The Homely But Effective Machine That Puts Me to Sleep Every Night

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Soothes me to sleep.

There are certain things in life that are so ugly they’re beautiful, or so ugly they’re cute. (The French call it jolie laide; the Japanese, busakawa.) Think of bulldogs, bumpy noses — or Birkenstocks. This week, we’re celebrating the faces that only a mother could love. Welcome to Fugly Week on the Strategist.

I once lived in an apartment with extremely thin walls — so thin you could hear the neighbors’ phones vibrate. So thin that I knew their Thai takeout order. So thin that I would stay awake coming up with scenarios that could be construed as grounds for evicting them.

One night, in a fugue state, I went online and blindly bought the Dohm white-noise sound machine; it had good reviews, and despite its slightly homely appearance, I went for it anyway. When the little Stormtrooper-helmet-like gadget arrived, it was maybe even less attractive than its photos. But when I turned it on, and the soothing whir enveloped my tiny bedroom, I truly did not care what it looked like: Not only was there no sign of anyone living within 100 miles of me, but my sleep immediately became sounder and deeper.

Eight years and three apartments (with much thicker walls) later, the same Dohm has moved with me — because now I am addicted to the lull. It’s what puts me (and now my husband) to sleep every night, like a warm cup of milk. I’ve since learned more about it: The genius lies in its simplicity — unlike newfangled noise machines, with their rain-forest chirps and crackling fires, there are only two fan settings and a volume control — both of which can be operated while you’re basically still asleep. And when I discovered that the design hadn’t changed since 1962, my whole Dohm narrative shifted: Instead of calling it “my jolie-laide bedside friend,” I’ve started proudly referring to it as “my mid-century-modern noise machine.”

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The Homely Machine That Puts Me to Sleep Every Night