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Heavy Meddle: Help! My Noisy Neighbor Is Disrupting My Sleep

I sleep during the daytime, when most of the world is up and about. Do I have a right to ask my building-mate to keep in down? (petitefox/flickr)
I sleep during the daytime, when most of the world is up and about. Do I have a right to ask my building-mate to keep in down? (petitefox/flickr)
This article is more than 8 years old.

Welcome Meddleheads, to the column where your crazy meets my crazy! Please send your questions to email. Right now. Not only will you immediately feel much better, you’ll also get some advice.



Dear Steve,

I’m currently 32 weeks pregnant and have been advised to take bed rest for medical reasons. I have a really tough time sleeping through the night and usually catnap throughout the day. Unfortunately, I have a downstairs neighbor who really enjoys a good dance party most days between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.

She respects the usually quiet time hours of evening and nighttime so I am hesitant to make a big deal out of it but I am a wreck from lack of sleep. I guess my question is how do I keep the peace in our usually harmonious building while getting a little shut eye during the day?


Sleepless and Gestating


Dear S&G,

Let me underscore three points here.

1. You are more than seven months pregnant.
2. You are on medical bed rest.
3. You are “a wreck” from lack of sleep.

Please explain to me what sort of person, upon hearing a respectful request from the individual described above, cannot find it within themselves to lower the volume on their day-time dance party? I don’t mean to suggest that being a pregnant woman on bed rest makes you the queen of all you survey. But it seems like such an obviously reasonable request. In fact, it may actually be medically irresponsible not to say something.

So a part of me is wondering why you would hesitate to bring this up with your neighbor, who is, after all, respectful enough not to crank their tunes at night? Do you fear this would make you seem like a prima donna? How, exactly, would making this request upset the peace of your apartment complex?

What I’m getting at here is that you might be placing social nicety before your physical and mental health in a way that’s ultimately self-punishing. And that’s a bad idea for an expectant mother especially, because looking out for your physical and mental health is just about to matter more than it ever has in your life. Having a newborn is an utterly transcendent experience. But it’s also exhausting. Yes, babies sleep a lot, but they also need round-the-clock feeding, dandling, changing. Mom has to get rest. Otherwise mom staggers around in a cloud of unhappiness and everything falls apart. As a person with three small kids, trust me on this. Better yet, trust my wife.

you might be placing social nicety before your physical and mental health in a way that’s ultimately self-punishing.

Again, I’m not suggesting that being a mom gives you the right to be a jerk. Your neighbors’ feelings matter. It’s not their responsibility that you decided to have a child. But there are so many possible solutions here. The first and most obvious would be for you to look into earplug technology, which has grown quite advanced in recent years. The second would be to ask the downstairs neighbor if she minds listening to music on a pair of headphones. The third would be for you to work out a schedule with her, designated periods when she agrees to lower the volume so you can sleep.

Of these options, I’d be inclined to urge the third. Why? Because when your baby comes along — especially in the early months — you don’t want to get into a situation where the infant is being roused from sleep, or is unable to fall asleep, because of noise pounding up through the floorboards. Hell hath no fury like a sleep-deprived infant. Again: trust me on this.

Having a baby is wonderful in so many ways. But it also complicates all kinds of basic logistics, including relations with the neighbors. You guys would do best to start the process of working with each other now. By all means, be respectful in how you bring all this up, and be flexible in thinking about possible solutions. But remember, too, that your energy is a precious resource in these intense months to come. You need to devote as much as possible to taking care of your baby and yourself, and you need to create the space in your home where both of you can get the rest you need.

Mazel tov on the great adventure that awaits you and take good care.


Okay folks, now it's your turn. Did I get it right, or muck it up? Let me know in the comments section. And please do send your own question along, the more detailed the better. Even if I don't have a helpful response, chances are someone in the comments section will. Send your dilemmas via email.

Steve Almond is the author of the book "Against Football." He is the co-host, with Cheryl Strayed, of the WBUR podcast, Dear Sugar.


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