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Whether you have a snoring partner or live on a noisy city block, sounds can impact your ability to fall and stay asleep. Headphones can help.
According to a 2019 survey from the Better Sleep Council, people are struggling to get enough sleep. And the COVID-19 pandemic has made adequate sleep schedules and routines even harder to come by. More people are reporting that their sleep is poor, and fewer are getting an ideal amount of sleep.
A quality mattress and a good set of pillows can help make your bed a comfy place to rest your head, but there are also other ways to help you doze off to dreamland.
While it doesn’t work for everyone, some people find listening to music, podcasts, or soothing sounds before bed helps them fall asleep faster.
Below, we’ll take a look at the best headphones for sleeping and outline the safety considerations for listening to audio at bedtime.
- Best overall: LC-Dolida Sleep Headphones | Skip to review
- Best budget: MMUSS Sleep Ultra Thin Pillow Speakers | Skip to review
- Best noise-canceling: QuietOn 3 Sleep Earbuds | Skip to review
- Best earbuds: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II | Skip to review
- Best headband-style: Perytong Sleep Headphones | Skip to review
- Best waterproof: MUSICOZY sleep headphones | Skip to review
- Best for kids: CozyPhones Over the Ear Headband Headphones for Kids | Skip to review
When buying regular headphones, most people seek excellent sound quality. Because of this, a good pair of headphones can set you back hundreds of dollars. For sleep, though, sound quality is less of a concern.
Comfort is key if you plan on wearing headphones to sleep, and a comfortable set of sleep headphones won’t typically cost more than $100. Here’s a quick pricing guide for our product list below:
- $ = under $20
- $$ = $21–$50
- $$$ = over $50
Best overall headphones for sleeping
- Price: $$
- Connectivity: Bluetooth
- Best for: side sleepers and blocking out light and sound
The molded eye mask from LC-Dolida is an ergonomically designed sleep mask with built-in headphones. Bluetooth technology means there are no wires to fiddle with in the middle of the night, and the headband design makes this a great option for side sleepers.
You may like this option if you want to simultaneously block out light and sound. Reviewers say the mask is well-padded and comfortable. It does let in some light, but not enough for people to dock it stars.
- great sound quality
- comfortable fit
- no wires to deal with, thanks to Bluetooth connectivity
- doesn’t completely block out noise
Best budget headphones for sleeping
- Price: $
- Connectivity: wired
- Best for: side sleepers and people who hate headphones
If you’ve tried wearing headphones in bed and still can’t find the right pair, try these pillow speakers. The thin design slips under your pillow, so you can enjoy music, podcasts, or white noise without squishing your ears.
Reviewers like how unobtrusive the speakers are, but some complain about cord durability.
- lengthy cord
- potential durability concerns
Best noise-canceling headphones for sleeping
- Price: $$$
- Connectivity: wireless
- Best for: people with tinnitus or other hearing-related conditions
While noise-canceling is great for tuning out annoying repetitive sounds like the hum of your local subway car at rush hour, this feature doesn’t block out all noises — so don’t expect perfect silence while wearing them.
These active noise-canceling earbuds are made of a soft foam material and can help block all manner of sounds, including traffic noises and snoring. These Bluetooth devices can even last up to 28 hours on a single charge.
The caveat? They don’t play music. But if you’re looking for a way to block out a snoring partner or other sounds while sleeping without having to listen to white noise or music, they might work for you.
- compact design
- effective noise canceling
- not able to play music
Best earbuds for sleep
- Price: $$$
- Connectivity: Bluetooth
- Best for: top-tier noise canceling
The Bose QuietComfort II Earbuds are the priciest on our list, and they’re also the most high tech, with superior audio quality. They feature noise-canceling technology that can help block out night-time disturbances. During the day, you can adjust the noise canceling function to let in some noise if you prefer to have some awareness of things around you.
The lightweight earbuds come in three size options and feature a custom tuning functionality that customizes sound based on the shape of your ear canal.
