Small fan is only high-tech sleep aid you really need

November 07, 2005|By KEVIN COWHERD

There are 60 million people in this country who suffer from sleep disorders, including my brother Steve, who tends to get the same restful sleep, night after night, as a man facing a firing squad in the morning.

Not long ago he went to one of those high-tech gadget stores to buy a sound machine to help him sleep.

He looked at something called a Tranquil Moments Sound Therapy System, which emits sounds thought to be soothing: ocean surf, babbling brook, rain falling, that sort of thing.

The "system" cost over 100 bucks - that wouldn't have been a tranquil moment for me, whipping out a credit card and putting that kind of damage on it for a stupid machine that makes noises.

Not when you could own the world's best sleep aid for a fraction of that.

Not when you could own the sleep aid personally endorsed by millions of satisfied - and, OK, cheap - consumers, including a certain chunky columnist and his entire family.

That's right, I'm talking about a fan.

A simple electric fan.

Maybe $8.99 at Target.

$6.99 at Wal-Mart, or whatever.

Plug it in, turn it on, and it's off to Dreamland.

Understand, this business of sleeping with a fan has nothing to do with being warm when you go to bed or needing a breeze to circulate or anything like that.

No, this is all about the delicious droning sound a fan makes, and how it drowns out all the other annoying noises that can keep you awake.

For example, do you sleep with someone who snores?

No problem if you have a fan running!

Just crank that baby to "high" and suddenly the room fills with a loud, rattling, high-pitched whine that overpowers even the worst snoring.

Look, if you come into our bedroom when my wife and I are sleeping, it sounds like an airboat cutting through the Everglades.

But we're both sleeping like babies. No, it's better than that. We're sleeping like we've been anesthetized.

Now, to the non-fan-user, sleeping with a fan droning in the background is a mysterious ritual.

When my in-laws come to visit, I always get this: How can you sleep with all that racket?

The truth is, I can't sleep without it.

See, when I go to sleep, I don't want to hear any noise at all.

I don't want to hear crickets chirping.

I don't want to hear the heat hissing through the air vents.

I don't want to hear my wife's breathing.

I don't want to hear anything.

I need complete and total silence - well, except for the turbine-like roar of a three-speed electric fan oscillating in a brisk 180-degree arc across the room.

Did I mention my kids sleep with fans running, too?

Yes, apparently there's some kind of genetic dependency at work here, although we haven't really explored the whole thing.

Now, there are a couple of obvious drawbacks to being fan-dependent at night, which we should probably mention at this point.

Drawback No. 1: If anyone breaks into your house while you're sleeping with the fan on, you'll never hear them.

In fact, teams of crazed interior decorators could break in and rearrange your furniture all night long and you'd never hear them.

You can't hear anything with a good, heavy-duty box fan drowning the bedroom in white noise.

I remember going outside one morning and my neighbor said: "Did you hear that state police helicopter circling overhead last night? It said on the news they were looking for escaped prisoners."

Nope, I said. Didn't hear anything.

In fact, the escaped cons could have been sitting in my kitchen all night sipping coffee and poring over blueprints of the next bank they were going to hit, and I wouldn't have heard a thing.

Drawback No. 2 is this: When the weather turns cold, stores stop stocking fans.

So if you're addicted to sleeping to the roar of a fan and it breaks in, say, December, you're out of luck, pal.

(By the way, these fans are always breaking down. Hard as it is to believe, their tiny motors weren't made to run eight hours a night, seven nights a week, to provide a soothing background noise for light-sleeping neurotics.)

So when the fan breaks down, you're basically looking at three months of tossing and turning and horrible sleep until spring, when the stores start stocking fans again.

Boy, you talk about a long, cruel winter.

That would just about kill me.

But for those of us with a heavy fan habit, being a target for burglars and risking fan-motor-burnout is a small price to pay for the whirring, monotonous drone that brings a good night's sleep.

The Tranquil Moments Sound Therapy System. Give me a break.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

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