I’m a terrible sleeper. A runny toilet, a slight gust of wind, and my cat softly pawing around my apartment are just a short list of things that can wake me in the middle of the night. It’s always been that way. At some point in middle school, my dad gave me a pair of his unused earplugs, probably sick of me rousing him whenever I heard a bump late at night. I took them to sleepovers, sports camps, and camping trips throughout my teenage years, tucking them into my eyeglasses case for safekeeping. (Yes, I was that cool kid who wore glasses and earplugs. I also had braces.)
The gifted earplugs were mostly effective, but given that they were designed with construction workers and hunters in mind, they were too big for me. If I slept in the wrong position, I would be greeted with a throbbing earache in the morning. Or one would pop out overnight, and I would wake at 3 A.M., groggily patting my pillow trying to find it. I learned to pack three earplugs instead of two, just for this scenario. Eventually, I stumbled upon Howard Leight’s Women Earplugs (it doesn’t mince words, that Howard Leight). There, right on the packaging, was my solution: “Specially Designed for Smaller Ear Canals.” Made with softer materials than other brands, they were actually comfortable, and they rarely fell out, thanks to their compact size. After years of twisting and contorting dense foam to fit into my ears, these earplugs were effortless. Now they’re the only kind that I order again and again.
These earplugs have a noise reduction rating of 30 decibels, which, admittedly, isn’t that much—equivalent to a “quiet rural area”—even though the box claims they block snoring. (Unfortunately, I can still hear my partner when he starts sawing logs.) But most of the time they provide me with a continuous night’s sleep. After all these years, they’ve become a sort of security blanket for me, enveloping me in a soft, muffled cocoon at night, even when the world outside is anything but.