Several weeks ago, in desperation, we posted a challenge to our readers to come up with solution for our vibrating bed, which, shaken by some mysterious force,  wakes us in the wee hours of the morning. Until we find the source, we are hoping to find a way to keep the bed from shaking, so we can get a good night’s sleep.

Since then, quite a few readers responded, offering some really clever, but mostly not viable ideas, like suspending the bed. While we sussed them out and undertook a hopeful correspondence with an engineer that emailed us his thinking, we decided to keep trying fixes.First, we sandwiched the 5-inch disks of a space-age visco-elastic material called Sorbothane between a plywood box that was acting as a bed leg and the bed frame. We’d consulted with a tech person at Sorbothane as to which of their many products to buy. His calculation based on the “loaded” weight of the bed indicated these babies.

Sally Schneider
Sally Schneider

They helped a bit, but nowhere near the degree of vibration damping needed.

Next, having 4-cubic feet of sytrofoam pellets left over from the legs-floating-in-a-box-of-pellets experiment, we thought we try out a beanbag mattress as a precursor to the more elaborate mattress-floating-in-a- box-of -pellets idea.

Sally Schneider
Sally Schneider

We filled a heavy duty garbage bag with the pellets and placed a foam sofa cushion on top. Then we climbed on when the vibration was full force. The vibration came right through the pellets, most likely because there wasn’t a thick enough layer of them. Though the idea didn’t work, it provided good info for the possible pellet bed.

bean bag bed experiment
Sally Schneider

All the while, we were corresponding with Kevin Neff, an engineer in Michigan. Stay-tuned for his promising strategies.

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30 replies on “Vibrating Bed Mystery Contest Update

  1. I’m wondering if the vibration dampening on the leg/sorbothane combo was hindered by the hollow box actually conducting the sound/vibration? Our plywood box shelving is shockingly good at conducting both – to the point where our neighbor can actually hear the slightest tap on our box-shelves! Perhaps using a leg made out of a different material (short high-density rubber legs, concrete, etc.) could help a bit?

    Kudos for not giving up! I hope you’re able to find a resolution soon…

  2. I’ve been wondering if the plywood boxes were hindering or helping…SO taking a cue from you, I just swapped them out for the yoga blocks I have, sandwiched with open cell rubber, THEN the Sorbothane…will see if it makes a difference. I’d love a solution that just buys me time — letting me get a BIT more sleep — unti I can make the concrete legs the engineer suggested. Did some planning today with a friend that knows about concrete…
    Thanks for your help. Stay tuned….

  3. I DID swap out the plywood boxes for foam yoga blocks, sandwiched with some open cell foam rubber (the original rig), topped with the Sorbothane. It made no difference!

  4. Could you perhaps just use the plywood legs as forms for the concrete legs? Quikrete is a wonderful product and you might get by with just one or two bags, at a very small cost.

    Have you tried an air mattress? (Sorry if I missed that chapter.) If this were the 1970’s I would suggest a waterbed.

  5. Sorry, I see the air mattress has already been tried. Does this vibration also make the air vibrate? (I mean, as in, does it make a sound?) If so, you might be out of luck. A frame made of a pair of inverted U-shapes, on sorbothane feet, and the mattress platform suspended from the U-shapes via springs, would isolate the mattress from the vibrations pretty well, but it sounds like you’re sensitive enough that the vibration of the frames, and potentially the buzzing of the springs, would disturb you, especially if any of your bedding shifted against the suspension mechanism during the night.

    Keep us posted!

  6. Hi Jim, well you saw that I tried an air mattress. I don’t know if the vibration makes the air vibrate, but it makes the plastic casing vibrate. And I looked into waterbeds (water CONDUCTS vibration —think whales. I also looked into trampolines…seriously.

    One of the my discoveries in this is, as you guessed, that I am more sensitive than most people.

    Re the plywood boxes/legs as concrete forms…they are not big enough to get the weight I need (or the engineer consultant calculated that I need). My thinking was to get styrofoam forms that are in cardboard boxes (I’d tape the styrofoam with gorilla tape, as well as the boxes.)
    Then I’d fill them with quickcrete.
    They’d make 11 x 11 x blocks. A concrete calculator I came across said they would weigh apx 80 pounds, just right.
    I’m hoping I can move them with my hand truck. (I’m looking into getting 80 lb bags of quickcrete delivered NOT curbside, but to the apartment terrace…can’t lift ’em.

