The Elusive Sounds of Silence

“To sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub…”¹

Oh, Will, you have no idea.

We all know that sleep is a necessary thing. Adults should get seven to nine hours of sleep each night for optimum physical and mental health. Sleep is when we recover, rebuild, reboot.

What kind of sleeper are you?  Do you fall asleep in front of the television, bathing in light and sound? Do you need the sounds of city streets to sing you to sleep? Or, like me, do you prefer cave-like quiet and darkness to put your mind at peaceful rest?

I’m a sound sleeper, once I succumb – but until I fall asleep, any distraction will chase the sandman away.  I don’t know why, but it’s always been that way. I cover my eyes to keep the light out, and I even have several masks for that very purpose – during a full moon, I always use one. My family giggles.

But noise is something else.

You’d think since I live out in the boonies –  in the middle of the woods, really – that noise wouldn’t be problem for me. In the winter, it’s not too bad. The crickets and tree frogs, raccoons and foxes, birds and coyotes, all hunker down somewhere deep in the forest. In the winter, with the trees bare, the only night sounds I hear are the humming wheels of trucks, singing on the highway a mile or so away.  (Really, I kid you not, I hear this stuff).

The rest of the year, it’s another story. Wind rustles the leaves.  Critters talk to one another.  Owls, woodpeckers, and coyotes are noisy. When the roaming coyotes are in our corner of the forest, I’ll hear one call to the others – I call that one Scout.  After his series of “hoo-hoo-hoo-hooooo” calls, the pack gives chase, barking. Then it gets quiet, which is momentarily worse than the howls.

On an average New England woodland evening, though, it’s the smaller beasties who annoy at bedtime.  A fox or raccoon will communicate with its young, or vice versa. Tree frogs actually seem to serenade their sweethearts, and crickets – well, you probably know about crickets.  Cats and dogs are about the only animals not at issue here, because their people don’t leave them out at night. And as far as I know, the deer and the rabbits are mute.

The absolutely worst season is Spring. Every little living thing is mating, and this apparently requires a great deal of singing, chirping, and bouncing in tree branches. Everything comes alive in the spring, and as the tree sap starts to flow, robins gather to gossip and munch on grubs or worms as the morning sun  creeps over the horizon. Other birds call to one another across our back yard (I suspect about getting the band back together.) The adorable woodpeckers busy themselves pulling insects from under tree bark using their heads as jackhammers.  I wake with the sun.

On one of his visits, my little grandson suggested I use his sound machine for “white noise.” The idea here is that the machine makes a repetitive or neutral sound that will block out offending noises, thereby allowing sleep to fall over the insomniac. Sort of the anti-lullaby. (The air conditioner does more or less the same thing.)

The handy device in question doubles as an alarm clock (another light in the room) and has six sound options. Each recording has something in it that seems counter-productive to me. For example, the lovely beach setting with the soft sounds of surf on sand is interrupted every minute or so by screeching seagulls. Why?

Sleeping Emergency Kit:                        Mask and Earplugs

There are recordings (some as long as ten hours) available for sale, or for download from You Tube – who knew?  Some of those are very peaceful. But really, my beloved shouldn’t have to listen to waves or waterfalls all night just so I can fall asleep. I have earplugs for the busy nights in the community outside my window. Anyway, now that I’m retired, mask at the ready, I can take the occasional afternoon nap.

Things seem to settle down out there around noon.

Sweet dreams.


This post was written in response to a Writing Challenge on the WordPress Daily Post. The theme for the week is The Sound of Blogging. To learn more about the challenge, or hear other bloggers’ responses, click here.

Related posts and sound videos:

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18 Responses to The Elusive Sounds of Silence

  1. eof737 says:

    Beautiful post… I enjoyed your perspective too. 😉


  2. monkeymuesli says:

    i’m the other way now, so used to the continuous hum of the city that i can’t cope with the silence when we visit the in-laws out in the sticks! i also have tinnitus, so without background noise, all i have is the constant ring in my ears for company! not fun.

    i liked your post and the descriptions of your bustling countryside community!


  3. I feel you on this. I can barely sleep if there is so much as a rustling leaf somewhere outside. Light blocking curtains help with the cave like faux vampire feeling.


    • Thanks for the visit – and the empathy! The curtains do work… if only we didn’t need light for times when that other person in the room gets up at night. I actually do fairly well, once I fall asleep, so the mask seems to be a good middle ground for me. 😉


  4. Hi Retiring: A very enjoyable read. Thanks. 🙂


  5. Lisaman says:

    It’s the sounds in my brain that keep me awake…Last night my son fetched an icecream from the kitchen at 0300am…I could not sleep after that!!


  6. bulldogsturf says:

    Have no problems with any sounds disturbing me… less than 45 % hearing in both ears… but I do admit I miss those sounds…


    • I’m so sorry to hear that. My dad had a similar loss most of my life, so I know how that can affect you and those around you..
      I actually suspect my ADHD is the true cause of my difficulty falling asleep – any distraction is enough to wake my mind up. Thanks so much for your visit.


  7. Simon Elmes says:

    What a wonderfully detailed blog about sound , although I can’t relate to an air conditioner unit as a brit unless I’m on holiday and then the wine will help sleep arrive anyway


  8. adinparadise says:

    Here where I live in South Africa, the sound of the waves and the drone of the aircon lull me to sleep. 🙂 I have very acute hearing, so wear earplugs just in case hubby snores. I can still hear everything, but it’s sort of muted. 🙂


  9. sharechair says:

    When my son (now 35) was an infant, we lived near an airport. A very noisy airport. I ran a fan in the nursery as white noise and it worked like a charm, hiding the sound of the jet engines.(I thought I was brilliant to think of such a thing. 🙂 ) As an adult he lives in a city and still uses a fan to mask the city noise. I’m in a suburb, but I do the same. We have a fan running every night. Masks sounds that might startle me like a telephone, or a car with a loud muffler, or any other such thing. It’s been my white noise machine for 35 (gasp) years. 🙂


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