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Sleep Radio

Listening to the radio or watching TV in bed. When you go to sleep, the radio or tv switches off. That's the idea.

I've always considered the idea so obvious that it didn't need mentioning before. But now it seems that it's not been guessed by other people and put into use, so now I'm going to state it explicitly.

Some TV sets and some radios have a function on them called "sleep". However such a "sleep function" is very much an inferior to the idea I am talking about. On a normal "sleep function", the equipment just has a timer and after a set time it switches off. This almost invariably does not coincide with the moment you fell asleep, and instead the machine turns off unexpectedly while you are watching/listening,  Radio or it persists for a while during which you are asleep, or worse, the timing-out wakes you up!

So, here's how to do a "sleep function" properly!:

You have a very lightweight touch switch with you in bed. You can easily hold this on, and while you remain awake, the radio or tv stays on. However, as soon as you go to sleep, you release the switch and the radio/tv goes silent.

A similar idea is already in use on the railways. It's called the "Dead Man's Handle", and is set up so that if the train driver falls asleep, dies, becomes unconscious, or mysteriously disappears, then the "Dead Man's Handle" is no longer being held, and the train stops automatically. This avoids runaway trains!

The "Dead Man's Handle" on a locomotive is a hefty industrial item and would be inconvenient to apply directly to the relaxing situation of listening to the radio while in bed. Instead, a very lightweight microswitch can be used. A pressure of just a few grammes is required to hold the switch engaged. Experimentally, keyswitches that are even lighter than the keys of a computer keyboard can be used. I have found that an old cable-remote from the old-style videorecorders is about right.


* If you're wiring this up, make sure for the sake of safety that the switch is in the LOW VOLTAGE circuit!

* As the radio/tv needs to be usable in the waking state as well as in the "about to go to sleep" mode, an override is required. This can take the form of an additional switch, or the cable to the sleep switch can go in a socket like a headphone jack, where the absence of a plug results in a default option inside the set.

* The switch for use in bed must be of a type that is like a push-to-make (normally open) pushbutton type. The idea is, when you let go, the radio goes off. Don't use a toggle-switch, because you won't be awake to switch it off!

* When operating the device in sleepy-mode, keep the volume control quite low. This prevents the switching-off being so noticeable that it wakes you up. Also, sound seems louder when you're in the dark.

* The cable on the switch needs to be quite long. It should be long enough so that even if you fall asleep and roll over, the cable won't pull the radio/tv. If you wish to have an additional safety feature, you can anchor the cable at a safe point, and/or put an easily released plug and socket along the cable.

* The switch and any box it's in should be designed such that it can't hurt you if you sleep on top of it. This safety maxim is not as difficult as it sounds, especially if you are already accustomed to having a hot water bottle in bed, and/or a cat on the bed.

* A variety of switches (and boxes) are available from electronic component suppliers. Or, you can adapt a cable-remote off something. If you try a few different switches, you'll typically find one that's your favourite and personally much better than the others.

In case you're reading this thinking it's just a crazy idea and would only make sense in theory and would never work in practice, well, I've made these devices before and found they work. Many years ago, Mum used to listen to the radio in bed, and having a handheld switch which ensured the radio was only switched on while Mum was awake proved to be successful. This was in the 1970s, and it was already known at the time that sleeping with the radio on could affect dreaming. So, a prototype sleep-switch was connected up, and the design refined.

The mystery is, why did no radio manufacturers think up the same thing? It seems so obvious.