This article contains affiliate links. We may earn a small commission on items purchased through this article, but that does not affect our editorial judgement.
Sleep - most of us struggle to get enough of it. From those of us that struggle with chronic insomnia, to those with personal circumstances preventing slumber (a snoring partner, street noise, or worries about the state of the world), the effect of a rubbish night sleep is deadening. Not to mention the veritable laundry list of issues sleep deprivation causes: low libido, prematurely aged skin, heightened susceptibility Alzheimer’s or diabetes, the list goes on.
Little wonder so many people are turning to sleep apps and tech to help them nod off. From ambient sounds, ASMR, sleep podcasts, guided meditation, soothing music, or audiobooks - there’s a plethora of sound related tech out there designed to help usher us to dreamland.
Great though they may be, these sleep aids they require sleep-friendly earbuds or headphones to work (regular headphones are, in the main, too uncomfortable to wear at night).
Ideally, you’ll be wanting to find a pair that either blocks out external noise, or better yet, has noise-cancelling technology. Noise-cancelling earbuds are simply wondrous - the best pairs can block out almost all of the sounds of the outside world, the better to focus on your preferred sleep aid.
The portability of sleep earbuds is an added bonus: wear them on a plane to drown out the engine, take them on the train for a morning snooze or use them when sleeping in an unfamiliar place to make you feel at home.
Is it comfortable to sleep with earbuds or headphones on?
As with most tech, not all earbuds and headphones are created equal - and if you’re looking for a pair to sleep in, you’ll need to find some that sit comfortably in or on your ears.
Which ones you go for will be down to you, your needs and your sleep position: side sleepers and back sleepers, for example, would find different pairs comfy. We’ve covered the best for individual circumstances below, so you can find a pair to suit your needs.
Is it safe to wear headphones when sleeping?
Yes, it is safe to wear headphones at night - provided you’re smart about a couple of crucial factors.
When wearing earbuds to sleep, make sure you’ve got the volume at a safe level to avoid damaging your ears, and we’d recommend going for wireless ones to avoid tangled wires.
What should I look for in a pair of sleep earbuds/headphones?
You should also spend time looking at the ear tips that will come with your product to make sure you have the perfect size for you: the wrong size could feel uncomfortable and won’t be as effective at blocking out sound.
You’ll also need to pick a pair that have holes in, to allow air to circulate - otherwise your ears will be moist, which is detrimental to their health.
As earbuds are pricy, you’ll probably want a pair that function just as well during the daytime, whether to listen to music on during your commute, or to take calls on while on a walk outside. If you’re not really a music lover and just want to block out all noise to sleep, you can save some cash and invest in a simple ear plug.
Whatever you need to catch forty winks, you’ll find a variety of options to suit you in our round up.
We’ve also looked at the best mattresses for kids, and the comfiest pyjamas to help you slumber.
These aren’t precisely headphones, neither are they simply earplugs.
Rather, they don’t play music or podcasts, only sounds from the Bose sleep app designed to aid slumber: from dulcet tones, soporific ambient, to nature sounds like falling rain or a roaring fire.
Sounds are downloaded directly to the Sleepbuds, so you can switch your phone off overnight (good for sleep hygiene if you struggle with nodding off). You can also set an alarm using the Sleepbuds.
Sleepbuds aren’t technically noise-cancelling: instead, they utilise white noise to block the outside world. The result? You don’t hear anything but the sounds you’ve chosen.
In practical terms, the small, well-fitted buds are easy to wear and light enough to sleep on without discomfort. We found the nature sounds lulled us to slumber very swiftly. Indeed, when insomnia struck in the early morning, another shot of the Sleepbuds knocked us out impressively quickly.
They’re not cheap, but if you’re struggling with regular insomnia, these are invaluable for helping you get some much needed kip. Highly recommended.