They do stick out somewhat, so side sleepers may have trouble getting comfortable with these in their ears. Additionally, the battery lasts only about 6 hours with noise-canceling enabled — not a big deal unless you tend to wake from sleep due to ambient noise (the common background sounds of your environment).
- simple touch controls
- excellent sound quality
- top-tier noise canceling
- not great for side sleeping
- battery won’t last all night
Best headband-style headphones for sleeping
- Price: $
- Connectivity: Bluetooth
- Best for: simple sounds for sleeping
This stretchy Bluetooth headphone headband is light, breathable, and features ultra-thin removable speakers. It’s also machine washable — just make sure to remove the electronic control panel first! A single charge lasts up to 10 hours, and the headphones also have built-in playback controls and a microphone.
Many reviewers say these headphones are very comfortable and have good enough sound quality for simpler, soothing sounds. But some reviewers note the headphones tend to trap heat and are a poor choice for hot sleepers.
- budget price tag
- very comfortable
- great for side sleeping
- not ideal for hot weather sleeping
Most versatile headphones for sleeping
- Price: $
- Connectivity: Bluetooth
- Best for: working out
The MUSICOZY headphones are best for sweaty sleepers or for those wanting to use soft sleep headphones while working out.
The electronic components are IPX6 rated, which means they’re waterproof against high-pressure jets (so they’d do well even in heavy rain), but still shouldn’t be immersed in water.
A single charge on these headphones lasts around 10 hours, and the headphones come with an 18-month replacement guarantee.
Reviewers love the headphones for both sleeping and running. Many customers also say that the sound quality is impressive for this type of device. Reviewers also mention that using the raised controls is easy — even at night.
Some side sleepers complain that the headphones put pressure on their ears despite their soft design. But the breathable, sweat-wicking design is a good option for people who sleep hot.
- breathable material
- good for hot sleepers
- great sound
- not adjustable
Best kids headphones for sleeping
- Price: $
- Connectivity: wired
- Best for: traveling with kids
These kid-friendly wired headphones are great for lulling kids peacefully to sleep or keeping them entertained, whether at home, in a car, on a train, or on a plane.
The headphones feature a 52-inch braided no-kink wire and can help protect young ears from hearing damage by limiting the sound output so that it can’t go louder than 90 decibels (dB). You can also remove the speakers to wash the headband.
Reviewers say their kids love the headphones, but many complain that the headband is not adjustable and lacks breathability.
- cute designs
- soft material
- lacks breathability
Here’s what we considered when deciding on the best headphones for sleeping:
- Construction: Are the headphones expressly made for sleep? We didn’t consider regular headphones for this list and prioritized models made with soft, comfortable materials. We also opted for wireless models, whenever possible, over wired ones.
- Customer reviews: We went through hundreds of reviews and chose only the headphones beloved by reviewers.
- Price: We tried to include a range of prices, from budget options to premium ones with a higher price tag.
- Need and preferences: We included a range of headphones to fit different needs and preferences, from compact comfy earbuds to options designed specifically for little ones.
Above all, you should choose a pair of headphones at a price point you can afford. You should also consider the following:
How do the headphones connect to your favorite music app? Is there a wire?
Wired headphones are great for everyday listening, but they can be a pain to use while in bed. Instead, opt for wireless headphones that connect via Bluetooth.
Many sleep headphones have a similar headband style. This clever design keeps headphones in place, but certain headbands can get uncomfortable and end up feeling too tight. If you anticipate needing to adjust the headband size, choose headphones with an adjustable design.
Dr. Shelley Borgia, a board certified audiologist in New York City, explains that comfort is the most important factor to consider when choosing sleep headphones. If they bother you while you’re sleeping, they’ll do more harm than good.
Do you plan on using headphones while doing activities other than sleeping? Some headband sleep headphones are also suitable for fitness wear.
