Help me getting back my sleep and peace!
October 1, 2011 10:12 AM   Subscribe

I recently moved to a townhouse next to a train track and a busy road. Although this home is supposedly prepared to suppress some of the noise, I'm a very light sleeper and am getting concerned... Any tips (both cheap and more costly) that can help me resolve this?

The unit is right beside the train tracks (about 25 feet away). The train movement is not an issue, as it goes by very slowly (I don't hear it much with the windows closed) - but the whistle wakes me up, scared, every single time. Since this is near an intersection the train will whistle multiple times, with a gap in between the whistles - so I'm sure to hear it at least once.

The other issue is that the train does not have a set schedule. This means that I might have a lucky day where it will only go by once in the middle of the night, and other days will be busy (I woke up 3-4 times tonight).

Moving is not an option. From what I heard from the builder, they let extra air space in the wall construction and installed better windows. They seem to do a good job of isolating the highway and train tracks noise - but the whistle is really, really loud.

So mefites, do you know what are my options? Ideally I would like to reduce this noise in 30-50% (more if possible, but I'm not sure that would be possible)

I was thinking about installing sound proof Windows, but I need to be sure they will be an improvement over the ones I have (as I have big Windows and it would be expensive to replace it).
I also thought about getting a heavy, thick curtain (previous Ask Metafilter posts shows up this suggestion).

What are your thoughts? I really appreciate your help, and thank you in advance.
posted by helloworlditsme to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Use a fan to create white noise when you want to sleep.
posted by axismundi at 10:19 AM on October 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm a very light sleeper, too, and train horns a mile away will wake me up. As will barking dogs, noisy car exhausts and stereos, birds making noise at dawn, etc.

I tried better windows, thick curtains, even special custom-made window plugs to block up the window opening with sound-absorbing materials, and none of that stuff made enough of a difference. It's not really the volume of the sound that's a problem, but the fact I can hear it at all. So if you're like me, a 30-50% reduction in in volume isn't helpful.

Earplugs are the answer for me. The foam ones that you squish down to fit into your ear, then they expand again to fit the ear canal. These literally changed my life, and now I quite regularly sleep through thunderstorms (in additional to all the other sleep-disrupting sounds). Try these first, and only go on to other stuff if you can still hear noise at night.
posted by FishBike at 10:23 AM on October 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

When you say "intersection" you mean a grade crossing, in that the tracks cross a road, with gates coming down and so forth? Federal regulations are pretty clear that the train horns/whistles have to be loud enough to be heard over the noise of an oncoming freight train, so it is indeed quite loud.

Can you learn to sleep with earplugs? I'd probably take a multi-pronged approach and try honeycomb blinds + heavy curtains + white noise machine + earplugs.

Are you owning or renting? That will determine what range of options is open to you.
posted by ambrosia at 10:25 AM on October 1, 2011

I just moved and have a train nearby too. When the whistle goes off, it is nerve wracking. I startle and then startle again at the next. I sympathize with you.
You might try noise muffling curtains and ear plugs before replacing windows.
posted by jennstra at 10:26 AM on October 1, 2011

There's a bar underneath my window that empties out with loud annoying college kids every night at around 2am. It used to wake me up all the time, but now it hardly ever does. I started sleeping with music on at low volume, which i guess might not work for everyone.
posted by empath at 10:27 AM on October 1, 2011

In the long term, you could get a white noise machine to mask out the sound.

In the long term, I think you'll just adapt to block it out. I grew up a few blocks from train tracks and never noticed them. I now work a few hundred yards from runways that serve large commercial aircraft and military fighter jets and it's almost never a distraction.
posted by tomwheeler at 10:27 AM on October 1, 2011

Earplugs. Hearos brand is great. They're super cheap when I get them in bulk on Amazon, and I sleep right through the random people making noise in the alley in the middle of the night.
posted by massysett at 10:28 AM on October 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

This kind of earplug is cheap and comfortable. I've been wearing them when I sleep for years now.

