Noise-blocking solution for sleep
November 25, 2018 10:16 AM   Subscribe

I'm a light sleeper. For the next year I'll be living across the street from a fire hall (sirens) and a strip club (drunk yelling). Please help.

I usually sleep with standard foam earplugs and prefer a fan for white noise, but I'm afraid those aren't going to cut it in my new situation. (Because it's a long-term arrangement, I'm trying to avoid pharmaceutical solutions.)

I'm considering these Bose "sleepbuds" but the price is pretty steep if they're uncomfortable or don't work. I'm also looking at cheaper sleepband options but I don't know how effective they are.


- white noise-making / noise-cancelling
- has to contain the sound decently; I don't want it to annoy my wife
- wireless preferred
- not too sticky-outy (I sleep on my side)

Thanks for any product recommendations or strategies!
posted by Beardman to Technology (15 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Better than the foam earplugs for us side-sleepers are Mack's sillicone earplugs. They feel weird at first, but this weekend I used them and slept through a four-month-old Rottweiler puppy barking at me to come play.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:34 AM on November 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've had great success with silicone plugs, rather than foam ones. The foam plugs never really stayed in place, and even when they did the sound-damping was not sufficient.

There's a brand called Mack's that CVS carries (and probably other stores as well) but they're pricey. CVS has a cheaper store brand that works better anyway. They're smaller, too, which worked for me.

I found that I could re-wear the plugs for a week or so before wanting to replace them. It can help to rinse them off with warm water and and gently hand-rubbing after each use. This can extend use for another week or so. Eventually accumulating ear wax makes them not stay in as securely.

They work really well at damping sounds, especially lower bass tones. Yet if you're wife speaks to you in a normal voice you will be able to make out what she says. Pretty much.
posted by qurlyjoe at 10:38 AM on November 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm also a side sleeper, a light sleeper, and I've found that the contoured foam earplugs are the thing for me - this after trying "normal" foam earplugs, silicone, and even paying $150 at the audiologist for custom-made ones (which were incredibly disappointing). I've found them in person at Target, Walmart, though in stores they're often branded as Flents Quiet Contour but they're the same thing.

I get about a week out of a pair before they wear out enough that they no longer block sound as effectively - I can tell they're worn out when I can start to hear the white noise machine through them.
posted by namewithoutwords at 10:52 AM on November 25, 2018

I've always been a light sleeper and it's gotten worse with the noisy neighbors above us. I had used the air conditioning fan year round to try to mask some of their noise and occasionally use the foam ear plugs, although they're too uncomfortable for me as a side sleeper and don't stay in well.

I splurged on the bose sleep buds this summer and I'm a big fan. I can hardly tell they are there. Occasionally as I'm settling into my very firm pillow, the sound adjusts a bit on the side that I'm sleeping on, but once I'm settled, it's fine. They recently released a new batch of sound options, but I've remained with the warm static option, which feels the most like the fan/ac noise to me. Personally, all the nature and tranquil sounds just keep my mind buzzing.
Memail if you have any specific asks; I found that the write-ups surrounding the official market launch this summer (following the kickstarter release) addressed the experience very well.

I also feel better no longer subjecting my partner to the white noise of the ac fan. I sleep so deeply (deeply for a light sleeper) when I have the bose sleep buds in that I'm sleeping through the sound of him coming to bed, which never happened in five years together.
posted by icaicaer at 10:55 AM on November 25, 2018

There's foam, and there's foam. Chemist earplugs are generally rubbish. Try bilsom maxx earplugs, they have the highest levels of sound isolation.
posted by smoke at 12:10 PM on November 25, 2018

The Marpac Dohm is what you actually want. It is effective enough that I, my wife, and our dogs slept through the alarm going off on our Subaru when it was broken into a couple weeks ago. It was blaring long enough to run down the battery, and we didn't notice at all. As you can see, there can be drawbacks to how effective it is, but it is effective.