The band can do double duty by keeping your ears warm and staying in place — even as you’re jogging around your neighborhood. If you also want to work out with your sleep headphones, look for a model that’s sweatproof or waterproof.
There are several different types of headphones on the market. For sleeping, though, we recommend headband headphones or earbuds.
Other types of headphones may be too bulky or uncomfortable for all-night wear.
You might get away with regular over-the-ear or clip-on headphones if you sleep primarily on your back. Still, anything with a protruding, hard-shell design might become uncomfortable if you’re sleeping on your side or stomach or if you toss and turn.
If your sleeping environment is already quiet, you might not need the noise-canceling feature on your sleep headphones. Noise cancellation is ideal for blocking out constant, annoying sounds, but it won’t help much if your partner is watching TV at a high volume or if people are having loud conversations nearby.
Noise cancellation is a good option for anyone who tends to turn the volume up on their headphones in an attempt to drown out ambient noise.
Experts recommend switching to a pair of noise-canceling headphones, so you can keep your volume lower. This helps to prevent hearing damage or worsening symptoms associated with tinnitus.
Buy your headphones from a company with a good return policy and warranty. You need to be able to exchange or return the headphones if they aren’t comfortable or if they break out of the blue. After all, an uncomfortable, broken pair of headphones can’t help you sleep.
A higher price doesn’t necessarily translate to better durability, but it’s a good sign that a product will stand the test of time.
A low price tag is a better indication of something too good to be true. Super cheap headphones are more likely to break prematurely or experience connectivity issues.
According to a
According to the survey, people listen to music while sleeping for multiple reasons, including:
- They think it helps them fall asleep.
- It’s part of an already-established sleep routine.
- It blocks out external noise or other stimuli that impact sleep.
However, Borgia suggests that wearing headphones might be beneficial for people with tinnitus because the noise can help put symptoms on the back burner.
“My patients with tinnitus all have varying preferred sounds because the inner-ear ringing presents differently for each of them. I always advise they find a sound source that is agreeable with their tinnitus, meaning [a sound that isn’t] identical to their symptoms,” she adds.
Borgia says sleeping with headphones is generally safe. However, turning up the volume too loud can quickly turn this safe activity into a risky one.
“A good rule of thumb is to listen at a volume that you can comfortably converse over. I find that when you use headphones that fit properly, it’s actually easier to keep the volume lower and maintain the sound quality because it is physically closer to your ear,” explains Borgia.
If there’s noise around you that’s keeping you up, the solution is not to blast the volume — which can potentially damage your hearing — but to find another way to mask the sound, like a sound machine or earplugs.
However, not all experts agree. Dr. Hae-Ok Ana Kim, Otolaryngologist and Associate Professor of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York, says that some people, like those prone to ear infections, should avoid blocking their ears with headphones. It could trap moisture and increase the risk of infection.
What are the best headphones for sleeping?
We chose LC-Dolida Sleep Headphones because they block out noise and light. If both bright lights and sounds bother you at night, a two-in-one option like this might be a fit for you.
Are headphones for sleeping better than a noise machine?
If you’re trying to block out snoring or other annoying noises, noise-canceling headphones or a noise machine may be a good option. But if you’re more interested in listening to your favorite podcast or playlist, headphones with good sound quality will prevail over a noise machine. Ultimately, it will depend on your personal preferences and sleep routine.
Is it safe to wear noise-canceling headphones to bed?
Yes. There’s no known safety risk associated with wearing noise-canceling headphones to bed. As long as the headphones aren’t completely soundproof — so that you could still hear an alarm or siren in an emergency — they are safe to wear to sleep.
If listening to music or calming voices is your favorite way to doze off, swap your bulky headset for a pair of soft, comfortable sleep headphones.
By keeping the volume low, sleep headphones may help you fall asleep faster without damaging your hearing.
Steph Coelho is a freelance writer with chronic migraine who has a particular interest in health and wellness. When she’s not click-clacking away on her keyboard, she’s probably nose-deep in a good book.