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Mental Health Track 028

Off jaunting about today, this time spreading the gospel of Luke. Skywalker, that is. I wonder how other people manage to sleep and remain asleep while knowing they have to be up at a given time to reach the right train with all the proper connections. I feel like I managed to quash all those insatiable demands from the anxiety fairy last night, distracted in part by reading a very good book which I was loath to put down, but did start to wake up again from around six. The distant smash of bin men, Oscar yowling next door (he’s a cat), all made it through my beloved earplugs, or one of them anyway since the other had fallen out during some dreamy writhing. While it seems like an obviously bad idea to staple them into one’s lughole, but I’d like it if there were some way to keep em in place. Maybe I shouldn’t thrash about in my sleep…

I’ve mentioned using a white noise app previously, and figured its details might be worth sharing for anyone who would find such things a comfort. All white noise apps appear to be called “White Noise App” which is obviously a bullshit SEO thing as well as being utterly unhelpful. Mine shares the same name White Noise, distinguished only by its creator TMSOFT. I paid for the full version several years ago, though I’m damned if I can remember what that upgrade got me. Possibly it was the functionality to record and import my own sounds. Connected to the app is another one, White Noise Market which gives you access to a vast database of sounds and custom mixes uploaded by other people.

In common with most of the white noise apps (I mean, they’re probably all 90% identical), the most delightful feature is being able to make your own mixes. There are loads of presets, including endless rain sounds and an array of mechanical sounds classed as brown, violet, pink, blue and grey (I’m not entirely sure what distinguishes these), terrifying things like a human heart beat (Hammer Horror’s Edgar Allan Poe adaptations has left me unable to find this soothing), lots of fan and dishwasher type sounds. The market gives you limitless things, like ASMR and binaural beat tracks, self-recorded delights like the sound of the night by a lake from someone who camped out there, cat purrs and everything in between. For the mixes you can select up to five sounds, and then choose how they’re layered, varying their location in a stereo mix, individual sound volume, pitch, variance (how repetitive or not you want them – I don’t like being surprised by a sudden burst of thunder, I’d rather have it low-key rumbling the whole time), speed and its oscillation. It’s great – not only can you create an array of super-soothing mixes for different contexts but you can spend a million hours just playing with the thing.

Until I started messing about with the app, which I tracked down after some “sleep better” site recommended the idea and several hours attempting to compare nearly identical things, I hadn’t realised what sounds I find relaxing. That’s probably not unusual, but I generally haven’t given a lot of thought to how I relax. When I was a teenager I used to go to sleep listening to Radio 4 at a low volume – mostly absent of music and filled with human voices – which was OK, though the memory of still being awake when the shipping forecast came on still fills me with rage. For years I allowed an ancient radio alarm clock to slide between bands and wake up to a static fuzz instead of whatever music or (worse) excitable morning chatter might be on the radio. We’ve lived near a railway for the last twenty years and I often found myself waiting for that familiar thunk and whoosh while I waited to sleep. Also, cats’ purrs are awesome, possibly even linked to vibrations that help them knit their own broken bones faster! And the sound of rain on our almost-flat roof in the library is great. Now I can smoosh them all together. I’ve added the purrs of two of our cats as well as borrowing a generic “Purring Pierre”. It’s still a little hard to listen to Merly Boo’s purring because it was such a distinctive purr with a little hitch in it, but Geiger’s steady purr (recorded when he was just a kitten) goes right into most mixes. I must record him again now he’s a big lad with an amazing rumble tiger purr (he’s not named after the Geiger-Muller radiation detector for nothing).

For preparing to go to sleep, possibly in the full hour before sleep I have a mix of rolling train stock, a running shower, crackling fire, and thunder, with Geiger purring in the centre of it. To play through my headphones while I’m falling asleep I use “vacuum of space”, Geiger once again, water dispenser bubbling, underwater waves and “intergalactic voyage”. The latter is very soft and gentle with all the faintly science fictional elements which reflect the journey of switching off my consciousness and traveling into the weird underside of our awareness. I have lots of others to switch around and use at different times too. Pleasingly I’ve shared these and our purring beasts on the White Noise Market and it looks like some other folks have downloaded them too.

The White Noise app enables various alarms (I wake up to the railway and thunder one too) to switch mixes and sounds on and off at given times, which I’ve married up with MacroDroid to ensure they only apply on certain days and whether my phone’s connected to my sleep mask and so on. Being able to have a plastic technological solution which I can constantly tinker with instead of just hoping for sleep creates a sense of empowerment and I feel actively engaged in the business of doing sleep properly.

Mental Health Track

A purposeful daily attempt to track how I feel and what I’m doing.

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