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Best headphones for sleeping
Maybe you’re the type of person who needs to listen to music or a podcast to go to sleep. Perhaps you live with other people or have thin walls in your apartment; playing audio from a speaker while you sleep could be disruptive to others around you. Or maybe it’s the noises that keep you up at night that you need to get rid of to have a restful sleep. Wearing headphones to sleep is clearly the solution for those issues, but unless you’re a perfectly still back sleeper, they can be wildly uncomfortable or difficult to wear.
We’ve compiled a list of the best headphones for sleeping, but it’s important to note that every pick has a caveat. As far as I can tell, no company has made truly perfect headphones for sleeping for every kind of person.
- This best list was updated on August 1st, 2023. It now includes a budget-friendly pick for side sleepers; the Perytong Sleep wireless headband.
- The recently released Sony WF-1000XM5 was added to the list as the best headphones with noise cancelation.
- More frequently asked questions were added to the end of the article.
- If you plan to catch some shut-eye on the flight while traveling, check out our list of the best noise canceling headphones for flying on an airplane.
One major thing to note is that wearing headphones or earbuds while you sleep can be unsafe. Potential complications include ear infections and hearing loss because you’re potentially putting pressure on something inside of your ear, and you don’t really know how loud your audio is while you’re unconscious. If you accidentally turn the volume up in your sleep and it doesn’t wake you up, you could sustain noise-induced hearing loss from being exposed to loud sounds for an extended period of time. So know that there are potential dangers, and try your best to mitigate them by being responsible with your headphones.
The best wireless earbuds for sleeping are the Bose Sleepbuds II
The Bose Sleepbuds II masks noise around you and also has a low profile in your ear, so you can sleep in any position without discomfort. It uses passive isolation, not noise canceling, to mask noises at night so you can sleep peacefully. Bose claims it has a battery life of 10 hours, which is more than enough for the average person.
The Bose Sleep App offers sounds to listen to while you fall asleep, ranging from noise masking to nature sounds and tranquil melodies. Unfortunately, a big drawback is that these sounds are the only ones you can play through the Bose Sleepbuds II, and you can’t play any of your own music or podcasts.
The best wired earbuds for sleeping are the Moondrop Chu
A comfortable, fairly low-profile pair of wired earbuds for under $25, the Moondrop Chu has excellent isolation and sound quality. It hooks around the back of your ear for a secure fit, so it’s less likely to dislodge in your sleep. It connects using a 3.5mm TRRS cable, so you’ll need a headphone jack for these earbuds.
The Moondrop Chu has an in-line mic and control module on the wires, so you won’t have any accidental misfires overnight from moving your head. The biggest problem this pair of earbuds presents is the pressure you might put on your ears if you’re a side sleeper. There’s also the added potential wrinkle of wearing wired earbuds while you’re asleep and rolling over—you may wind up damaging them, or at least just pulling them out of your ears.
You can purchase the Moondrop Chu with or without a microphone, so if you want to use this for phone calls too, make sure to buy that version. The microphone picks up voices well, and it handles ambient noise well enough that it won’t mask your voice.
Moondrop Chu microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
Moondrop Chu microphone demo (Office conditions):
Moondrop Chu microphone demo (Street conditions):
How does the microphone sound to you?
The best over-ear headphones for sleeping is the Bose QuietComfort 35 II
If you want headphones that will take you through your day and be comfortable for sleep, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II could be a good option for you. As the name insists, the headphones are very comfortable, and you’ll likely be able to wear them for hours without discomfort. Back sleepers can easily wear these and drift off with the noise canceling and some calming sounds on.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II has a battery life of 21 hours and 12 minutes in our testing, which is enough to easily last two nights of sleep. Not only is this pair of headphones good for sleeping, it’s an all-around excellent pair of noise canceling headphones. It’s a reliable option for commuters, office workers, and back sleepers alike.
In case you want to buy the QuietComfort 35 II, you might as well know how well the whole thing functions, even when you’re not sleeping. The microphone can pick up quite a bit of background noise in loud conditions like wind or out on the street. Regardless, it handles voices well and will be perfectly fine for phone calls in quiet conditions.
Bose QuietComfort 35 II microphone demo (Ideal):
Bose QuietComfort 35 II microphone demo (Office):
Bose QuietComfort 35 II microphone demo (Street):
Bose QuietComfort 35 II microphone demo (Wind):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Side sleepers should check out the Perytong Sleep wireless headphones
If you’re interested in a headband headphone design, the Perytong Sleep is a great, budget-friendly option in this field. The headphones wrap around your head, and there are speakers embedded in the sections that rest over your ears. The fabric is made of soft, machine-washable, breathable, sweat-absorbent material. It also features detachable on-ear headphones that fit comfortably for those of us who toss and turn or sleep on our sides.
