Ask a fifth year

Drew Baumgartner

Dear Drew,
I’m a really light sleeper. I’ve also noticed that my room tends to overheat at night. I’d like to have the window open a bit, but there always seem to be people talking/shouting/laughing outside even late at night. How can I make them shut up?
-Ornery in Ormsby

The problem isn’t them, Ornery, it’s you. Believe me, I’m with you on wanting people to shut up – I’ve heard enough inane chit-chat to convince me that intelligent discourse simply isn’t worth it – but wanting it has only taught me that it isn’t going to happen.
There are two kinds of inconsiderate people: those who don’t realize they’re being inconsiderate and those who don’t care. Personally, I’m pretty sure the former group is entirely made up of members of the latter who just don’t want people to think they’re total jerks, but that might just be me. Either way, there’s no good way to correct the behavior, as it’s either the result of ignorance or apathy.
Sure, in the case of ignorance, you could claim that somebody would stop being loud if they realized people were trying to sleep, but honestly, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that people sleep at night, or that loud noises tend to wake people up.
Asking someone who hasn’t grasped these concepts to quiet down would be more trouble than it’s worth, since you’d need to figure out how to say it without any big words or how to convey the abstract thought that you might be trying to sleep even though they can’t see you.
As for the jerks that just don’t care, there’s literally nothing you can do other than anxiously await the day when they piss off someone with less patience than you. It doesn’t take an act of karma to get these people in a bar fight, just their winning personalities.
All right, so you can’t get them to stop, but I think there are still a couple solutions to your problem. The first step is to turn on your fan. If you don’t have a fan, get one now before your mattress melts.
A fan by the window won’t just keep you from drowning in sweat, it will also drown out a lot of the sounds from outside with pleasant white noise. There’s a good chance that that will solve your problem, but if not, there are a few more steps you can take.
It wouldn’t hurt to invest in some earplugs. They don’t need to be fancy – the cheapo foam ones are perfectly comfortable and work just fine for drowning out distant sounds. I know that seems kind of extreme, but earplugs actually come in handy all the time.
Trying to read on the first floor of the library? Trying to get work done at the con computer lab? These tasks would be next to impossible without a good pair of earplugs. Just imagine how cynical I’d be if I actually heard all of the stupid things people said.
My last bit of advice isn’t particularly specific for helping you sleep, but I think dedicated practice could resolve at least some of the problem: Be as condescending to loud people as you possibly can. Embarrass them shamelessly and relentlessly every time they speak until they come to associate speaking with utter humiliation.
Hopefully, that kind of training will carry over to the times when you’re in bed. This probably only works on a specific subset of the loud population, but even if it’s wholly ineffective, verbally abusing these jerks has its own virtue. Best of luck.