The first act in a horror movie script
January 6, 2012 3:50 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to record audio (or video) of myself sleeping? Yes, ideally, eight hours of low-quality audio in one shot.

Or video, if it's somehow not much more difficult/expensive.

Two issues:

1) I've been informed by previous roommates that I snore, but they are vague on the details and never make a big deal about it, so I wonder about the severity and length. Video would obviously help me understand sleeping position, too.

2) I've also been told by previous partners that sometimes I talk quite a bit in my sleep. Bonus: psychoanalyze myself!

Would I basically have to set up some sort of crude home surveillance system like in the Truman Show/Paranormal Activity? (I have my own room in an apartment.)

Previous guy on MeFi who wants to be Truman.

Also, my roommate mentioned that there are "sleep labs" where you can get a battery of tests run on yourself. This sounds potentially expensive and more than a little uncomfortable. Anyone been to one of these labs?

Thanks, hivemind.
posted by stroke_count to Technology (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I bought a cheap pc microphone broke it apart and taped the mic element to my face. Then I downloaded a direct mp3 recorder for my computer and recorded all night long. I recorded in 128kbs so the resulting file was quite small. I did this every day for a week. Then I looked at the files in an audio editor looking for interesting parts of the waveform. I discovered that I don't talk in my sleep, don't snore, and don't have sleep apnea. What I did discover is that I shift around every hour or so.
posted by Infernarl at 3:59 PM on January 6, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm sure sleep lab analysis is expensive, but if you have insurance and symptoms of a legitimate sleep disorder (snoring loud enough for roommates in other parts of the apartment might count), it would probably be covered. Also you can now do a lot of the sleep lab tests at home - you use a lot of the same machines they would use in the lab but you get to sleep in your own bed!

No real suggestions for the audio/video recording, sorry. What do you already have on hand? I'd start by just sticking my laptop on my nightstand and recording overnight, see what happens.
posted by mskyle at 4:15 PM on January 6, 2012

If you have a smartphone,
there are apps that will record sound while you are sleeping, even better, only recording when there are sounds over a certain volume, so you don't have to go through 6 hours of silence.
posted by Elysum at 4:15 PM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have been to a sleep lab, but I have insurance so it didn't cost me very much. It is uncomfortable in that they put a bunch of electrodes on you and expect you to sleep while they watch you on a camera. But it's the gold standard for diagnosing sleep apnea, so it can be worth it to put up with for a night if it keeps you from dying in your sleep (which can happen).

If you have an iPhone you can get the Night Recorder app which will record any episodes of noise at night. I didn't have much luck with it mainly because I was coughing in my sleep, and the cough would set off the recorder but then there wasn't anything to record. Longer sounds like snoring might work better, though.
posted by cabingirl at 4:18 PM on January 6, 2012

> sleep lab... is uncomfortable

In my sleep study, they also asked me to sleep on my back the entire time. So, yes, it turns out I have sleep apnea when I sleep on my back, but I sleep on my sides at home. The OP wants to know about snoring and sleep position, so unless the sleep lab was cooperative with "natural" sleeping, it won't work.

The automatic gain control will make it hard to judge how loud the snoring really is. Perhaps put a clock that ticks near the microphone as a reference.
posted by morganw at 4:30 PM on January 6, 2012

I didn't find my sleep study particularly uncomfortable; they had a nice hotel-like room, and I like sleeping in hotels. :) The various attached apparatus were a little awkward, but not uncomfortable. They also let me sleep any which way I wanted.
posted by trevyn at 5:10 PM on January 6, 2012

When I needed a sleep study I was able to do it at home. I had to strap a couple of little monitoring devices to my finger and that was it. I got to sleep in my own cozy bed with my own comfy pillows. The next day I put everything in a case and returned it to the sleep center. Easy-peasy. If you have insurance, see if you can do a sleep study at home - many insurance companies actually prefer it as it saves money.

