Stuff that occurs to me

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Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

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Science in London: The 2018 scientific society talks in London blog post

Monday, 14 May 2018

Hearing a 'break' in white noise when you doze off / wake up - does everyone experience this?

On long journeys I sometimes doze off and this is more likely to happen if I'm mostly relaxed (but still wanting to be alert so I'm ready to get off the transport) and the mode of transport is making a nice background white noise. Aircraft are amazing for this with several layers of whooshing sounds.

I'm not aware of the dozing off bit but I might suddenly become aware, when I wake with a tiny start, of what seems like the re-starting of the background noise. It seems that as I fall asleep I become temporarily deaf to the background whooshing and then, when consciousness resurfaces, I hear the sound again - but I hear it as a brief break and restart in the otherwise continuous white noise.

My assumption is that this is the same for everyone but I don't think I've ever expressed this thought out loud to anyone before and wondered if this phenomenon has a name. Or if it's just me ;)

Obviously I am not usually deaf during sleep otherwise my alarm clock would never wake me, but this seems to happen at the sleep-wake interface during very light sleep. The other possibility is that I'm waking because there's a genuine break in the sound but I think this is very unlikely, particuarly on an aircraft where the sound is usually generated (directly or indirectly) by the engines.

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