Your wife will need help sleeping in the same environment as much as you do, so I wouldn't worry about it bothering her.

Supplement with drug-store earplugs if necessary.
posted by kindall at 12:54 PM on November 25, 2018

Besides, or perhaps instead of, sticking something in your ear, consider soundproofing the windows with something like this. If you can cut 50% of the noise off at the windows, your earplugs will work twice as well.
posted by beagle at 1:39 PM on November 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have sleephones (in your link) and I love them. Thoroughly recommended
posted by Heloise9 at 1:53 PM on November 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

The "interior storm windows" solution proposed by beagle is effective at cutting outside sound -- significantly if your current windows are single-glazed -- but it is a project, not something you buy and turn on / put in your ears and go to bed. We used a kit like this add interior 4mm plexiglas panels to most windows in our century home in Canada and not only did it dramatically reduce the street noise from the busy road outside, but it also practically eliminated drafts and reduced our heating bills substantially. But, it's a medium-complexity DIY renovation project, complete with needing to have custom plexi panels cut to fit your windows. I would probably not install it just to attenuate sound unless there were no other alternatives.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:33 PM on November 25, 2018

I've done my research on the Bose sleepbuds and they seem fiendishly expensive for what they are - in ear "soothing" noise generators. You can't even upload your own!

I found QuietOn - their "Sleep" version isn't available yet, but these are active noise cancellation in-ear plugs. I haven't pulled the trigger (because I'm not sure if these can cancel out building ventilation sounds/ vibrations) yet. They appear to be good at cancelling out snoring.

Instead of getting those sleepbuds, I'm using this [youtube] playing out of my computer speakers at just audible when I'm in sleeping position. I focus on this sound instead of the intrusive sound. I haven't found one that I like for rain yet.

Sorry to hear your situation - I seemed to have jumped out of one sonic frying pan and into the sonic fire. ymmv, but I've been able to got used to sirens and drunken yelling (and trains!) before. Just can't handle mechanical hums especially when they're on a beat frequency.
posted by porpoise at 3:10 PM on November 25, 2018

Did your standard foam earplugs have a NRR (noise reduction rating) value? OSHA requires a NRR rating for workplace hearing protectors. If you haven't tried ear plugs with a NRR 32 rating, you haven't tried ear plugs. I use these. Buy on eBay in bags of 50 pairs for about $8.
posted by Homer42 at 3:46 PM on November 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

The sleepphones you linked are indeed great, but they will not do any noise canceling or blocking. They're basically just flat speakers in a headband. Great for listening to something as you fall asleep, not so much for blocking out exterior sounds.

They don't bleed much sound, AFAIK -- my husband hasn't complained about hearing them, and I use mine nightly. Heck, if a speaker shifts so that it isn't right up against my ear, I can't hear anything from it.
posted by Janta at 4:10 PM on November 25, 2018

Get double-hung curtain rods. Hang two layers of soundproofing curtains. If the walls are thin, hang them not only over the windows but along all external walls. As these also very effectively shut out light and heat/cold, these will turn your bedroom into a cave, so if you rely on natural light to wake you (and you might more than you think you do), you may want to get a daylight lamp alarm clock as well -- they slowly brighten to a natural light level leading up to the time you've set the wake-up alarm for.
posted by erst at 9:32 PM on November 25, 2018

I did get soundproofing curtains and... they don't work so good. I ended up doubling up and... still not great.

Finally got some 'mass loaded nylon' sheeting to sew in between the two layers and... it's ok?

Got really expensive really fast especially as I needed to replace the curtain rod in the bedroom with something more sturdy.

Are you in a woodframe building or concrete (or brick or cinderblock)? If it's not concrete, the noise will come through your walls. The first question I posed to my current landslumlord was "Is the building concrete or woodframe?" and he lied.
posted by porpoise at 10:04 AM on November 26, 2018

Here's another "interior storm windows" solution that seem easier to install:
posted by at at 11:30 PM on November 28, 2018

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