    My questions: Do you think this will work? I am told that styrofoam works well. (I can make plywood forms if I need to).
    What KIND of quickcrete would you recommend for this shape?
    I’ll take any advice or ideas you have!

  7. Sally,
    I would go with plain old Quikrete. I know there are fancier versions, but your application doesn’t seem to demand “high pressure” or “hydraulic” concrete! One thing I have enjoyed doing is coloring concrete with the coloring agents you can buy at the same place as the concrete. You can get nice, muted earth-tones like beige or terra-cotta if you’d prefer those to grey. (I see they now offer “charcoal,” which I haven’t tried but sounds great).

    Those boxes were just what I imagined when you said styrofoam forms – – I have one in my closet now left over from a ham someone sent me, and I’d offer it, but I have to send my uncle some beet kimchi so I need it. The gorilla tape will be perfect to wrap around the outside to keep the form from bulging. A fun little project!

    This weekend I’ll be playing with Quikrete too. Margaret and I need some stepping stones for our new community garden plot, and we want them to be exactly 12 x 12 so they’ll fit in with our new “square foot gardening” scheme.

    Finally, I hope you do get some good rest. I have occasional sleep issues and know how difficult they make it to keep mindful!


  8. One thought occurs: If you want to use one form for multiple pours, consider a thin coat of Vaseline on the inside of the form to help the cured concrete “release.” Some styrofoam seems to have a slick, tough finished surface, but some is quite soft with lots of little crevices the cement could hang onto. Better safe than sorry!

  9. I was just wondering about that. Will do. Thanks a million.

  10. You probably should try both strategies for full effect. A frame can be easily constructed so you don’t use your ceiling for suspension, then you can put dampeners under the frame. In addition to the rope suggested for suspension perhaps heavy duty springs can go between the rope and frame top. I just quickly browsed through Google’s images but some of the most interesting frames might be:×550/kids-bedroom-ideas/kids-bedroom-unique-suspended-bed-furniture-ideas-with-blue-white-pillow-and-fascinating-laminated-floor-beautiful-designer-childrens-beds-and-furniture-ideas-22892.html (<-this one looks like it might even use dampeners under the frame!)
    Years ago, at my last place, I bought a $99 outdoor canopy swing and modified it with springs and such for a bed.
    Good luck.

  11. Thanks for your ideas. They remain problematic, I’m afraid, due to the unusually low 6 Hz frequency of the vibration. So far, I have found NO dampeners that will work (will publish the latest try soon). So any rig that touches the floor will transfer the vibration, as we saw already with Holton Rower’s wire shock absorbers.

    Thanks anyway.

  12. Hi Sally,

    I have just stumbled upon your blog in search for a solution to the same problem (just moved near a noisy street and I’m very sensitive to the vibrations).

    I saw all the suggestions in your contest post and have an idea from my own research that no one’s suggested yet.

    If you buy some heavy (50lb) bags of rice, beans or sand, the vibrations pass up through the smaller grains and dampen the force. The friction even produces a little extra heat 🙂 I imagine you’ll need quite a few bags to result in a noticeable difference, placed around the walls.

    It probably won’t be a full solution to the problem but might help reduce it! At worst you’ll have a stock of food 🙂

    Good luck and I’ll keep an eye on this site!

  13. Chrystia, Thank you so much for your very interesting idea. I was just about to post an update. Having made four 80-pound concrete blocks that did not work as bed-legs (with sound damping material), I put tham along the wall at the head of the bed. They do help to dampen the vibration a bit.

    Question: You say to put them AROUND the walls. Have you tried propping the bed on them?

    How many did you use altogether?

  14. Hi Sally,

    I’ve only just discovered that idea and haven’t had a chance to implement it yet. I was thinking if it does help dampen the vibration, I could get or build a long cabinet the length of the wall (or room!) and fill the bottom with the bags, and use the top as a shelf.

    I had thought about your attempt at resting the bed ontop of polystyrene pellets and figured the rice/beans/sand would also crush under the weight. The bed legs might also eventually settle down to the ground unless you add a long/wide and flat base to the feet.

  15. You’ve said that the ceiling and walls of your bedroom are drywall , and that he slab of the building is 18″ above the ceiling — is there insulation in the empty spaces, and if not, is it possible that could dampen the vibration by adding that to the envelope? Also wondering if you have a living room area, and if you’ve investigated whether that vibrates as well/as much — if not, perhaps swapping the living room and the sleeping rooms? As for investigation, If you could arrange to have access to turning off the main electricity to the building during the vibration episode time, you could confirm or eliminate whether it is mechanically originating from your building.

