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 NS10 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 quite as flat as the 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 might be the ones to try.
5. Dubslabs Bedphones
Lightweight Bluetooth headphones with clear sound
Finally, we come to the DubsLabs Bedphones. These take a different approach to the previous fabric headband styles, and instead have very light speakers which rest over your ears.
For me, the main appeal is the fact that they were designed to use in bed, but will never feel too warm in hot weather, which is always a bit of a risk with headbands.
You can see in the image above that they have a cable, but this is just to connect the two speakers. They work via Bluetooth, and I found you can easily get a whole night’s charge out of them (they fully charge in a couple of hours).
There’s an online volume control, which is always convenient for the night. And the speaker quality is very clear, so they are ideal for listening to radio and podcasts.
However, even though they excel where clarity of voice is concerned, I did find the bass was underwhelming and the maximum volume not so loud. So if you like to fall asleep feeling like your brain is being enveloped by deep bass, they might not be the right choice for you.
My main criticism though is the way they sit on the ear. Each speaker is attached to memory wire, which is slightly fiddly to shape to your ear. You need both hands to get each speaker in place, which feels counter-intuitive compared to the simplicity of normal headphones.
Once you do get them in place, they are very comfortable to wear if you’re sitting in bed relaxing or lying on your back. But personally, I wasn’t overly keen on the feel of the memory wire against my ear when lying on my side. It was fine to relax and listen to music for a while, but not to use all night long on my side.
It may just be my ear and pillow combination – I can’t say for sure. So on balance, I think that like the Bose Quiet Comfort, the DubsLabs are ones that back sleepers and those who relax in bed before sleeping will appreciate most.