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 might not 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 often less expensive.
Noise-cancelling headphones will bring you relief from unwanted external noise, and have superior sound quality. They are probably best for back sleepers though as they tend to be larger in size.
Below, you’ll find my recommended noise-cancelling headphones first. And then I’ll discuss the fabric sleep headphones that have most impressed me, starting with my favorites and then moving onto some budget options.
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 want to fall asleep listening to music, over-ear headphones aren’t so practical for side sleepers – unless you have a doughnut-shaped pillow! So if you’re a side sleeper, I’d probably recommend trying the fabric headband styles below.
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, again, you might prefer the models below.
Overall though, 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. AcousticSheep SleepPhones
Most comfortable wireless sleep headphones
Of the many fabric headphones I’ve tried, the AcousticSheep SleepPhones are my clear favorites, especially as a side sleeper. The main point in their favor is that they have very flat speakers with ample padding, so you can easily lie on your side for long periods of time.
AcousticSheep have created several versions of the SleepPhones: one with a standard cable 3.5mm pin connector, wireless Bluetooth versions, an easy charging style, and even one with a wireless transmitter for your TV.
I personally use the wireless Bluetooth version, which is convenient, comfortable and has decent sound quality. Sure, it’s not the same as high-end Bose headphones. But podcasts and radio sound clear, and I can hear the full range of music when relaxing in bed, with no sound distortion.
They don’t have active noise-cancelling, but the extra padding compared to budget fabric headphones does help block out a little more of the outside world.
The headband fits snugly without feeling too tight or too loose. There are two fabrics to choose from: breeze and fleece. I prefer the breeze style as it’s designed to sleep cooler, though I can imagine colder sleepers might like the extra warmth of the fleece.
Here’s me wearing the SleepPhones to give you a better idea of their size:
The headband also has a control module built in, so you can adjust the volume, change tracks, play and pause music. The buttons are somewhat buried inside the fabric and can take a few seconds to locate, but it’s great having that control option in the night.
There are only two potential downsides as I see it. Firstly, the extra padding results in slightly less maximum volume than cheaper headbands that have less padding. So if you sleep on your back and want louder volume, one of the others below might suit you more.
Secondly, they are more expensive than other fabric versions. However, you can really see the difference in the overall design quality and comfort. So this is one of those cases where you get what you pay for.
Overall, the SleepPhones are a great alternative to normal headphones. No matter what position you sleep in, you’ll find them comfortable enough to use either for a short while or the whole night.
If you decide to get them from the manufacturer’s website, you can use my promo code NSN10 for a 10% discount.
3. Lavince Bluetooth Sleep Headphones
Best low-cost Bluetooth fabric headphones
The Lavince headphones also do a reasonably good job of enabling side sleepers to enjoy their music, radio or podcast in bed.
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.
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 impressed by how clear they sound, both with music and spoken word.
My main criticism is an 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 doesn’t matter quite so much that you’ve got the word ‘enjoying’ and some obvious buttons splashed on your forehead.
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.
A final criticism is that the padding isn’t as thick as the AcousticSheep SleepPhones. So although I found I could use them on my side for 30 minutes or so, eventually the lack of padding became more noticeable against my ear.
Overall though, if you can put up with the kind of odd design, they are a good budget option. And if you sleep on your back and want louder volume, I might even be tempted to recommend these above the AcousticSheep, despite the difference in design quality.
Breathable fabric headphones with a cable rather than Bluetooth
If you’re looking for comfortable fabric headphones that connect via a cable rather than Bluetooth, CozyPhones a good choice. And like the Lavince, they are also fairly inexpensive.
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. Not as flat as AcousticSheep, but still better than standard headphones.
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 good enough for quiet listening. 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 you’d prefer to connect to your audio device or smartphone with a cable rather than Bluetooth, these are the ones I recommend.
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.