Key Specs: Run time: 11 hours; Active Noise Cancelling; Mic and remote no; iOS and Android, Case included: yes
If it’s comfort you seek, the Kokoon headphones will delight you: they are exceptionally soft and comfortable. Designed to be used both for everyday wear and to help you relax/fall asleep, the ‘Flexmould Comfort’ patented design helps the headphones mould to the shape of your head.
These cans work best when connected to the Kokoon app, which houses an extensive audio library of relaxation and sleep programmes, including many informed by CBT techniques. Indeed, we found the programmes great at lulling us to sleep.
Unfortunately, the hard shell of the headphones meant that as side-sleepers they were too hard for us to doze on, but if you sleep on your back they may be a terrific sleep aid.
Kokoon’s active noise cancellation (ANC) system is on by default. It’s impressive - making a marked difference to the sound of the world around you. It works best in lower frequencies - such as a snoring partner or an airplane cabin - blocking out the external world impressively well.
There’s also the option for active white noise, using the app. The headphones will detect when you’ve fallen asleep, fade out your music, and introduce white noise to help protect your sleep.
The Kokoon would be our choice for long-haul travel, helping unwind, and - if you can sleep on your back - happily sending you off to sleep. They work well as regular Bluetooth headphones, too.
We were really impressed by the Melomania 1+ Earbuds, from British audio manufacturer Cambridge Audio.
When you take into account their sound quality, battery life and premium appearance, these earbuds offer considerable value for money.
The sleek smartphone app pairs with your earbuds and allow you to tailor the sound depending on what you’re listening to. They sit comfortably in the ear and are compatible with various sleeping positions, though we found them best when sleeping on our back.
A nice touch was the the app’s “Find My Earbuds” feature - perfect for those who are prone to losing things - and we also liked the fact you could turn off the controls on your earbuds, great if you’re a wriggly sleeper and are worried about accidentally pressing buttons or picking up calls while you snooze.
If you’re after premium noise cancellation and great sound quality for a very fair price, the Panasonic RZ-S500W True Wireless Earbuds are an ideal choice.
The earbuds’ noise cancellation technology offer excellent value for money, and we found them comfortable to wear to sleep on our back, though they might be a tad bulky for side sleepers.
If you like listening to music as you drift off, this pair will bring your favourite tracks to life, with its sound powerful, clear and crisp.
We also found the battery life impressive, and liked that you can customise your listening experience through the accompanying app, which allows you to do everything from changing the level of noise cancellation to enhancing the sound of the bass.
It’s harder to find comfortable earbuds for side sleepers, but these will do the trick nicely. The JBL Live Pro + wireless earbuds don’t just look great: they’re also seriously comfortable in a variety of sleeping positions.
The adaptive noise cancelling technology effectively blurs out the outside world and lets you zero in on whatever you’re listening to.
They’re also compatible with voice assistants, so when you’re too lazy to reach for your phone to call someone or set your alarm, your earbuds can do the work for you.
When you’re listening to music with them, we recommend the app, which helps you do everything from choosing the best ear tip for your ear shape to adjusting the sound depending on what genre you’re listening to.
The Klipsch Lifestyle T5 II True Wireless In-ear Headphones look amazing from the moment you open the box, and their audio performance is just as impressive.
If you’re looking for a pair of earbuds that are comfortable to sleep in and that will offer amazing audio quality whether you’re listening to rock music during the day or relaxing tunes at night, this is the pair for you.
The fit is so snug that the buds stay put in your ear, whether you’re running for the bus or tossing from side to side before bed.
While they don’t offer noise cancellation technology, we found the sound quality of these earbuds so immersive that it really helped block out the outside world and allowed us to drift off quicker than ever.
If you’re after a wallet-friendly solution and you’re craving a quiet night’s sleep, do your ears - and budget - a favour by snapping up these Custom Fit Ear Plugs from travel accessory brand Go Travel.
They come with four size adjusters so you can find the best fit for your ears, and the moulds are made of silicon for a cosy, accurate fit.
They also come with a carry case so you can take them on holiday with you.
We found them to be comfortable to wear to sleep, efficient at blocking out noise, and best of all, a bargain.