The Perytong Sleep headband has a reasonable 10-hour battery life, so it’ll last you through the nights before having to charge. They also come in 16 color options and work well for listening to music while jogging, doing yoga, or other activities during the day.
One caveat with this headband is that they may not block out sounds very well since there is no noise cancelation. So if you’re being bothered by bumps in the night or your neighbors partying too late, this won’t do you much good.
The best noise canceling headphones for sleeping are the Sony WF-1000XM5
The Sony WF-1000XM5 wireless earbuds have emerged as an unparalleled option for those seeking the best noise canceling headphones for sleeping. These earbuds feature the Integrated Processor V2 and the HD Noise Canceling Processor QN2e, which manage the signals from the six embedded microphones to block out ambient noise while offering impressive passive isolation effectively. This comprehensive noise cancelation ability creates a serene environment conducive to catching some zzzs.
Additionally, the earbuds are designed with an acute focus on comfort. They are 25% smaller and 20% lighter than their predecessor, resulting in minimal pressure even during prolonged usage. Furthermore, Sony has innovatively restructured the ear tips to be more flexible and have angled nozzles, delivering a marked improvement in comfort. The extra-small ear tips also accommodate those with smaller ear canals, ensuring a perfect fit.
In short, the Sony WF-1000XM5’s sophisticated blend of remarkable noise cancelation and supreme comfort make them the ultimate choice for individuals seeking undisturbed sleep.
How is the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) for sleeping?
Many people can attest to having fallen asleep wearing their Apple AirPods Pro, whether in bed, on the bus, or on a plane. It’s a popular pair of earbuds, so it’s bound to happen. The consensus seems to be that falling asleep while wearing the AirPods Pro is fairly comfortable, but not if you put pressure on the earbuds by sleeping on your side. The second generation of the AirPods Pro also comes with another size of ear tips, so you can choose from more fit options to stay comfortable. It also has great isolation and noise canceling, so you can quietly enjoy your rest.
You can manage to sleep comfortably wearing a pair of AirPods Pro by wearing only a single earbud if you’re sleeping on one side or wearing both earbuds if you sleep on your back or upright. Just make sure you don’t accidentally fire off gestures in your sleep; you don’t want to max out your volume without realizing it. A major caveat here is the battery life, which is only about six hours, so your AirPods Pro will die before you wake up.
If you want to see how the AirPods Pro compares to one of our notable mentions, read our complete article on the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd gen) vs Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II.
The best headphones and earbuds for sleeping: Notable mentions
- Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds($278 at Amazon): The Sony WF-1000XM4 also has great noise canceling, comfy memory foam ear tips, and are more affordable than the latest models.
- Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro $179 at Amazon): While the battery life of 4 hours, 50 minutes isn’t great, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro is super comfortable. This is another great pair of earbuds that will take you through your commute naps with great noise canceling. It’s ideal for Samsung phone users since they will get the most out of these earbuds.
- Google Pixel Buds Pro ($199 at Amazon): The 7-hour battery life won’t quite get you through a whole night of sleep, but the fairly low profile of the Pixel Buds Pro could be good for sleeping, as well as the good noise canceling.
- Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II ($199 at Amazon): Another good transit or plane sleeping companion, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II have really good ANC and a battery life of 7 hours, 15 minutes.
- Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones ($387 at Amazon): In the same vein as the rest of the notable mentions, the Sony WH-1000XM5 is ideal for sleeping upright or on your back. It has top-of-the-line noise canceling, sounds great, and has a long battery life of just under 32 hours.
- Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones (
What you should know about the best headphones for sleeping
Low-profile earbuds are best for side sleepers
When looking for earbuds to sleep in, you want to make sure they don’t stick out of your ears too much so you can sleep in any position without pain. If you’re looking for earbuds for sleeping that double as everyday earbuds, finding something with a low profile is key. If you’re looking for headphones for only sleep use, headband-style headphones for sleeping are comfortable in any position.
Back sleepers have more options
Sleeping on your back obviously makes this easier since you don’t have to worry so much about your earbuds or headphones hurting your ears while you sleep. You can get away with pretty much any wireless earbuds or headphones if you’re a back sleeper, as long as it has ample battery life (over 8 hours) and fits comfortably on your ears. The world is your oyster, as you can consider more affordable headphones or top-of-the-line noise canceling earbuds.
