.

I have acute hearing, and am a light sleeper, and can't resettle easily. If a loud neighbourhood noise like a dog barking in the park across the street, or my own dog decides raccoons on the roof just outside the office window will evacuate if she howls at them long enough, or that guy with the braying laugh at the party on the balcony in the new development next door wakes me up, I'm awake for hours after (seething and seething). Since I had a kid, I keep listening for her needs (falling out of bed, nightmares, sudden vomits). The TV provides a level of white noise that dulls sudden, sharp noises - and if I do wake up, it's something to take my mind of the rage I feel over the injustice of the husband and daughter being able to sleep through Armageddon and the anxiety over my not sleeping because my neighbour in the attached house had a coughing fit that only I could hear.

Ear plugs don't work for me, as I have a bit of tinnitus and when I was a kid, if I had my ear against the pillow when I was trying to fall asleep, the sound of my blood pulsing sounded like an army of tiny invisible imps coming to poke me and torture me while I slept (hiding under the daisies on my sheets, which is why today I can only bear solid-colour sheets).

Because, the other reason is that I have horrible nightmares, and I feel like having the TV on keeps me from getting to the level of sleep where this happens. So, while it's not the most restful sleep, it's undisturbed sleep, which sometimes I need more.
posted by peagood at 6:13 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I do this too. Worry about being able to fall asleep keeps me awake. Watch a movie and the mind is distracted and falls asleep easily.
I also have a little fan I use when it's too hot to sleep. Even when I don't need it I've been turning it on lately and pointing it away. The sounds is comforting.
This is all especially true in difficult times. Intrusive thoughts come too easily in the quiet of the night.
posted by beau jackson at 6:41 AM on June 29, 2011

Because you're a horrible savage who wants to disrupt other people in the room who prefer to sleep in peaceful, quiet darkness.

Agreed. To me, the question should really be "How can I fall asleep with the TV on" -- I mean, don't the commercials wake you up? Or the screeching car crashes and explosions? That's what I hear over the sound of my white noise generator, what my neighbors are watching or sleeping to, next door. God help us as they get older, their hearing goes bad, and they turn it up even louder.
posted by Rash at 9:34 AM on June 29, 2011

Agree with those who say it's conditioning. My first boyfriend's father was a school caretaker and had to get up at 5 a.m. He slept with the radio on all night, tuned to a talk station (LBC with Robbie Vincent -- how I miss those call-in shows and Addison Lee ads!).

I found it really annoying when I stayed over at his house and could hear the low mumbling of voices coming through the wall, but I soon got used to it and began doing it myself at home. It also helps drown out roommates having noisy sex or arguments or clattering around in the kitchen when they come home drunk.

I find it comforting now because it covers up the creaks and spooky noises in the night. If I wake up, I can listen for a bit and then tune it out again.
posted by vickyverky at 9:58 AM on June 29, 2011

When I am obsessing and anxious over something, and can't sleep, I sleep with the teevee on. It's just enough to engage some brain and distract me from the obsessive thoughts, but if I'm sleepy enough, I'll sleep. Unless there's a movie on that I kind of like, but have seen 20 times. Then I stay awake.
posted by theora55 at 4:38 PM on June 29, 2011

I do it a lot, and sometimes it is because I just cannot bear going to sleep knowing that after I'm asleep it will feel like just a few moments and then I'll have to start another f-ing day. Nthing stress, obviously.
posted by thatone at 8:18 PM on June 29, 2011

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