  16. Hi Evan. Thanks so much for your suggestions. The vibration can be felt in living room and bedroom, but only in the floor, not the walls. Turning of the electricity for a 154 unit apartment building is no small undertaking. But apparently there are sleauths who know how to track down the source of these kinds of medications. There is another bit of information that I haven’t made clear: that is that the vibration is, as measured, so low, that it is way below what most humans can perceive. Which means that I am super-sensitive, possibly due to a medication I have been taking. That said, since pouring the blocks, and trying the MANY other fixes, I have come up with some ways to mediate it that may help others. If all else fails, my artist friend Holton Rower has designed a hanging bed that would not touch the floor.

  17. How have you fared the past couple months? Not sure how your friend in the recent post will design a hanging bed where the rig doesn’t touch the floor so good luck (heavy-duty supercooled maglev electromagnets? :D)
    I’ve thought of another idea but not sure – how about revolving wheels? If you constructed a “merry-go-round” carousel under each leg, and you know the frequency (6 Hz), then wheels traveling >=360 rpm would rotate vibrations laterally as they attempt to travel up. Hopefully they’d just get absorbed or disspate at that point. Currently I imagine ball bearings under the frame above each leg but the racket from those might drive you insane (unless a more quiet solution could be found).

  18. Sally, it’s seems like nothing you have tried worked. When I did my own research (I have an odd and uncaring upstair’s neighbor who is active after midnight and before 9AM) — all sources stated that carpeting her floor was the only measure that would work, for sure. She refuses to carpet her floor and management won’t make her. Anything from my end would be expensive, complicated and not always effective. My best chance of a solution is building a 2nd ceiling (with air between), but then the vibrations may still be able to travel down the walls. And as you know in NYC, we usually don’t have the freedom to change the structure of our apartments.

    Because I feel your plain, please keep me informed of your efforts. As I mentioned earlier, knowing what doesn’t work is helpful too. I remain ever hopeful that we will find a solution.

    Where can I buy an inexpensive thingy to measure the vibrations like you did?

  19. Unfortunately, it wasn’t an “inexpensive thingy to measure the vibrations”. It was a $5000 computer-like device that an acoustical engineer friend loaned me. We found that there ARE vibrations but way below what most people would feel i.e. I am super-sensitive.

    It sounds like your problem is a different one: an intractable neighbor who is making noise. Decible levels can be measured with a phone app and if they are high enough you can make an official stink with the landlord, city, getting a lawyer etc. . If it is footsteps and general crashing around, here are things that have worked for me (having had the experience in the past): offering to pay for all or part of carpeting in the most essential area (the nice route). Another option is to give her a taste of her own medicine that is, let her experience what it is like to be trapped and disturbed by noise. I did this twice by putting speakers against the ceiling and blasting it during the hours my neighbor was sleeping. When she came running down outraged, I told her nicely that this is the effect her noise has on me, and that from now on, I would will be giving her the experience. WIth both women, it stopped the narcissistic behavior. It’s not a great way to go, but it can be effective. Good luck.

  20. Thanks again, Sally!

    I understand how your approach would work with a “normal” person. It wouldn’t with my neighbor. She’s the type who embraces drama. She is up 2 to 3 times a night and doesn’t work during the day, so she probably sleeps all day. In the beginning I tried to reason with her diplomatically, but got nowhere … drama. Management is ineffective.

    Thanks again for your blog and responses. Because I can relate, I will look out for any updates.

  21. Do you have a medical condition Sally ?

  22. Yep. A super heightened nervous system caused by a very bad sleep medication (Do not take Ambien, Lunesta etc!!!) It’s lowly getting better. An acoustical engineer measured the vibration and found it to exist, only at a degree that most people cannot perceive.

  23. Sounds counterintuitive but I’d get a subwoofer and play a tune 2-3 times higher frequency than the vibration, which would should combine into a higher frequency that you can sleep through, especifically with some ear plugs.

  24. Thanks, I tried that. In this experiment, I pressed the subwoofer against the bed frame (wood) and played different frequencies. It worked moderately but wasn’t great day to day.

