Loud house, sleepless child: How to create your own sensory deprivation chamber

We live in a 100-year old house made out of paper.  No matter where you are in the house, you can hear everything happening inside the house or outside the house or seven blocks down from the house.

In addition to living in a creaky old house made of paper, I birthed a child – and I say this with the love of a mother – whose sense of hearing is straight up freakish.

At six months, we were sitting in the house and he started to smile and stare at the window, but I heard nothing.  Thirty seconds later, I heard an ice cream truck far off in the distance.  When he’s in the bath, he’ll stop and listen, and then several moments later I’ll hear Tedd put his keys in the door downstairs.  He sometimes jumps at the sound of a car door slamming several houses away.  It’s uncanny.

So on top of being a really bad sleeper to begin with, O wakes up at the slightest noise.  And because of this, I am a warrior against noise.  I know every possible noise offender in the house, and am on constant alert.  I move through the house like a ninja, and woe be to the person who does not also act like a ninja and does something like breathe too hard and makes the house creak.

My biggest enemies in the war against noise are the traffic helicopter that deliberately swoops over our house before 6 AM, the church across the street that plays Christian rock throughout the day, and of course, the enemy of all enemies – our yappy ass dogs.  (I finally took down the sign on our house that said, “Do not ring the bell or knock, seriously, don’t do it, I will f-ing end you” because it was kind of un-neighborly.  This did, however, take us off the list of the Jehovah’s Witnesses that used to come by.)

But O still wakes up at the slightest noise.  I have to slide down the stairs on my butt when he’s asleep to keep it from creaking.  I give Tedd the silent treatment if he sneezes.  I give long lectures to delivery men who ring the bell instead of calling LIKE I ASKED A MILLION TIMES.

The question is not whether this situation is out of control.  The question is whether I made O the adorable little sensory freak that he is.

How did I possibly do this to him?  Because of his bad sleep habits, I make O sleep in sensory deprivation chamber.  Close your eyes really tight while standing next to a roaring jet engine, and that’s what it’s like to sleep in O’s room.

Tedd definitely thinks I did this to him.  But what could I do??  He woke up every 45 minutes for months.  I was a desperate woman.  And we live in a paper house that sounds like it’s going to collapse at any minute.  The sensory deprivation chamber allows him to sleep through the night.

Tedd also thinks we need to wean him off his noise machines and pitch blackness that make it the chamber that it is.  He thinks he’ll never learn to sleep normally.  Is his right?  All I know is that it’s not going to keep the jerk in the traffic helicopter from purposely flying past his window every morning.

But, while I’m complaining, I thought I’d share the secrets of the sensory deprivation chamber, so you too can help your sleepless child if you’ve reached my level of desperation.

1. Making a pitch black room.  Black out curtains are for ninnies.  Real pitch blackness requires shades, plus black out curtains, PLUS dark sheets over top to cover every crack of light.  We use dark red sheets, so O’s room looks like a swanky lounge with a cartoon animal theme.

2. White noise.  I am a white noise aficionado.  I am like the Grand Poobah of white noise.  Let me drop some hard-earned wisdom on you.  One machine is simply not enough.  First, you need a high-pitched white noise machine, which will drown out voices and clinks.  You’ll find this kind at most bed and bath stores:

HoMedics Sound SPA Relaxation Sound Machine

But don’t think for a second this alone is sufficient for a true sensory deprivation chamber.  It will not drown out low-pitched thumps.  For that, you need this bad boy, which I bought online for a pretty penny:

Marpac Sleepmate 980A

Played in combination at their highest levels, they will drown out almost all noises (if you live in an old paper house, you still must act like a ninja).  Just trust.  I am an expert.

Side effects:

- If you spend enough time in the sensory deprivation chamber, you will start to get drowsy as soon as you hear white noise.  This is good for babies.  Not for parents putting them to bed.

- If you spend enough time in the sensory deprivation chamber, you might start to hear voices in your head and think they are real.  You might start to think about zombies coming in while you’re in the chamber and come up with elaborate plans for escape.  It’s not pretty.

- And I admit, it’s possible I’ve made his sense of hearing even better, and it’s a vicious cycle.

So is Tedd right?  If we take it away will he learn to sleep without it or does that require not living in a old, paper house across from a church with excessive stereo equipment?

Or am I just doing what it takes to get a decent night’s sleep?


Since writing this, O fell asleep on Tedd this morning in broad daylight and without white noise for the first time since he was maybe two weeks old purely to spite me and solidify his allegiance to Team Tedd.

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5 responses to “Loud house, sleepless child: How to create your own sensory deprivation chamber

  1. I am with you!! I crank an old-fashioned, 10-year old box fan (I tried the Marpac, but it isn’t as loud as this fan) in the toddler’s room – and have ever since his two older siblings kept waking him up just walking in and out of their own room next door… I even pack the fan with me on road trips (and cry when I can’t figure out how to pack it on the plane with me…). I sometimes worry about what my child’s college roommate will think when he brings that fan into their dorm room, but I figure that’s a worry for another day. Today requires a nap!

    • Yes! Why worry about tomorrow when you can get a good night’s rest today? I know you said it’s an old fan, but I think I’m going to need the name of it asap. My name is Anne and I’m a white noise addict!

  2. Anne, you are getting funnier and funnier!

    Love Suzanne

  3. Carolyn Hernandez

    Our second was a horrible sleeper. It used to drive us nuts that he would not sleep for more than 30 minutes at a time. I don’t think he slept thru the night until he was almost a year. The one thing that I have learned as a Mom is that no matter what you do they will do what they want and settle into the “norm” eventually. I say do what you gotta do to get some sleep for both of you!

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