Battery life should last you all night
You can wear wired headphones to bed, and our top pick is, indeed, a pair of wired earbuds. But if getting tangled in wires is a concern, wireless headphones are the way to go.
The caveat is that you don’t want your headphones dying on you while you’re sleeping unless you just need headphones to lull you to sleep for a short time. On average, adults should get at least seven hours of sleep a night, so your headphones should accommodate that and more. Some people take a while to fall asleep and need an hour of buffer time with their headphone battery life, and many people need more than just seven hours of sleep. Aim for headphones with a battery life of 10 hours at least, since that gives you enough time to fall asleep and can accommodate people who sleep closer to nine hours a night.
Mono and stereo listening
As a side sleeper, when I’ve slept in earbuds, I take out one of the earbuds so I can rest comfortably on the pillow while listening to music through one ear. If this is what you want to do with your earbuds, it’s a good idea to change your audio settings to mono, so you’re not just getting one channel of audio through your earbuds while you sleep. You can do this by going into the audio section of your phone’s accessibility settings. If you never move your head around at night, some earbuds have a single earbud listening mode that allows you to have mono sound through one earbud.
Noise canceling vs isolation
Passive isolation and ANC both keep sounds out of your ears to ensure a restful sleep, but they work differently. Passive isolation uses a physical barrier to keep sound out, so the fit of your ear tips or the seal of your headphones matters a lot. ANC cancels out noise using inverse frequencies to what’s going on around you—it will keep out droning noises your headphones can pick up and cancel out, but incidental noises are muffled better by passive isolation. The best way to keep sound out is with headphones or earbuds that have really good passive isolation, along with ANC.
How we test the best headphones for sleeping
At SoundGuys, we perform objective tests to measure things like frequency response, isolation, microphone quality, and more. We use a Bruel & Kjaer 5128 head and torso simulator (HATS) with an anatomically realistic ear canal and outer ear. After collecting all of this data, we score each product through various objective and subjective measures. When it comes to things we aren’t able to test hands-on, we do diligent research in order to find the products that best fit your needs.
How we choose the best headphones for sleeping
Based on our objective testing and uses of the products, we choose which products fit each criterion a person might need to fulfill. Our team confers with one another regarding the best products for a given category before presenting our list to you. It’s not over after we hit “publish,” though. We treat every article as a living document and update it as new and worthy products come out.
Why you should trust SoundGuys
Each writer at SoundGuys has accumulated years of experience reporting on the consumer audio market, and our staff adheres to a strict ethics policy. Our team doesn’t directly sell any products or have any personal financial stake in whether you make a purchase. We pride ourselves on transparently outlining objective facts while accounting for the subjective experience to contextualize an audio product’s performance. When we do misspeak, we correct and own up to it.
Frequently asked questions
A pair of headband-style headphones like the SleepPhones Wireless is probably the best option for people who tend to toss and turn since earbuds might easily become dislodged and over-ear headphones will get in your way.
Yes, it’s generally safe to sleep with your headphones, provided they are comfortable and do not pose a risk of causing physical harm (such as causing pressure sores or raising your volume levels too high). However, it’s important to ensure the volume is kept at a safe level to avoid potential hearing damage.
No, noise canceling headphones are not inherently bad for sleep. In fact, they can help create a quieter environment, which can be beneficial for sleep, especially in noisy environments. However, comfort is key, as poorly fitting headphones could disrupt your sleep or cause discomfort.
The Moondrop Chu earbuds excel as wired sleep companions with their secure fit, superior sound quality, and comfort, all at an affordable price.
If earbuds cause discomfort, you might want to consider a sleep headband. The Perytong Sleep Headphones, for instance, feature thin, flat speakers embedded in a soft, breathable headband. They provide a comfortable, pain-free alternative to traditional earbuds or the bulkiness of headphones, making them a great choice for side sleepers or those who find earbuds uncomfortable over time.
Both headphones and earbuds have their pros and cons for sleeping. Headphones typically offer superior sound quality and noise isolation, but they may not be comfortable for side sleepers due to their size. Earbuds are less intrusive and potentially more comfortable for various sleep positions, but they may not offer the same level of noise cancelation and can sometimes fall out during sleep. As a third option, there are also specially designed sleep headphones with a headband design. These are typically flat and soft, making them comfortable for all sleep positions, and they won’t fall out or apply too much pressure to your ears. The best choice ultimately depends on your personal comfort and sleep habits.