Many people find that listening to music, mediations, podcasts, or other soothing sounds can help them drift off to sleep more easily. However, conventional headphones suitable for upright activities can feel uncomfortable or fall off when in your preferred sleep position. To the restful rescue are sleep headphones designed to fit comfortably in, on, or around the ears as you snooze.
The best sleep headphones block ambient noise while providing excellent audio quality. Some are designed for home use, while others are intended for travel. Both wired and wireless options are available. Keep reading to learn what to look for when shopping and why the following models are considered among the top sleep headphones on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: Sony Industry Noise Canceling Wireless Earbuds
- RUNNER-UP: Boltune Bluetooth Earbuds with 4 Mics
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Hearprotek Sleep Earbuds 2 Pairs Ultra Soft
- BEST LUXURY: Bose QuietComfort Noise Cancelling Earbuds
- BEST EARBUDS: Anker Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro True Wireless Earbuds
- BEST HEADBAND: Rexvce Sleep Headphones Bluetooth Wireless Headband
- BEST SLEEP MASK: Lightimetunnel Sleep Headphones Bluetooth 3D Eye Mask
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Sleep Headphones
Sleep headphones have a range of functions and features to help enhance sleep, including wireless capabilities, smart home integration, and noise-canceling technology. Keep the following in mind when shopping for the best sleep headphones.
Different types of sleep headphones suit a variety of user preferences, including on-ear, over-ear, earbuds, headbands, and sleep masks.
- On-ear sleep headphones employ a rounded plastic loop to hang the headphones from each ear. Unfortunately, this style tends to fall off easily.
- Over-ear sleep headphones have a traditional design that fully covers the ears and sits over the top of the head with a simple padded headband. This design cancels outside noise fairly well.
- Earbuds or in-ear sleep headphones are placed directly in the ear canal. They boast compact size and a customizable gel base similar to earplugs.
- Headband sleep headphones feature a piece of fabric that fits snugly around the head and a thin speaker located on both sides.
- Sleep mask headphones are similar to headband headphones but have an additional fabric section designed to be worn over the eyes to block light.
Though some sleepers toss and turn a lot, most settle into one of three positions: front (belly down on the mattress), back, or side. Your preferred sleep position may impact the sleep headphone style most suitable for you.
- Front sleepers typically turn their heads to one side or the other on the pillow to breathe normally. They typically prefer sleep headphones like earbuds, headbands, and sleep masks.
- Back sleepers may be able to use any style of sleep headphones since their ears are usually unobstructed.
- Side sleepers lie with the side of the head against a pillow, which can push against headphones that sit on, over, or in the ear. Side sleepers may prefer a sleep mask or headband.
Size and Weight
When sleep headphones are the right size and weight, they’re more comfortable and less likely to require adjustment or shift out of place. Many sleep headphones have multiple sizing options. Product descriptions of on-ear, over-ear, headbands, and sleep masks indicate their size and weight to make selection easier. Even earbuds come in a range of ear gel sizes and shapes.
Various materials are used to make sleep headphones, depending on type.
- On-ear sleep headphones typically have a hard plastic loop that hangs the headphones from each ear.
- Over-ear sleep headphones commonly use plastic to form the headphone band and ear covers, with a soft piece of foam inside each earphone and possibly a strip of foam on the headphone band for added comfort.
- Earbuds are typically made of hard plastic for the actual earbud and either silicone or rubber for the ear gel.
- Headband sleep headphones have a soft fabric band that may be made from easy-care, easy-clean cotton or polyester. Silk and satin options also are available.
- Sleep mask headphones should be smooth and thick enough to block out ambient light. High-end silk and satin varieties are available, but most are made of polyester or cotton.
Wired vs. Wireless
Sleep headphones come in wired and wireless versions, each with pluses and minuses.
- Wired sleep headphones rely on a thin cable that can tangle, especially for those sleepers who often toss and turn. A slight risk of strangulation exists if the wire gets wrapped around someone’s throat. However, they don’t require recharging and are usually budget-friendly.
- Wireless sleep headphones usually are more comfortable. They must be charged and, as with all wireless devices, connectivity issues may occur.
Listening to soothing sounds is only half the benefit of using sleep earphones; they also help cancel noise to prevent disruptive sounds from bothering the sleeper. The two types are passive and active.
- Passive noise canceling works similarly to earplugs. The size, shape, and material in the headphones act as a physical dampener to block sound waves from reaching the ear canal.
- Active noise canceling uses a microphone to monitor the ambient sound around the listener. The headphones process the sound and send reversed sound waves into the ear canal. The sound wave produced by the headphones is almost an exact match to the sound wave produced by ambient sound, and the sound waves essentially cancel each other out.
