Unless you are a motionless back-sleeper, most earbuds and headphones are far too bulky to wear comfortably overnight. Even the smallest pair of true wireless earbuds can fall out, become lost, or cause other problems. Sleep headphones are supposed to be the solution for people who want to block out sounds, fall asleep to music, or mask issues such as tinnitus—but when we set out to find the best sleep headphones, our dreams were dashed. Every pair we tested let us down in some way. We still have recommendations to address specific needs, but you should be prepared to accept a number of compromises.
AcousticSheep SleepPhones Wireless
The headband-style SleepPhones come in different sizes and fabrics, and you can stream any audio to them wirelessly via Bluetooth. But they cost more than many similarly styled competitors.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $100.
If you like to listen to music, watch video, or use a meditation app to help you drift off to sleep, the AcousticSheep SleepPhones Wireless set delivers the most reliable experience available. They’re the only headband-style sleep headphones we’ve found that offer headbands in different sizes and fabrics, so there’s a better chance they’ll fit you comfortably. The flat, felt-covered speakers aren’t painful to lie on, and they produce better bass than the cheap alternatives do. You can stream audio wirelessly from any Bluetooth source (be it a smartphone, tablet, or TV), and the 24 hours of battery life means you’ll get a few nights of rest before needing to charge again. The Bluetooth module and speaker drivers are easier to remove than the pieces in competing models, which makes washing the headband less arduous. However, the headband-style design could interfere with hair bonnets, dental headgear, or nighttime skin treatments, and folks hoping to block external noise—such as the loud snoring of a partner—may find that the cloth isn’t isolating enough. Plus, the $100 price tag may seem steep for headphones that you use only in bed.
Bose Sleepbuds II
These pricey earbuds mask loud noises and aren’t painful to lie on like standard wireless earbuds can be, but they limit you to playing the sounds and music provided in the Bose Sleep app.
If you’re trying to rest next to a loudly snoring partner, night-owl neighbors, or a construction zone, consider the Bose Sleepbuds II earbuds, which were the only sleep headphones we tested that effectively masked noise. These high-tech earplugs don’t offer the active noise cancellation found in many Bose headphones (like our top over-ear pick in our guide to the best noise-cancelling headphones), but they do a solid job of reducing the impact of the sounds around you. The earbuds’ isolating design creates a physical barrier against the din, and you can mask it further by playing white noise or other sounds. To keep the earbuds as small as possible (so they’re comfortable for side-sleepers), Bose had to remove the wireless streaming capabilities. This means you must preload all the listening content onto the earbuds, and unfortunately you’re limited to the library of sounds and music provided in the Bose Sleep app. The Sleepbuds II set includes an alarm and call-alert option, but no awareness mode—so you may not hear crying babies, barking dogs, or home-security alerts. The pair’s 10 hours of battery life is adequate, but folks who like to sleep in may long for more listening time. If you’re desperate to rest in a distracting environment, the Bose Sleepbuds II pair is the best option available—but for many people, the $250 price tag is simply too steep.