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Published Oct. 7, 2021

An estimated 164 million Americans struggle to fall asleep at least once per week and, if you’re reading this article, chances are you’re one of them (it’s okay, so are we). While there are several things you can eliminate from your life to improve sleeping habits (smartphones, TVs in the bedroom, etc.), sometimes the answer lies in an additional gadget. The best headphones for sleeping will allow you to tune out the world around you, relax your mind, and gently lead you to a full night’s slumber. Whether you benefit from a little guided meditation before bed, need to silence a snoring partner, or are soothed by your favorite true crime podcast, headphones (as well as earphones and audio-equipped headbands) can be a helpful tool to reset your brain before drifting off to sleep.

How we selected the best headphones for sleeping 

When selecting the best headphones for sleeping, we paid attention to comfort above all else. Most of us are already equipped with daily headphones but need something a little different when it comes to sleep. We searched for headbands made from breathable fabric containing thin speakers, as well as small earbuds that fit snugly and forgo extensions so sleepers in any position can stay comfortable. We then considered important features including battery life, controls, and Bluetooth compatibility to keep users connected and in command of their listening experience. While there are plenty of corded options out there, you won’t find any on our list as wired options can lead to circulation (and strangulation) issues that we feel aren’t worth the risk. Finally, while it may go without saying, we looked for models specifically designed to support healthy sleep habits. While there is one everyday model that made the cut, we insisted on selecting headphones that have been created, tested, and reviewed for sleeping.

What to consider when choosing the best headphones for sleeping 

The best headphones for sleeping will allow you to comfortably listen to the music, podcasts, movies, or slumber sound of your choice. Take some time to consider your sleeping position and think about what would help you the most—perhaps it’s noise cancellation, a comfortable material, or a secure fit for frequent tossing or turning.

What side do you sleep on? 

In order to find the best pair of headphones for you, you’ll want to consider your sleeping position. If you’re one of the lucky few that can sleep on their back all night, your options are plentiful. You’ll likely be satisfied by sleep headphone headbands, earmuffs, and earbuds, so long as they fit snugly inside your ear (too big and they may fall out). You might also be comfortable sleeping in a pair of everyday headphones if they don’t protrude too far into your pillow. (If you want to know more about the differences between overear vs. IEMs vs. earbuds, check out our handy guide.)

If you’re a side sleeper, things get a little more complicated. The key to selecting a comfortable pair of headphones is flexibility and diameter. You want to choose a model that won’t stick out of your ears, causing uncomfortable pressure when placed between a pillow and your head. Look for a small earbud that can sit flush against your ears without any external tails. If you’re interested in trying out a headband, search the specs to find the thinnest drivers. While you may sacrifice booming bass, you’ll sleep better without feeling any pain. 

True face-down stomach sleepers will also encounter some challenges, namely gravity, which may pull over-ear and in-ear headphones down into your covers. We recommend finding a pair of snugly fitting earbuds or a headband that sacrifices onboard controls. While being able to hit play and pause without picking up your phone is helpful, most models place the control panel at the front of the band, which won’t feel great resting against your forearm as you try to fall asleep.

Do you need to drown out noise? 

If you’re looking to silence a snoring partner, keep out construction, or sleep through your roommate’s morning workout routine, you’ll want to select a pair of noise-canceling headphones. You can choose between passive or active noise cancelation (though, for intermittent noise, really good passive cancelation can be more successful). We recommend selecting earbuds with a soft, gummy seal, especially if they boast noise-masking capabilities in their specs. This seal will naturally block waves from entering the inner ear and cover anything that does get through with a direct audio signal playing the content you choose. You can also try a pair of over-the-ear headphones, though these can be tough to sleep in if you aren’t flat on your back. While headbands do provide some natural muffle, the fabric won’t be enough to tune out sounds within close range.

Are you looking for something to help you sleep while traveling? 

While most of the pairs we’ve chosen are particularly suited for sleeping in a bed, there are certainly options for naps on the train, slumbers on a long plane ride, and backseat brain breaks. So if you want to get some shut-eye during travel, we recommend grabbing a pair of active noise-canceling headphones. While passive cancelation can help, ANC creates a counter signal that helps silence the rumble and drone of engines and other environmental noise. And unless you’ve upgraded to a roomy travel suite, chances are you won’t be sleeping on your side, so you don’t need to worry too much about pain and pressure from earbuds or over-the-ear headphones. 

How much battery life do you need? 

If you’re looking for a constant stream of white noise throughout the night, you’ll need a pair of headphones that can support up to nine hours of continuous audio. While this may not be as important for folks who only need help to fall asleep, consider battery life and charge time if you need sound to stay asleep. You don’t want to be left with only a few minutes of battery after an hour on the charger, especially if you forgot to plug it in and bedtime is in 30 minutes. If you know you don’t want to be woken up by your music in the middle of the night, look for a model that comes with auto-shutoff. You can also explore settings on your electronic device and various apps, so you don’t cycle through an entire season of “Friends” while you sleep.

