An Insomniac's Ode to Earplugs
Last updated: January 2023
I never thought I’d write an ode to earplugs, but here we are. These little foam miracles are worth triple their weight in gold. OK, I might be going overboard now. But the truth is that earplugs allowed me to fully enjoy my recent vacation. For the first time ever, I slept better than everyone else using earplugs for insomnia.
One noisy island
I’m fortunate to have joined several friends on a tropical island recently. After several months of working long hours, I was looking forward to a vacation filled with sand, sun, and relaxation. I was most excited about catching up on sleep after a hectic month.
While the gentle rolling of waves was soothing during the day, this turned out to be a very noisy island at night. My hotel room was right next to the ice machine and other guests were refilling their glasses all night long. Fireworks exploded for hours at night (to celebrate the New Year’s holiday). Housekeeping started cleaning neighboring rooms around 6 AM. Oh, and there was active construction going on next door to the hotel. These were not the serene surroundings we anticipated.
Noise and insomnia
Noise typically fuels my insomnia. I’m a light sleeper with excellent hearing, so every small noise disrupts my sleep. Even the most innocuous noises – the TV in another room or a neighbor coming home late at night – keep me awake.
I will wonder what’s going on and how long it will last. Then I start worrying that I won’t be able to fall asleep as long as the noise continues. Then I think about my obligations the following day and whether I’ll be able to meet them if I don’t get enough sleep.
Soon my mind is racing and I’m wide awake, even after the noise has subsided. I’m familiar enough with this routine that I always pack earplugs when I travel.
Part of sleep hygiene
Earplugs are often recommended as part of sleep hygiene instructions. And sleep hygiene is typically the first intervention recommended to people with insomnia. As a clinician, I usually roll my eyes when I hear other people recommending sleep hygiene as a cure for insomnia. I know it’s not enough to address chronic insomnia. But earplugs are my best weapon against insomnia in a new environment.
I slept through it all
Since I was prepared with my earplugs, I popped them in on night number 1. Not only did I manage to catch up on sleep, I actually slept better than my travel companions.
Every night, the earplugs muted the loud noises outside my room. Every morning, my friends complained of being kept away by the ice machine, housekeeping, construction, and fireworks. This may be the first time in history that I was the only person not complaining about my sleep! By the end of the trip, several of my friends had also started using earplugs and were sleeping better.
A useful tool for many
Ear plugs are a cheap and readily available tool to block out noise and help improve sleep. Of course, not everyone will find them as comfortable as I do. For example, people who are recovering from a trauma may feel less comfortable using earplugs because not being able to hear their surroundings makes them feel more vulnerable.
Will earplugs for insomnia help sleep?
There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all intervention. But if noise fuels your insomnia, it’s worth giving earplugs a try. One day you might find yourself writing a love letter to them, too.
Have you tried earplugs for insomnia? Did it work? Share your insomnia story or comment below:
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