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If you’re having trouble getting to sleep, you’re not alone. According to the American Sleep Association, around 70 million Americans report having a sleep disorder, with insomnia being the most common. This can stem from lots of things, such as anxiety or even a snoring partner, and a comfortable pair of the best headphones for sleeping can really help you take those first few steps into falling into a deep sleep. It’s not just for insomniacs either, and there are plenty of different variables for sleeping to consider before you go all-in on a pair.
What Makes Headphones Specifically Good for Sleep?
Sleeping Situation: Where will you primarily be using these? If it’s for air travel, you’ll most likely want ones with powerful Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), and big clunky ear cups are OK since you can’t lay down on your side anyhow. But for side sleepers looking for headphones to wear in bed, that’s not going to fly. Over-the-ear cans aren’t possible to side-sleep with, or at least would be very uncomfortable (as well as get hot and clammy inside too). For a side-sleeper looking to drown out the sounds of a snoring partner, ANC is a godsend, combine that with comfy phones and loud drivers and you’ve got a new bedtime winner.
Comfort: Earbuds, especially when laying on them, can create an uncomfortable suction effect that’s anything but relaxing. They can also poke and prod, while magnifying the sound in that ear to louder levels than the other. Not exactly perfect conditions for getting to sleep. Earbuds that are specifically made for sleeping take this into consideration, setting them apart from all the others.
Audio Quality: This is always important in a pair, but unlike for when you’re awake, the main purpose here is getting to sleep, meaning you don’t necessarily need to go all-out on the most fine-tuned audiophile-approved set.
Control: A built-in physical button option to skip tracks, pause and adjust volume is a major help when trying to wind down in the dark. Not only does it put controls within easy reach, but also lets you not have to look at your bright phone, which can affect your eyes and how fast you drift off.
Playtime: For nightly meditations, bedtime podcasts, audiobooks or your sleepy-time playlist, a moderate-to-low battery life should be more than enough to last until you doze off – about five hours. For a plane ride or long stretch where you need noise cancelling and something playing, go for a set that can keep up on the higher end, or about 30+ hours.
Fit: There are a whole lot of innovative options out there to fit your ears (and your budget). The traditional earbuds and over-the-ear models are always an option, but companies have combined speakers into wearables like hats and glasses, while rethinking regular-fitting ones into clip-ons and even in sleep masks. No matter how you sleep, there’s a way to get comfortable with the right set for you.
Partners and Spouses: Will you be sharing a bed with a light sleeper? In a silent room, they may be able to hear what’s coming out of your phones, even if the pair is right up against your head. The sounds of whispering voices and faint drum beats can still come through and reach someone else’s sensitive ears right next to you. Some products also have a light, to indicate things like power or battery life on the earphones somewhere, and in an otherwise pitch black bedroom, this can be a nuisance for your partner.
Cables: Going wireless is freeing, particularly for sleeping since you won’t have to worry about getting tangled in a cord or pulling your phone off the nightstand. Most sleep-designated headphones have Bluetooth, though the sound quality is going to be a bit better over a wired connection. If you’re going the wired route, a braided cable is best, as it’s durable and can stand up to tossing and turning throughout the night.
What Are the Best Headphones for Sleeping?
With all of this in mind, we selected a few of the top pairs of headphones to help you get more sleep each night.
1. Jabra Elite 85h Wireless Noise-Canceling Headphones
For sleeping on a plane, train or long car ride, these over-the-ear Jabras knock out the noise around you on two levels. The first being its awesome Active Noise Cancelling ability, instantly reducing outside sounds significantly. Then with your music or podcasts on top of that, the screaming baby in seat 23B fades to a faint and barely audible minimum in the background.
The pillowy cushioning that lines the ear cups helps mute the outside world, and is also super comfortable. A mesh fabric lines the outside, giving it a quality look, feel, and boost of protection over the usual molded plastic (they’re also water resistant too). The set’s minimal button layout is also discreetly hidden underneath the fabric, invisible to others but easy for you to feel and touch. There’s a designated voice assistant button, with the option through Jabra’s app to make it exclusively for Amazon’s Alexa, and a dedicated button on the left side just to toggle through ANC modes.
These work wirelessly through Bluetooth, but also can be wired up as well thanks to the included 3.5mm jack and cable, a nice old-school option in the age of everything cutting cords.
These hold up even for long flights with nowhere to recharge, lasting up to 36 hours. If you only have limited time to refuel, 15 minutes of charging will get you a solid five hours of playtime.
Just like with the 85t earbuds, the accompanying Jabra app lets you select your audio preset of choice, or even create your own. These have a versatile range of sound settings, and come through crisp and clean with the right amount of adjustable bass.
When you’re done, they fold up efficiently – with a hinge that tucks the speakers snug under the band so it fits curled up in its included case. These are also spatially aware of which position they’re in, so as soon as the ear cup gets folded, it automatically shuts down.
2. AcousticSheep SleepPhones
These extremely comfortable headband phones were developed by a doctor, and designed to not dig deep into your ears as you’re trying to drift off.
The speakers inside the super-comfy band are flat and padded, making them a win for side-sleepers everywhere. Plus the band doubles as an eye-mask, blocking out light along with noise.
This pairs with your devices through Bluetooth 4.0, and comes with its own induction charging base as well, something we didn’t find in any other set here. A full charge lasted 10 hours (about three nights’ worth of sleep-inducing meditations and music), and takes around three hours to fully fuel up.
The 95% polyester, 5% spandex band is soft with just enough stretch to keep it in place. It’s not the only headband-based headphones available, but it’s possibly the most comfortable. There’s also no ANC, though having the flat speakers right up against your ears pretty much drowns out any outside noises like snoring or street traffic.
The designated app also offers assistance with insomnia, providing free downloadable sound mixes to slow down brainwaves and help you relax.
3. Maxrock Sleep Earplugs
If you’re already wearing silicon earplugs to bed, these buds might be the perfect fit.
They’re made from super soft silicon, and designed to be squishy for side sleepers. On their own, they do an alright job of blocking out background noise like TV and snoring, but with music playing it increases significantly.
Sound-wise, it’s a decent balance of lows, mids and highs in the 5mm speaker, and there’s also a built-in mic to take calls in any comfortable position.
4. Lavince Sleep Headphones and Sports Headband
Breatheable and comfortable, Lavince’s lightweight headband features controls on the front, making them always accessible (unless you’re somehow sleeping on your face). Aesthetically, it’s an odd-looking placement for buttons, and might make some feel a little silly wearing it in front of others, but for practicality it makes perfect sense.
These are versatile outside your bed too, and can be worn all day while exercising, watching movies, doing house chores, or working from home. They’re machine washable once the components are removed, and contain a microphone for taking calls too.
While there’s no ANC, they do a surprisingly nice job of reducing unwanted noise around you, giving off a “surround” effect since they’re always floating just outside your ear.
Charging is fast with microUSB, in about two hours, and gives you around 10 hours of playtime.