Sleepmaker Micro-Review: The App That Saved E3

Illustration for article titled Sleepmaker Micro-Review: The App That Saved E3

It's almost axiomatic that the worst snorers I know are also the nicest people. It adds an element of dread to vacations, road trips and working hotel stays one would otherwise look forward to, and it needlessly strains good relationships.


I'm reminded of something my comedy friend Kenny said about another buddy of ours, Bruce, a gentle giant whose snoring nonetheless sounded like a Peruvian coca farmer laying waste to the rainforest canopy. "He gets the sleep apnea, so you hear him stop breathing, and you're like, ‘Oh shit, he can't breathe,'" Ken joked, "and then you're thinking, ‘Good, if he dies, I can get some sleep.'" I'm a painfully light sleeper, and I've had the same awful thoughts about dear friends many times.

This was my first E3 and, as I'd joked earlier, I figured I'd be bunking with Fahey, who is as self conscious about his snoring as I was concerned by the prospect of losing sleep to it, especially during such a busy week. But I arrived with a secret weapon: the Sleepmaker line of apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch and all I can say is, this sumbitch works like a champ.

The Quiet Storm: Sleepmaker has five versions, Storms, Rain, Streams, Waves and Wildlife, in free lite or pro models ranging from $0.99 (Waves, Streams, Wildlife) to $1.99. (Storms and Rain). The free version gives you four sounds; the pro, about 25. Both play pleasant, ambient sounds of rainfall, rumbling thunder and/or blowing wind, and babbling streams or crashing waves. I snapped up Storms, Rain and Waves pro just to have some extra variety in case I needed it, considering the $5 a nominal expense for a better shot at a peaceful night's sleep. While the app functions through the iPhone's speaker, turning it into the kind of dream machine you see in SkyMall catalogs, you have to use earbuds to make it into a Heavy Duty Super Duper Snorer Destroyer. Fancy pants earbuds are unnecessary - I had $20 Skull Candy buds with the rubber mushroom caps that seal off the ear passage. Then I strung those to an extension cord so that I wouldn't yank the thing off the nightstand if I tossed and turned. Finally, I made sure to plug my iPhone into its charging cord, because this will drain its battery before you wake up otherwise. My first night, I got to the room at 1 a.m. and Fahey already was sawing logs. I put in the buds and didn't hear a thing other than the rainfall with light thunder I'd dialed up, and didn't have to turn the volume all the way up, either. I've never been able to go to sleep to music, over earbuds or on a speaker, but within 20 minutes of settling in, I was gone.

Works Like a Dream: Search around for a pleasant sound, but once you find a winner, stick with it. If you experiment, you'll just have to spend time readjusting. By the second night it felt like my mind was conditioned to not even hear "medium rolls with steady rain," if that makes any sense at all. I just tuned in and conked out. Fahey came in after I went to bed the second night and he had to work late, even turning on a desk light. I was completely unaware of his presence in the room. I didn't wake up until Totilo came in the next morning and deactivated the app. And Fahey has his iPhone alarm set to "scream." I have never in my life slept that deeply.

Very minor quibbles: Some of the sounds have weird tones underneath them that can snag your attention and keep you from getting to sleep. ("Heavy constant wind storm," with ear buds in, I swear had a strange, subtle, synthesizer-like melody going on underneath. This is by no means the case in all of them, but I was disappointed with "Heavy constant wind storm," because I figured it would most closely match the white noise of the fan I sleep with at home.) Some others have conspicuous sounds that break up the ambient blend - there was a loud, close-in three-raindrop spatter in one storm that caused me to go off in search of another. Also, your iPhone alarm will work with the app - it'll fade out and wake you up with the alarm tone. But if you hit sleep, Sleepmaker won't resume. If you quit out of the alarm, though, it will. None of this diminishes the overall success of the apps.


Sleepmaker and a set of earbuds will absolutely be by my bedside for future overnight visits with friends. Others might not like sleeping with earbuds in, and if so, this may not seem like a miracle worker for them. But I've slept with improvised plugs made from wetted, wadded-up toilet paper so often that I no longer notice the feeling of something filling my ear canal. I can tell you, it's a lot easier getting to sleep with something in your ears, even if you can't roll over onto your stomach, than it is battling a room filled with snoring.

On Wednesday morning, I overslept and had to be jostled awake by Totilo again. Fahey already was at work on some impressions. I sat up, cleared my head and asked how he'd slept that night.


"Alright, but, you know," Fahey said, "you snore."

Sleepmaker Rain, Storms, Waves, Wildlife and Streams, Pro and Free, are developed by SoftwareX Ltd. for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. Retails for $0.99 to $1.99 USD. Purchased Rain, Storms and Waves Pro. This review was not solicited by the developer.


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Char Aznable

Too bad there isn't an app to STOP me from snoring. :(