As much as silence can be golden at night, sometimes listening to music in bed is the perfect way to wash off the mental dust at the end of a long day.
My partner prefers total silence, so even though I’d love to play music through my bedroom speakers, I use a good set of headphones and keep the mellow playlist to myself.
As well as enjoying your own music, headphones are also an effective way to avoid being kept awake by noisy neighbors or a relentlessly snoring partner.
Fabric or noise-cancelling?
As is often the case with tech products these days, there’s a confusingly wide range of designs and styles of headphones available.
You can find padded fabric headphones that are specifically designed to be comfortable to wear in bed, though they won’t win many aesthetic design awards.
And then there are the more high-tech noise-cancelling headphones – the classic headphones many of us are used to nowadays.
The main differences lie in their ability to block out external sound, speaker quality and price. Fabric headphones don’t do so well at blocking loud snoring, but are comfortable and fairly inexpensive.
Noise-cancelling headphones will bring you relief from unwanted external noise, and have superior sound quality. They are probably best for back sleepers, or side sleepers who like to listen to relaxing music for a while before going to sleep.
1. Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless Bluetooth Headphones
Best noise-cancelling headphones
The Bose Quiet Comfort 35 II will take your bedtime listening to a whole new level. If you need to block out external noise, such as snoring, traffic or noisy neighbors, they are very much up to the task.
Having tested many different models, I’ve found that the Bose Quiet Comfort 35 II are able to reduce background noise significantly better than any other noise-cancelling headphones I’ve tried.
Even if the external noise is unusually loud, when you add your music on top of the active noise-cancelling, you can go a long way to reducing how much the unwanted noise continues to bother you at night.
As you would expect from Bose, the sound quality is superb, both for music and spoken word such as radio or podcasts. And that makes all the difference if you want to create your own little audio cocoon and enjoy your music to the max.
The fact that they can be used wirelessly with Bluetooth means you don’t need to worry about having a cable in bed, which I find more convenient at night. You’ll get up to 20 hours music on a full charge, or around 40 using just the noise cancellation.
If you’re a fan of smart home systems, you’ll appreciate that the headphones are Alexa enabled. So with the touch of a button, you can control your music in the dark, as well as access other smart assistant features.
The main downside is that if you actually want to fall asleep listening to music, over-ear headphones aren’t so practical for side sleepers – unless you have a doughnut-shaped pillow! But as a side sleeper myself, I like to use them when I first go to bed to unwind, and just remove them when I’m feeling sleepy enough.
A second point to consider is that they are comparatively expensive, which isn’t a surprise for high-end headphones. So if you’re looking for something simpler, you might prefer the models below.
Overall, if you’d like to have the best combination of noise cancelling and sound quality, the Bose Quiet Comfort 35 II are my recommended headphones. They get the balance exactly right between blocking external noise, unbeatable sound quality, and comfort.
2. Lavince Bluetooth Sleep Headphones
Best Bluetooth fabric headphones, ideal for side sleepers in particular
The Lavince headphones solve two problems with wearing headphones in bed: working out what to do with the cable and being able to comfortably sleep on your side.
Using Bluetooth, you can connect to your smartphone or tablet. So you don’t need to worry about tucking a cable out of the way under your pillow. They will last for 10 hours on a full charge, so all but the most committed sleepers will get a full night of music out of them.
The headband is made from a breathable, stretchy mesh which helps prevent heat build-up in the night. This might not be a problem in the winter in cooler regions, but it’s a gripe I sometimes have with thicker fabric headphones in the summer months.
The speakers themselves are thin and neatly padded inside the headband. That means you can lie on your side with your ears directly over the speaker. And as long as your pillow isn’t unusually hard, you’ll be able to sleep comfortably on your side while listening to your music.
For this low price, you won’t get the same sound quality as you find with advanced headphones like Bose. However, for nighttime listening, I was actually very impressed by how clear they sound, both with music and spoken word.
My main criticism is a purely aesthetic one – the buttons on the forehead look a little unusual. But this is only an issue if you’re thinking of using them for sports too, which is their second purpose. But to use in bed, it’s not so important what they look like (in my opinion).
