Help me sleep again!
August 20, 2008 9:50 PM   Subscribe

I have to listen to the radio in order to fall asleep. I have used WHYY 91 FM in Philadelphia as my crutch for the past 8+ tears. We live near Princeton, NJ, and I have always had good reception through several previous address changes. We moved 2 weeks ago, literally 4 houses away fron our old place, I have perfect reception all day, but sometime after 1:00 in the morning, I lose the signal, and the sudden silence can actually wake me up. I've gone online and confirmed thathe station is broadcasting -- I can stream the audio on my computer -- but no signal comes through the radio. Then, at 8:30, I wake up and there is a normal signal again. I am literally losing sleep over this, so would appreciate any suggestions, explanations or help,
posted by mmf to Technology (15 answers total)
Response by poster: I should clarify that there is not actually silence, just an end to the talking. We actually hear static and buzzing.
posted by mmf at 10:02 PM on August 20, 2008

How about an FM Antenna? I'm sure you can get something at Radio Shack, and it would probably cost you less than $20.
posted by NoraCharles at 10:06 PM on August 20, 2008

I was thinking that another radio station on the same frequency in a nearby city was broadcasting at a higher power at night, or the signal traveled further at night, but I don't think that's the case. The nearest station of significant power is over 100 miles away and is only 1.9kw, while WHYY is 13.5kw. I don't think it's interference.

All stations within 200km of the WHYY tower
posted by lockle at 11:01 PM on August 20, 2008

Is there a specific reason why you're not listening from your computer?
posted by alcopop at 11:41 PM on August 20, 2008

You might let the station know. When my local NPR station did some transmission upgrades a couple years ago, they spent several months running spots that said, "we're upgrading our transmitters and repeaters and stuff, if you have trouble with reception, call and tell us what time it was and where you were."

The online stream doesn't necessarily mean the analog broadcast is up. It could be a problem elsewhere.

$5 solution, it could be your radio broke when you moved.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 11:53 PM on August 20, 2008

The public radio system in GA is upgrading their transmission facilities as described by fantabulous timewear and we have outages all the time; WHYY is presumably more professional and might be doing a better job of scheduling its downtime in the middle of the night if it is doing something similar. Have you tried contacting the station directly?
posted by TedW at 5:43 AM on August 21, 2008

For a (potentially not helpful data-point), my reception on WHYY (I'm in Northern Delaware) got significantly worse about a month and a half ago (no change to the radio) and slightly-better about 3 weeks ago. I haven't noticed any clear time-of-day dependence.

Philly area NPR-listening meet-up? Or is that called a slumber party?
posted by JMOZ at 7:16 AM on August 21, 2008

My local NPR affiliate broadcasts in HD Radio, it may be a national NPR program and I'd imagine you will get better reception with an HD receiver than an analog one. Not 100% sure this will solve your problem but it's worth looking into. As an FYI they've been giving HD radio sets away with a certain level of membership during the pledge drives for my affiliate, yours may do the same/similar and I think it's almost fall pledge drive season. Hopefully you're willing to contribute if NPR is so essential for your sleep =D
posted by baphomet at 8:07 AM on August 21, 2008

Does your radio have its antenna in the power cord?
Many small radios do. There might be something in RF-world in your house or neighborhood that happens starting at 1AM.

Try moving the radio or the cord. (assuming AC-powered) Or try another radio.
posted by MtDewd at 8:32 AM on August 21, 2008

0100 to 0800? It's not your water heater, is it?
posted by genghis at 9:29 AM on August 21, 2008

Some stations are required by the FCC to reduce their power at night in order to avoid interference to distant stations. May apply to your case. Seconding the suggestons to phone the station and/or buy an antenna.
posted by JimN2TAW at 10:04 AM on August 21, 2008

JimN2TAW is probably correct here. They're lowering their broadcast power, which means the signal is no longer that strong by the time it gets to you. There is probably some sort of anomaly between the antenna and your new house that wasn't impeding the signal at your old house.
posted by MrZero at 5:12 PM on August 21, 2008

Best answer: I also listen to WHYY 91 FM late at night, and they periodically stop broadcasting for "transmitter maintenance." They've been doing this for years and I've never known whether this is a common practice or if they're the only station that does this. It's always from between midnight and 1 AM, until the morning programming begins (5 AM?) and they always announce (one time and quickly) that they're going off the air. When this happens, you hear the exact static and buzzing you describe.

About two weeks ago I was listening and they announced the maintenance. and since then I've heard the static several more nights, sometimes two nights in a row. On those nights, I wasn't listening earlier so I didn't hear the announcement, but I've assumed that's what's going on because it follows their past patterns: the maintenance usually continues intermittently for a week or so and then doesn't happen again for maybe a year. You could call or email them to confirm it's still the same maintenance every night. It does seem to be going on a bit long this time. And by the way, I live 5 minutes from Philadelphia so for me I know it's not a reception problem.
posted by daikon at 6:30 PM on August 21, 2008

One other thing, when they make the announcement they always say "You can continue to listen online" which explains why you're able to stream the audio on your computer.
posted by daikon at 6:32 PM on August 21, 2008

Make a recording?? Or several, so you can mix it up a bit?
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 4:01 AM on August 22, 2008

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