The best headphones for sleeping: Reviews & Recommendations

We’ve selected personal audio options that are designed to help you slumber peacefully no matter where you are, who you’re with, or what’s on your mind.

Best sleep headphones headband: AcousticSheep SleepPhones

For Lights-Out Music & Meditations

Comfortably count sheep with a fleecy sleep headband that comes in multiple sizes designed to let you fall asleep to your favorite tunes. AcousticSheep

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Why it made the cut: Finding a pair of headphones that are actually comfortable for side sleepers isn’t an easy task; the drivers in this SleepPhones headband are the thinnest we’ve found, roughly the size of two quarters, enhancing comfort. 

Specs:

  • Battery: Up to 12 hours 
  • Charge Time: 2 hours 
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20kHz 
  • Bluetooth Range: Up to 30 feet
Pros:Cons:
  • Flexible for side-sleepers
  • No active noise cancelation
  • Available in multiple sizes
  • Price
  • Velcro closure
  • Not great for warmer (read daytime) use
  • On-board controls
  • This headband is ideal for sleepers who find earbuds and bulky over-ear models uncomfortable. Available in three sizes—small, medium, and large—the flexible material and thin speakers will be suitable for sleeping in almost any position. All the electronic components are removable, so you can machine wash the band, and a small slit allows for easy access to the USB charging port (charging cord included) and speaker insertion. The drivers are color-coded so you can get specific about your left and right channels and the Bluetooth 4.0 module includes onboard controls, so you’ll be able to adjust volume, play/pause, skip tracks, and power without exposing your eyes to the harsh, REM-ruining blue light of a screen. And if you use a run or yoga session as a pre-bedtime ritual to help wind down, this is the best sleep headphones headband perfectly suited for those activities, as well.

    Best wireless earbuds for sleeping: Bose Sleepbuds II

    A Stubborn Sleeper’s Bedtime Buddy

    A high-end pair of elevated earbuds designed to drown out snoring and lull you to sleep. Bose

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    Why it made the cut: The Sleepbuds II aren’t for streaming late-night movies; instead, they are specifically designed to help you fall and stay asleep with a series of relaxing sounds that will mask outside noise. 

    Specs:

    • Battery: Up to 10 hours
    • Charge Time: 6 hours 
    • Frequency Response: Unknown 
    • Bluetooth Range: Up to 30 feet
    Pros:Cons:
  • Excellent noise-cancelation
  • Cannot play music
  • Comes with Bose Sleep app
  • Price
  • Comfortable for multiple sleeping positions
  • Includes charging case
  • The Bose Sleepbuds II are the best wireless earbuds for sleeping and sleeping alone. They are essentially technologically advanced earplugs, blocking out noise by gently targeting your eardrums with soundscapes and tones. They are effective at blocking out snoring, construction, and more, so you can even have a solid sleep while your partner takes an early morning conference call. It’s important to note that while these are Bluetooth 5.0 you will not be able to play your own content with these earbuds—no Spotify “Sleep” playlist, no dulcet tones of the most recent “This American Life” episode, no calming classical music—but that’s okay. The Bose Sleep app (available for iOS and Android) comes with a small yet specifically designed library of roughly 50 sounds—including naturescapes, noise-masking sounds, and tonal sequences called “Tranquilities”—which you’ll need to select and then download onto the buds; don’t worry, you can hear samples before you buy to ensure satisfaction. The Sleepbuds are also equipped with an alarm because there is a good chance you’ll sleep right through an external wake-up call.

    Best noise-cancelling headphones for sleeping: Bose QuietComfort 35 II

    Sound Sleep at 36,000 Feet

    Drowsy jet setters can tune out crying babies, noisy engines, and more. Bose

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    Why it made the cut: Though the best sleep comes from a comfortable bed, we know there are times when you’ll need to sleep sitting up or against a window—enter the Bose QuietComfort 35 IIs, with impressive noise cancelation for a solid nap.

    Specs:

    • Battery: Up to 20 hours 
    • Charge Time: 15-minute quick charge for an additional 2.5 hours of playback 
    • Frequency Response: Unknown
    • Bluetooth Range: Up to 30 feet
    Pros:Cons:
  • Customizable active noise cancelation
  • Not suitable for sleeping in a bed
  • Voice assistant compatible
  • Expensive
  • Analog connection available for extended listening
  • The Bose QuietComfort 35 IIs are a great option if you’re looking to get some shut-eye in transit. While they might not be as comfortable as a soft headband, the customizable noise cancelation on these Bluetooth 4.2 headphones—the best noise-cancelling headphones for sleeping—will make up for it. Using the Bose app, you can select from three levels of noise reduction, so you can tune in when you need to (hello beverage cart) and tune out all the rest. The headband and cups are made from soft, synthetic leather, so you’ll still be able to rest without issue. Once you arrive at your destination, you can make calls using the noise-rejecting dual microphone and employ Alexa or Google Assistant to help you navigate to your next stop. The wireless connection is solid and the battery can last up to 20 hours; however, if you forget to charge, you can use the included audio cable to connect to your phone, tablet, or computer manually; a blessing when it comes to faulty airline outlets.  If you want the ANC but you’re not sure over-ears are for you, check out the QuietComfort Earbuds.