It’s also worth bearing in mind that they don’t have active noise cancellation like the Bose do. So if you need to block out external noise like snoring, these might struggle if your partner snores like a lion with flu.
However, if you don’t need noise cancellation and are simply looking for comfortable headphones to listen to music, radio or podcasts in bed, I think they are a great choice.
Breathable and comfortable fabric headphones to wear in bed
If you’re looking for comfortable fabric headphones with a cable rather than Bluetooth, CozyPhones would be my top choice.
The most notable point in their favor is that the speakers are thin and flat, so if you’re a side sleeper, they don’t put too much pressure on your ear.
The internal material is a cool mesh lining that helps prevent overheating. And I like that you can remove the speakers and machine wash the headband.
The sound quality is surprisingly good for the price. Okay, so the maximum volume isn’t anything to get excited about, but the sound is clear enough to enjoy some relaxing music in bed.
The cable is long (52 inches) and tangle-free, with a standard 3.5mm stereo plug to connect to your audio device. Having a cable means you never need to worry about charging your wireless speakers or the battery running out in the night.
A second potential issue is that it comes in just one size. But with the stretchy material, most people will find they fit well enough (unless you have a particularly large head!)
Overall, CozyPhones are comfortable headphones to use in bed, with reasonable sound quality and made from a material that doesn’t overheat. If this style of headphones appeals to you, and don’t mind using a cable to connect them to your audio device or smartphone, these are the ones I recommend.
4. AcousticSheep SleepPhones
Comfortable wireless sleep band, great for side sleepers who feel the cold
The AcousticSheep SleepPhones are another comfortable option if you’re a side sleeper; they apply less pressure to your ears than normal headphones do.
The headband fits snugly without feeling too tight or too loose. It can even provide a little extra warmth on cold winter nights.
The sound quality is reasonable, and although they don’t have noise-cancelling technology, they do help block out low to mid-range noise.
The reality though is that if you sleep with a window-rattling snorer, soft ambient music isn’t going to win the battle for you. But if you turn up the volume, you’ll have a better chance of cutting out some external sound.
There are two versions – one with a lead and the other wireless through Bluetooth. The wired version connects to all modern MP3 players and smartphones. It’s thin and easy to tuck under the pillow or stretch over to a bedside table.
The Bluetooth version is more convenient in my opinion, but has the added hassle of having to recharge the battery – which you’ll probably need to do each morning (if you remember to).
One potential issue is that the fabric sometimes generates a little heat. It adds some pleasant extra warmth in the winter, but in the hotter months of the year, you might prefer a cool mesh style instead.
Overall though, the SleepPhones are a good alternative to normal headphones, especially if you sleep on your side. They’re comfortable to wear in bed throughout the night, have acceptable sound quality and are easy to clean.
5. Tooks Sportec Band
Can be used for both sleeping and sports
The Tooks Sportec Band is designed for both sleep and sport. Made from a choice of soft microfleece or dry-fit material, either material feels comfortable on your skin while relaxing in bed.
Considering the low price, the sound quality of the Sportec Band is reasonable. They block out external noise pretty well, including lighter snoring and traffic. And if you enjoy listening to soft relaxing music, you’ll hear the full range of sounds in the track.
They’ll keep your ears warm in cold weather, especially if you use them outdoors running. Though as with the SleepPhones, the warmth could be a problem if your bedroom is very hot. If it is, I recommend getting the cooler dry-fit material version.
On the wired version, there’s an inline control so you can easily adjust the volume in the night. You can also change tracks with the control, and there’s a microphone that can be used for voice commands when connected to your phone.
There’s also a wireless version if you prefer not to have any loose cable floating around in your bed, and is better if you’re using it for sports in addition to sleep.
The main downside concerns the speakers themselves. They arrive outside of the headband, so you need to insert them yourself and get them into the right position to hear the sound, but not lie right on top of them when on your side.
The speakers are also quite large, so if they move out of place in the night, they can feel a little uncomfortable. Having said that, it’s nice that you at least have the option to adjust them to fit your head size.
Overall, Tooks are comfortable headphones to use in bed, with good sound quality and a choice of materials to suit the climate. Just be prepared to adjust them carefully to get the positioning of the speakers right.