Our Top Picks
These important criteria serve as the basis for the following selection of the best sleep headphones. Quality, price, and overall efficacy are also considered.
Whether having a phone conversation, relaxing to music, or falling into blissful slumber, these Sony earbuds provide virtually soundproof listening. To make the experience completely hands-free, pair the earbuds with Amazon Alexa and use voice commands. The earbuds can operate for up to six hours on a single charge, and they charge wirelessly up to three times with the included case.
The earbuds feature wear detection technology, which automatically pauses the playback when the earbuds are removed and resumes it when replaced. One earbud can be used singly without a loss of sound quality, because both buds receive simultaneous, uninterrupted Bluetooth transmission data.
Users can rely on these Boltune earbuds in bed and elsewhere and stay connected thanks to an ample 65-foot transmission range. The IPX8 waterproof rating indicates the earbuds have been tested under 3 feet of water, making them a good option for the shower.
The earbuds weigh a mere 0.2 ounces and boast an ergonomic shape and anti-slip design that keep them safely in place should the sleeper toss and turn. A noise-cancellation algorithm allows the user to speak and be heard on calls without transmitting ambient sound through the microphone.
These soft, lightweight, and well-priced silicone earbuds from Hearprotek mold to the ear canal to be barely noticeable, even when you press your head against a pillow. The earbuds also have a passive noise-canceling effect.
The durable 50-inch wire can connect to any device with a standard headphone input. An in-line remote on the wire allows the user to answer calls, play audio files, pause the playback, and skip to a new song or file.
The intuitive active noise-canceling system of these Bose earbuds is impressive. These earbuds have 11 levels of active noise cancellation, plus a transparency mode that temporarily stops noise cancellation for brief conversations.
The wireless earbuds have an IPX4 water-resistance rating that makes them suitable for use in rain, sleet, hail, snow, and sweat (they’re not waterproof, however, and should not be worn in the shower or while swimming). Three ear gel sizes allow a customized fit. The earbuds get up to six hours of nonstop play on a single charge.
Impressive sound quality and comfort are hallmarks of these wireless Anker Bluetooth earbuds. Suitable for front, back, and side sleepers, the eartips and ear wings are split. The ear gels come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Active noise canceling almost completely eliminates ambient sound while the speakers produce harmonized treble and bass.
With a full charge, the earbuds, which charge in their included case, last up to eight hours. When the case is at full charge, the stored power can recharge the earbuds up to four times.
This Rexvce headband’s blend of soft cotton and polyester is lightweight and breathable, so users don’t wake up with a sweaty forehead. Speakers, which connect wirelessly through Bluetooth within a range of 45 feet, are remarkably thin, making them suitable for any sleeping position. The headband also can be worn during physical activities, like jogging and yoga. Charging the headband, which takes under three hours, provides a full charge for play up to 10 hours. The speakers remove so the headband can be washed along with regular laundry.
To block both ambient noise and 100 percent of light, this Lightimetunnel mask is a solid choice. Contoured cups fit comfortably around the eyes, blocking light from every direction, and extra padding around the bridge of the nose prevents slivers of light from slipping through.
The headphones connect wirelessly to Bluetooth at a range of about 45 feet. They take about 2.5 hours to charge, and when fully charged, they provide over eight hours of playing time. Audio is controlled by buttons on the front of the mask. For care, remove the Bluetooth modules and wires and hand wash in warm water.
FAQs About Sleep Headphones
Keep reading for more information about buying and using sleep headphones and answers to commonly asked questions.
Q. What is the best material for a sleep mask?
When shopping for a sleep mask, comfort and durability are the main concerns. Satin and silk feel smooth against facial skin, but cotton and polyester are typically less expensive and easier to wash.
Q. Do I need bigger or smaller earbuds?
Size depends on the individual. Most earbuds come in a one-size-fits-all version, but rarely does one size truly fit all. To avoid constantly readjusting and shifting earbuds, look for ear gels that can modify the earbuds to fit better in your ear.
Q. Do noise-canceling headphones block all sound?
No, noise-canceling headphones can’t block all higher frequency sounds. While active noise canceling is more effective than passive, it isn’t perfect.
Q. How do you connect wireless Bluetooth headphones?
The exact method to connect a set of wireless Bluetooth headphones depends on the specific sleep headphones and also on the device to which the headphones are connected. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions or check here for general guidelines to connect a range of devices.
Q. How do I keep my headphones from falling out in my sleep?
If on-ear or over-ear headphones fall out while you sleep, opt for a headband or eye mask model. These styles secure easily around your entire head and are likely to stay in place as you shift sleeping position.