I Am Judging Your Sleep Sound Settings

by Rachael Pavlik
Originally Published: 

While visiting my parents recently, I noticed my father had moved into my sister’s old bedroom. Because we are such a private family with healthy relational boundaries, I immediately blurted, “OH MY GAWD, MAMMA—DADDY IS FINALLY LEAVING YOU…IT’S BEEN 51 YEARS! WHO IS SHE?!”

“I kicked him out of our room,” my mother deadpanned. “Your father has decided he likes “Thunderstorm” now.”

She didn’t have to say any more; I immediately understood. “Thunderstorm” is not the name of the new stripper down at Scores. It’s a setting. You see, my entire family is addicted to their sleep sound machines. In the ’70s, we had AC window units to hum and whir us off to dreamland, and now we have Hammacher Schlemmer, Brookstone and HoMedics. All of us. In every bedroom. The brands may vary, but we are strictly a “white noise” bunch. That’s our setting. Period. Even our babies were sleep-trained on the constant, steady white noise whoosh of an air purifier.

My father is too old for a mid-life crisis, so his sudden insistence on “Thunderstorm” seemed like an all-out act of ear treason.

“Thunderstorm!” my mother repeated. “I mean, can you imagine?” “Boom! Boom! Boom!”

Apologies to Eddie Rabbit, but Mamma apparently does NOT love a rainy night.

While I suspected their marriage would survive, I did wonder if maybe we were being too hard on the guy. Were we too judgmental? Too set in our settings? Was white always right? Holy hell—were our sleep sound settings racist?! Could it be that plain old white noise is not the be-all and end-all of a great night’s sleep?

In the name of science and fairness, I decide to explore other, non-white settings on my own sleep machine for a few nights. Here are my findings:


Of course I had to start with this one, and yes—there was booming. Too much booming. All I needed was a strobe machine to mimic lightning, and my room could’ve been the hull of the doomed Andrea Gail. Sorry, Dad. Nope.


This is an actual setting that exists. Initially, I feared it would just be that “Drops of Jupiter” song playing on a continuous loop, but no…it’s actual train noises. Who likes this? All night I imagined riding the rails with hobos and carny folk who were hell-bent on trying to steal my knapsack. I slept with one eye open, clutching a harmonica.


Initially peaceful, but then I just got hungry for shrimp, which forced me to Google the hours of the nearest Red Lobster. And did I just hear a fucking seagull? Seagulls will peck your eyes out for a Cheddar Bay biscuit, and who could blame them? They are delicious. (Biscuits, not seagulls.)


Do the people that like this setting sleep with rubber sheets? I got up four times to pee.


Much like the aforementioned “Train” setting in its WTF factor. Yes, because after fighting Houston road rage all day, it’s super relaxing to experience traffic driving through your bedroom.


Two thoughts immediately came to mind: swarms of giant locusts descending on my bed and/or John Travolta in a leather jacket. I don’t know which is more frightening.


I’ve read too much Edgar Allan Poe for this shit to be remotely restful.


Very peaceful if you can get past the occasional howler monkey and the feeling that you are about to be mauled by a panther.


Similar to “Jungle” but with more humidity and thoughts of giant spiders. Also thoughts of Rainforest Cafe charging you $9 for five goddamn chicken nuggets.


Can’t you just feel the shag rug and the hot, moist breath of Barry White against your neck? Don’t fight it, baby…awww yeeaah. It’s so hot. And when was the last time you checked the batteries in the smoke alarm? Nighty night!


This one just made me anticipate a masseuse coming into the room at any moment. I also experienced some involuntary clenching, because one of my many fears is farting during a massage.

Well, I tried. I’m exhausted. In the end I decided I was, indeed, a white noise girl, and I was okay with that. I’ll try my best not to judge you or my dad and your weird sleep habits. As for my parents, I do hope they can weather the Thunderstorm and find some common sound ground.

Thank you, and good night.

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