    Best headphones for sleeping on side: 1MORE ComfoBuds Z

    Terrific Timing for Tranquil Tones

    A compact pair of earbuds that will let you sleep on your side without wincing. 1MORE

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    Why it made the cut: The ComfoBuds Z are a new product from 1MORE designed to give you options for restful sounds. With two different Listening modes, you can connect to your own devices or choose from their library of 30 sounds to help you drift to sleep without pushing a button.

    Specs:

    • Battery: Up to 3.5 hours, 14 hours with case
    • Charge Time: 75 minutes (earbuds), 65 minutes (case)
    • Frequency Response: Unknown
    • Bluetooth Range: Up to 32 feet
    Pros:Cons:
  • 5 Auto-shutoff timers
  • A 1.0 model, so may lack some feature refinement
  • Built-in sleep sounds
  • Battery life could be better
  • Solid noise reduction
  • The new ComfoBuds Z from 1MORE promises a staggering number of features designed for maximum comfort while sleeping. These Bluetooth 5.0 buds are designed to fit snugly in your ears resulting in roughly 24 decibels of outside noise reduction. You can either listen to your own library or choose from 30 built-in sounds controlled by the 1MORE Music app, designed to lead you into a deep sleep. Weighing in at under 2.6 grams (or less than 0.006 pounds), you’ll barely notice them as you roll over, making them the best headphones for sleeping on side. Our favorite feature is the auto-off timer, perfect for folks who don’t need to listen all night long. You can choose to have the earbuds automatically power down after 30, 60, 90, 120, or 150 minutes.

    Best Bluetooth headphones for sleeping on a budget: Perytong Wireless Sleep Headphones

    A Budget-Friendly Band

    The best choice for nighttime sleep-audio newcomers who want to spend less. Perytong

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    Why it made the cut: There are more than a few budget-friendly sleep headphones out there, so we paid special attention to user experiences; the Perytong’s won out across the board when it came to reliability and comfort. 

    Specs:

    • Battery: Up to 10 hours 
    • Charge Time: 2.25 hours 
    • Frequency Response: Unknown 
    • Bluetooth Range: Unknown
    Pros:Cons:
  • Price
  • One size only
  • Multiple color options
  • Minimal noise cancelation
  • Breathable fabric
  • Drivers may shift
  • If you find yourself nodding off with your AirPods in your ears and want to switch to something more comfortable, but you’re not sure if you’ll enjoy a headband, these are the best bluetooth headphones for sleeping on a budget to try out. Designed to double as a workout band, the breathable fabric with mesh lining keeps your ears cool while you sleep or sweat. Onboard controls on the front allow for easy navigation through your playlists and podcasts and the drivers are removable, so you can stick the headband in the wash. If you keep the headband on all night, you don’t have to worry about being awoken by a low-battery alarm, so you can rest assured knowing you’ll encounter zero beeps or buzzes. Keep in mind, these headphones aren’t designed to cancel or isolate noise, so you may still be exposed to your bedmate’s snoring and they might get a whisper of whatever you’re listening to.

    FAQs

    Q: Is it bad to sleep with earplugs every night?

    It is not bad to sleep with earplugs every night so long as you consider any adverse effects and work to abate them. For example, consistent use can result in earwax build-up, so you’ll want to make sure you regularly clean out your ears either professionally or with ear drops.

    Q: Is it OK to wear headphones while sleeping?

    It is OK to wear headphones while sleeping if you follow a few guidelines. Like earplugs, in-ear monitors/earphones can cause wax build-up, so make sure you clean your ears. You also want to make sure you are listening to quiet, soft sounds, and know there are no more audibly aggressive tracks mixed in—loud spikes in music can damage your hearing, as can higher decibels for long periods, so you shouldn’t try to use excessive volume to drown out your surroundings. Instead, look for a great pair of noise-canceling earbuds. Studies have also shown that prolonged listening can tamper with sleep quality, so you may want to adjust your settings so that your music stops playing after a couple of hours. Finally, we recommend using a pair of wireless headphones to avoid getting tangled in any cabling that could cut off circulation.

    Q: What are the best headphones to block out snoring?

    The best headphones to block out snoring will be noise-canceling or masking. While active noise-canceling headphones are great for background noise on long flights, intermittent, close-range sounds, like snoring, can poke through. So look for a pair that blocks the eardrum from the outside world and channels quiet, soothing sounds directly to the inner ear.

    The final word on shopping for the best headphones for sleeping

    A good night’s rest might just be a few tracks, episodes, or minutes of white noise away, and the best headphones for sleeping can help you get there. Before purchasing, think about your listening priorities; do you sleep next to a snorer, have trouble quieting your mind before bed, need something that will play all night, or just deserve a little bit of downtime before drifting off? Once you know what you want out of Sandman’s modern-day helpers, you’ll be able to select a pair that will help you fall asleep quickly and soundly snooze through the night.

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