  25. Have you found a working solution yet?
    I have helped people with this kind of thing successfully. Low level noise and vibration which is not from your own activities or machines, being beyond your control therefore assumes a nuisance value.
    Experiencing this myself from inconsiderate and uncompromising neighours, I sympathise.
    Being ‘overly’ sensitive should not really be your problem alone. I see it as the ‘Chinese Water Torture’, when visiting friends can hear nothing or don’t see what the issue is, but the person affected has built up a stressful reaction over a lengthy period of time such that just the possibility it is there ‘yet again’ causes anxiety and wake from sleep. Even in a rural area there will always be random sounds, gunshots, low-flying jets, owls screeching, dogs barking.
    None of the methods you have tried address the need to ‘buffer’ the vibration from the floor.
    You need a ‘spring’ (childs cycle inner tubes, rubber pads – any of the things tried or available) and then a mass as big as your bed – heavy with lots of reluctance to move. And then another set of ‘springs’ finally supporting your bed. Sand isolation in a recording studio is a cheap way to add mass and the air between grains acts as a dampener. It helps with traffic rumble, but is not perfect. Double (as I just described) air-spring supported floors and even whole rooms are effective but outside of a scientific laboratory exist only in the penthouse suites of the likes of Howard Hughes. Some high-profile city public transport projects have implemented something like this as part of mitigating measures for existing residents right next to new subways or above new tunnels, and I have worked on these.
    It may also be that it starts in the floor structure and then gets re-radiated into the air by the floor and walls (which are connected to it). It may be your friend analysed a particular fundamental frequency. This could be a result of higher frequencies (mains driven heating circulation motors, fans, etc) mixing (‘beating’) together.
    I have to do another overnight vigil at a property tonight, having failed to register any rumble, hum or vibration at all on a previous visit. Hearing is not just a simple physical process, there are actually regions of the audic nerve which do processing before signals even reach the brain, which are connected to your balance organs and ear muscles! The owner and victim wants re-assurance that if I can locate the source of a sound, then it is not imaginary and the knowledge may allow some acceptance.

    Spring-mass-spring. That is your answer. If the vibration is re-radiating from the walls and ceilings? A double isolated room is the only answer.

  26. Thank you so much for your detailed info.
    We know that the worst vibration is about 6 hertz, which all my reading says is practically impossible, barring sleeping on a laboratory table designed to attenuate vibration coming from the floor, or expensive acoustical isolation equipment.

    My last resort was going to be inner tubes on top of the wood bedframe, under a slab of plywood on which would lay my mattress. This is what reader Russel Elhardt did what for his vibration issue (you can read his thinking in the comments that follow this post) and he kindly made YouTube videos of his rig

    If I get understand your strategy right, you would recommend two layers of springs with heavy mass in between. Have you successfully damped 6 hertz using this method?

    Thanks again for your input.

  27. I have an extreme sensitivity to low frequency sound, too. This is generally labeled “aphasia” which is really any extreme in hearing. In my case being exposed to constant naval gun fire/cannon on a US Navy ship, did something bad to my hearing, so it rolls off sharply at 2Khz. I wear hearing aids which boost the high frequency back up, but the problem is a brain that compensated by boosting the Low Frequency. I can hear things below normal human hearing at VLF (60 Hz and below). Bass coming from a rude neighbor’s stereo, trucks on the highway a half mile away, etc. drive me nuts. I use earplugs designed for target shooting.
    The problem with LF noise is, it is Omnidirectional, i.e., once generated it seems to come from everywhere. So you could isolate your bed from the floor and still “hear’ it via conduction through walls, ceilings, floor, even your body. But that is just noise. Vibration, is something else and something is doing the vibrating. See if you can find it during the time it’s running and hunt it down. Because it seems to come from every direction, work outward in a spiral search pattern. BTW most microphones and small recorders will be utterly useless for this application, they aren’t sensitive below about 30Hz.
    You’ll need to use your ears. Good Luck and Good Hunting.

  28. Thank you for this very helpful and affirming info. I thought I’d found the source of the vibration when a basement mechanical was removed for repair and it stopped. But further checking doesn’t bear it out. We’re going to test others. Meanwhile, learning to calm my nervous system helps greatly as it is largely an issue of hyper-sensitivity. I hope to post more on it soon.

  29. We have twin XL beds on a king platform .The platform is in two pieces so couldnt figure out why the vibration . My husband shakes a lot during his sleep so I am the one awake. I just now began to think it is traveling across the floor . I was thinking of placing a sorbathane mat under my mattress side . Do you think it might help. Or would it be better to Put several smaller discs?

  30. I tried Sorbothane in numerous iterations and it didn’t work for me. It only works from 10 hrz and up; the vibration in my place is a rare 6 hrtz. I would think your husband’s shaking is higher than 10 hertz. But the configuration Sorbothane is tricky to figure out. If you look up the company, you can find an engineer to speak to, who can advise you (I did and he basically told me why it didn’t work for me).

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