You can get earplugs like that at a drugstore. They also sell them at hardware stores. I bought a big box of them from an Ace Hardware store a few years ago and I figure it'll last me the rest of my life.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:34 AM on October 1, 2011

I live right next to an Amtrak yard. I don't open the windows, use a swamp cooler which provides cool air and noise, and I wear Quies earplugs. I can sleep fine, but I don't do anything else in the room--it's hard to concentrate to read, etc.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:40 AM on October 1, 2011

You can get earplugs like that at a drugstore.

Don't get them at a drug store. Get them at a Home Depot, where they come in bags of a hundred instead of eight for about the same price.
posted by mhoye at 10:42 AM on October 1, 2011 [6 favorites]

Maybe I am not a light enough sleeper for this to be relevant, but I am a 1/4 away from a busy track and it only took a few weeks to reach a point where I could sleep through the horns without waking. Try white noise (as others suggested) and give it time.
posted by Kevtaro at 10:42 AM on October 1, 2011


Don't get them at a drug store. Get them at a Home Depot, where they come in bags of a hundred instead of eight for about the same price.

Wow, this is awesome advice!
posted by KokuRyu at 10:44 AM on October 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm in the habit of running a very loud humidifier and a fan or two at night. I started using the humidifier when I lived down the street from a fire station and now I can't sleep without the noise. I also sleep with a pillow under my head and one on top of my head. It no longer tumbles off when I twist and turn at night, and makes everything darker and quieter!
posted by jabes at 11:22 AM on October 1, 2011

If store bought ear plugs are uncomfortable (they caused a lot of pain in my ears) you can get custom made earplugs. They are wonderful and totally worth the price. I paid $130 for mine and have had them about 2 years and they show no signs of wear. Best thing I ever did for my sleep, I highly recommend them.
posted by sadtomato at 11:26 AM on October 1, 2011

The key (for me) with earplugs is getting ones that fit right and don't get painful after an hour or so. I've bought earplugs from this website more than once. They have great sampler packs so you can figure out which ones you like.
posted by SampleSize at 12:50 PM on October 1, 2011

I've traveled a lot by float plane and helicopter... I've found the foamy ones work really well and are comfortable. The trick is to roll them between thumb and forefinger before inserting into your ears.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:54 PM on October 1, 2011

Howard Leight Max Earplugs.

You have not truly experienced wonder until you've slid a set of those day-glo orange miracles into your ears. It's like a down comforter for your eardrums. Like stuffing your ears with rainbows until the only thing you can hear is happiness. I love these so much I bought a box of 500 of them. Just thinking about that drawer filled with ear-plugs; it's like a pirate treasure chest overflowing with a booty of intense, silent joy.

Howard Leight Max —that is all ye know on noise-blocking, and all ye need to know.
posted by smoke at 4:46 PM on October 1, 2011

Thank you everyone for the tips, I will get some earplugs as a short term solution.

@ambrosia - Yes, it's a grade crossing.
We own the place. The funny thing is that there is another line, four blocks up, and it is also at an intersection, but the trains never whistle when they pass there. - The difference on both intersections is that the one closest to me has two different roads and the train tracks crossing.

I thought about implementing different possible solutions (soundproof windows, thick curtains, white noise) in order to see if I can see a difference.
I'm just afraid I might spend $10,000+ with sound proof Windows and not notice much difference.
posted by helloworlditsme at 5:09 PM on October 1, 2011

How long have you lived there? I moved near a train track a few years ago. When I first got here, the train would wake me up regularly. Now, I find it oddly soothing. When it's cool enough, I even sleep with the windows open. The whistle doesn't bother me, and the ka-thunk ka-thunk of the train itself is actually somewhat hypnotic.
posted by Gilbert at 7:29 PM on October 1, 2011


I've only been here for a few days, but I'm a light sleeper and can see this becoming a problem for the longer run as well.
posted by helloworlditsme at 7:45 PM on October 1, 2011

Seconding a fan or white noise generator. It's surprising how much background noise it can mask. I'm a very light sleeper, and when my husband will be up late playing games or whatever, I turn on the fan and can sleep through quite a bit of noise.
posted by xedrik at 9:59 PM on October 1, 2011

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