We live in sleep-deprived times, and these times need to be changing. Even Jeff Bridges, the Dude himself, abides by this fact with his recently released album, Sleeping Tapes. Featuring his soothing, baritone voice against a variety of “relaxing sounds,” it’s incentive enough to start working on your REM cycle.
Personally, I’m a big fan of sleep; I’m just not very good at it. I toss and turn and am easily roused by the slightest noise. Early morning meeting or plane flight? Forget about it; quality Zs are not in the cards for me.
It isn’t an adult onset thing either—there's a photo of me at an elementary school-era slumber party with eyes wide open, surrounded by pals in Precious Moments sleeping bags, snoozing like a bunch of worn-out baby bears. My parents recall the joys of wrangling my fit-like toddler slumbers. In short, you’d think I was either guilty of murder or some kind of beleaguered dictator by the way I sleep.
I’ve read the studies; I know how important a solid eight hours are to daily productivity and overall physical health. Good sleeping habits are believed to lower the risk of diseases like Alzheimer's and cancer, while poor sleeping habits bring about anxiety about diseases like Alzheimer's and cancer…well, you know, vicious cycle.
I try to be a good citizen in the land of nod. I make my bed every day. My sheets are high quality, pale-colored, clean, etc. I exercise regularly and find this helps a whole lot. I avoid caffeine in the afternoon. I try to limit my nighttime electronics usage—it’s hard, but apparently crucial. If all else fails, I take melatonin or magnesium because they leave me feeling the least groggy in the morning. (I steer very clear of valerian root, however, after some terrifying, hallucinatory dreams.)
But for environmental factors, like my house’s proximity to the highway and the dogs next door, there’s the Marpac Dohm-DS.
I’d long been curious about this device and was lucky to receive it recently as a Christmas gift. The Cadillac of white noise machines, the Dohm has the power to drown out your partner’s snores or mask street-side chatter. Proving necessity is indeed the mother of invention, insomniac Jim Buckwalter developed the first Marpac model in 1962 using his dog’s metal food bowl, a small fan blade, and some foam-backed wood. Today Marpac’s Sound Conditioners are encased in no-nonsense ABS plastic (available in white, tan, and black) and are sold worldwide.
But could Marpac’s signature sound lull me into the deep sleep I so longed for?
Well, here's how it works: The Dohm has two different speed settings to choose from and a twistable shell that adjusts the depth and volume of the noise. At first, I was skeptical because I found it to be quite loud in almost every position, making my bedroom feel like the cabin of an airplane. It was all I could hear. After settling on what seemed like the lowest tone, I settled into bed and listened. The sound was almost wall-like—there were no strange, unexpected rhythms to focus on, nothing interesting or distracting about it. In fact, it was so non-interesting that it was forgettable, and within fifteen minutes, I was asleep.
I would love to wrap up this review by saying that I slept straight through till morning, but I didn’t. The good news is that I got up only because I had to pee, not because I was back to popping melatonin out of desperation. The Dohm worked like a charm, and white noise is now my greatest comfort on those darkest nights.
Photographed by Ben Jurgensen.