By Russ and Tiña De Maris
While most of us associate the RV lifestyle with “getting away from civilization” and back to nature, sometimes we first have to travel through the urban jungle to get there. It may mean overnighting at Walmart, or perhaps staying in an RV park in a busy city. In situations like these, when the sun goes down the noise level doesn’t necessarily do the same. Traffic keeps pumping, and sirens and other street noise can really impact your sleep. Just how can you get a decent night’s sleep?
The answer may be counterintuitive: Add a little noise.
Sometimes called “white noise,” it’s a mixture of equal amounts of every frequency of sound within human hearing range. Pump a little white noise into your bedroom and it simply masks the existing noises, and keeps your mind from being alerted by those other unwelcome sounds. It’s sort of like this: You’re in a dark room and someone turns on a flashlight. Your eye quickly focuses on the flashlight. Now imagine you’re in a well-lit room and that same flashlight is turned on — it’s a whole lot easier to miss.
Some people find white noise “too much,” and don’t find it soothing to sleep around. But there are other noise-blanking sounds that work well to mask out startling sounds. Nature sounds like the lull of surf on the beach or wind blowing across the landscape are often soothing. Some folks turn on a fan and let a constant mechanical sound mask out other sounds.
Some years back, mechanical devices (other than electric fans) were developed as “white noise” machines. They often worked but tended to be expensive, and for boondocking RVers, were out of the question because of their shore power requirements. But for the techno-equipped RVer, that is someone with an electronic tablet or smart phone, there are swarms of apps that can be played on e-devices producing a variety of white-noise or “nature sounds” that can drown out even the most heart-gripping of troublesome noises. When he has power, RVtravel.com editor Chuck Woodbury swears by his Lectro Fan white noise machine.
We’ve experimented with using an Android tablet with a free download called Sleep&Noise Sounds (available on the Google Play Store). Initially we tried “playing” the sounds directly from the tablet, with limited success. Perhaps our sleeping area was too large, but it just didn’t work out well. Later we tried plugging in an external set of speakers, and the room coverage was so much better. The app provided a wide range of “noise” and other types of sounds — from a vacuum cleaner, to heart beats, a couple of different “rain” noises, even a crackling fire. More sound samples come with a “paid” version of this app. For iPhone owners, the free app Sleep Pillow offers many relaxing sounds.
How well do these apps work? For one of us, flipping on “Gentle Rain” is an instant sleep-aid. On the other hand, “The Princess and the Pea” in our family doesn’t find that the system works as well as she’d desire — the best sleep “sound” for her is simply no sound at all. We’re working on earplugs that meet her needs.
You won’t really know which category you fit into until you try something like this out. That’s why we’d recommend shopping the iTunes or Play store for your device and downloading a free version or two to see if you get the desired relief. Then if it works, consider an upgrade.