Travel can be absolutely miserable if you're sleep-deprived. And whether you're crashing in a hostel or decked out at the Four Seasons, sometimes you just don't get restful sleep when you're on the road. I once visited the beautiful ruins of Pompeii while studying abroad in Italy one summer. A lover of old ancient cities, you'd think that I would've been overjoyed to explore the ruins for a day. Unfortunately, I was exhausted and beyond grouchy all day, because I had only a few hours of sleep before. Because of that, my memories of Pompeii are pretty negative, and I doubt I'll ever go back.
Why was I so sleep deprived? Well, I happen to be one of those people that can't sleep without some kind of white noise on in the background all night. The main function of it is to drown out other sounds that might wake you up in the night. And when you're traveling, there can be plenty of that. Rowdy hotel guests returning to their rooms in the middle of the night, yelling in the hallway and slamming their doors. City sirens, car horns, clanging pipes, rowdy college kids partying long into the night, you name it. So I started using air conditioners and fans for white noise at night so I could fall asleep. But you can't exactly lug an air conditioner with you every time you go on a road trip or hop on an airplane.
(For more insight on why white noise helps us sleep, check out this information from the National Sleep Foundation.)
A few years ago, I discovered a handy little device called the Dohm sound machine. This circular machine weighs just two pounds, has two settings and a couple sliding parts that allow you to adjust the volume of the sound it makes. It sounds just like a fan. You can grab one off of Amazon for about $50.
For a while, I carried the Dohm around with me. But it became a problem when I went to Italy, as I found that it's wattage did not take well to European conversions...long story short, I unplugged it the first night in my hotel room when it got hot as hell and started to give off a smokey smell. Oops. If you're only traveling within the States, then there's no problem. Except even the Dohm seemed to become a hassle to lug around, especially with air travel. Despite it's small size, it still takes up a lot of suitcase space, especially in a carry-on. And after a while, the few extra pounds are definitely felt. After taking it on a few trips, I started to get sick of carrying it around. A few times I forgot to pack it for road trips, and wouldn't realize it until I got to my destination. That was a HUGE bummer. So - the Dohm is great for home, especially if you're looking to block out background noise like sirens, car horns, music, nocturnal animal sounds, talking...really anything at all. I still love the device, and I use it every single night at home. But after one of those countless times laying awake in the middle of the night because I forgot to pack the Dohm for a road trip, I decided enough was enough.
I turned to my trusty friend the app store for a solution, and it turns out that there are several different FREE sound apps available. I downloaded all of them, and tested each one. The winner? Relax Melodies by a company called Ipnos Soft.
On the free version of the app, it has a whopping 52 different sounds for you to choose from. The app lets you mix and match, playing multiple sounds at once and altering each one's volume level. My personal favorite is "heavy rain" - it provides the perfect amount of consistent white noise without being abrasive. The app has a huge variety of different sounds, including different versions of ocean waves and rain, birds, pianos, and even city ambience if you're a city dweller who's traveled to a quiet rural area and can't fall asleep without your usual street sounds in the background.
I did receive one complaint from a friend, who claims that when her phone screen eventually shuts off and returns to lock mode, the sound shuts off too. Simple fix - make sure you turn your screen off yourself, instead of letting it go off by itself.
Overall - I LOVE this app, and I'll never have to worry about a sleepless night or poorly utilized luggage space while on the road ever again.