Sleep apnea is very serious business and nothing to fool around with; if you snore loud enough for other people to notice, that is one of the symptoms (though not all snorers have apnea) and you definitely want to get it checked out.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 5:14 PM on January 6, 2012

Hah, exact same story for me. After years of my little brother giving me crap for talking in my sleep, I downloaded Audacity and just started recording right before I went to bed one night. Laptop was on nightstand next to my bed and it picked up noises just fine- you definitely don't need a fancy external microphone or anything like that. The next day, I was able to easily scroll through the file in Audacity, looking for places with noise. (if you haven't used Audacity before, it's super easy to spot.) Unfortunately, it turned out my brother was exactly right, but at least now I know!
posted by estlin at 5:59 PM on January 6, 2012

Everyone is so computer oriented. Here's something easier to use but will cost a few bucks, but it's a direct answer:

Get a Sony PX820 digital recorder. 2 fresh AAA alkalines. Set it to LO mic sensitivity and SP mode "speed". Ppoint it at yourself, turn it on to record, go to sleep. It will record up to 90 hours of continuous CD-quality sound, without using any autolevel.

For reference on that unit, measured by me since Sony's specs are not detailed enough, LO mic sensitivity turns off autolevel (HI turns on autolevel to both boost and limit sound levels); the SP "speed" is 48kbps mono/44.1kHz sampling in the range 50-15000Hz or better (not cutoff at higher frequencies even at 48kbps); and the mic is pretty good and covers that range. You can use this setting even for live music too when capacity is more important than ultimate quality - as I do. This model records directly to MP3 files and transfers files directly to a computer using its included USB cord just like it is a USB thumb drive. It has higher "speed" settings for higher quality and can even record in stereo, but that's a different story.

If you just want to verify loud snoring, the unit has a VOX setting to record only sounds above a low level and pausing otherwise. But it could be interesting to view the amount of snoring time vs. quiet time. The MP3 file can be loaded into any audio editor for a quick view and playback.

Don't trust the above specs for other Sony models, whether lower or higher or newer.
posted by caclwmr4 at 7:20 PM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another smartphone rec, specifically for Android: Sleep As Android. The bonus, imo, is that you can set it only to record when the volume is over a certain level. It's nice because you get the parts where you snore/talk, and not much else. I used it to prove to my partner that yes, honey, you really do snore a lot!
posted by MeghanC at 8:52 PM on January 6, 2012

I used the memo recorder function of my cheapo cell phone with a 2GB microSD card plugged into it for this (in theory, this is good for about 60 hours of audio!), then used ffmpeg to convert the resulting AMR file to WAV, then loaded the result into Audacity, applied the Normalize effect to the whole clip, and visually scanned for peaky sections. I did this several times, and at no time did I find the horrible fffnorgggK... (silence) (silence) (silence) (silence) (breathe, you fucker!) (silence) (silence) (BREATHE! ARRGH!) (silence) (silence) KKKKNORFFFFFFffffggl pattern characteristic of several people I know who do have sleep apnea.

But my beloved was convinced I had it anyway, so off I went to the Melbourne Sleep Disorders Centre and got a take-home sleep study computer and training on setting it up (I didn't do an in-clinic study because their timing was not compatible with my delayed sleep phase). It was pretty uncomfortable, because it involved having a nasal cannula and five electrodes on my face, two electrodes in my hair, three on my chest, a contact microphone on my throat, two piezo sensors just above my knees and an oxygen sensing clip on one finger, all wired back to a little box strapped to my chest and another strapped around my waist. I generally sleep on my side and on my stomach, and all this clobber got in the way quite substantially.

Anyway, the results showed that I have what the doctor described as "professional-grade" apnea; during REM sleep I was experiencing oxygen deficiency episodes at the rate of 40 per hour. So for the past month and a bit I've been sleeping with a CPAP machine and humidifier, which ms. flabdablet says makes me amazingly quiet to sleep next to.

I'm almost used to wearing the mask all night now, and I am somewhat less bleary on waking. My ridiculously elevated blood pressure has also come down some. So I guess it's all working.
posted by flabdablet at 4:41 AM on January 7, 2012

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