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.
I’ve found that the best headphones for sleep aren’t necessarily those which are marketed as such. Having said that, there are one or two fabric types which are comfortable to use in bed, even if they might not win any aesthetics awards.
In this review, I’ll be looking at the headphones I’ve found which provide the best balance between comfort, sound quality, practicality and blocking external noise.
Hopefully you’ll find a set which meets both your needs and your budget, and most importantly, helps you relax and sleep better.
Fabric or noise cancelling?
As with all technology, there’s a confusingly wide range of designs and styles of headphones available. But I think there are two types that work best in bed: padded fabric headphones which are specifically designed to be used for sleeping, and more high-tech noise cancelling headphones.
The main differences lie in their ability to block out external sound, sound quality and price. Fabric headphones don’t do so well at blocking loud snoring for example, but are comfortable and fairly inexpensive.
Noise cancelling headphones will bring you relief from unwanted external noise, and have superior sound quality, but do come at a higher price.
So with those points in mind, let’s take a look at my recommended headphones.
1. Bose Quiet Comfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones
Best noise cancelling headphones
The Bose Quiet Comfort 20 will take your bedtime listening to a whole new level. If you need to block out external sound, such as snoring, traffic or noisy neighbors, they are very much up to the task.
The noise cancelling works in three ways. Firstly, the earbud forms a seal over your ear and physically blocks some sound. Secondly, the active noise cancelling technology erases lower frequency sound waves. Finally, when you add music you have a complete barrier to whatever was previously keeping you awake.
If you don’t want to completely shut the outside world out, they do come with a useful feature called ‘aware’. If this option is selected you’ll still hear some external noise. So it’s ideal if you need to listen out for kids or an alarm while you’re in bed.
The tips are rubbery and surprisingly soft, and once you put them in you’ll hardly feel them. With 3 sizes of tips to choose from, you can find the right size for your ear canals. And being earbuds, they eliminate the problem of overheating which can come from fabric or over-ear types.
As you would expect from Bose, the sound quality is superb, which makes all the difference if you’re sleeping to some relaxing music and enjoy listening to the full range of sound.
The main downside is that they are quite expensive, which isn’t a surprise for high-end headphones. But if you’re looking for something simpler, you might prefer the models below.
Overall, if it’s noise cancelling you need, the Boss Quiet Comfort are my recommended headphones. They get the balance exactly right between blocking external sound, great sound quality and comfort.
2. CozyPhones Sleep Headphones
Best fabric sleep headphones
Although I personally prefer to use normal headphones in bed, the CozyPhones would be my top choice if I had to choose from the fabric headphones I’ve tried.
There are two main reasons they stand out above the other sleep headphones. Firstly, the speakers are thin and flat, so if you’re a side sleeper, they don’t put too much pressure on your ear.
Secondly, the material is a cool lycra which doesn’t overheat. Many fabric headphones are made from a micro-fleece or similar fabric which can feel too hot to wear throughout the night.
The sound quality is surprisingly good for the price. As with all of these types, the maximum volume isn’t anything to get excited about, but the sound is clear and good enough to enjoy relaxing music in bed.
They are wired, fitting any standard audio device or mobile phone. The wire is a long (1.5 meters), sturdy, tangle-free design which is practical for repeated nightly use.
The main downside is that you do need to adjust the positioning of the speakers inside the material. That’s not a unique issue to this particular model to be fair, and it does mean that you can get an even positioning depending on your head size.
A second potential issue is that it comes in just one size. My feeling then is that if you know you have a particularly small or large head, it may or may not fit well. But with the stretchy material, I think it should be fine for most people.
Overall, the Cozyphones are comfortable headphones for sleeping, with good sound quality and made from a material which doesn’t overheat. If you’re interested in this style of headphones, these are the best I’ve tried so far.
3. AcousticSheep Sleep Phones
Comfortable for side sleepers
The AcousticSheep Sleep Phones are a comfortable option if you’re a side sleeper, with less pressure against your ears than normal headphones sometimes create.
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 good, 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 next to a roaring snorer, or have heavy traffic outside, then listening to soft ambient music isn’t going to mask that. But if you turn up the volume you’ll have a better chance of cutting out some external sound.
There are in fact two versions – one with a lead and the other Bluetooth. The wired version connects to all modern MP3 players and mobile phones. It’s thin and easy to tuck under the pillow or stretch over to a bedside table.
The Bluetooth version sounds more convenient, but does have the added hassle of having to recharge the battery. And the battery only lasts about 6 hours, so dies in the night and has to be charged daily.
The main downside is that because they were designed to be used in bed, you probably won’t want to be seen out of the house with them. So if you’re looking for headphones which are good for both night and day, these won’t be right for you.
A second issue is the heat created by the fabric. It’s quite nice in the winter, but in the warmer months of the year, you might find them a little uncomfortable.
Overall though, the Sleep Phones 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 reasonable sound quality and are easy to clean.
4. Tooks Sportec Band
Can be used for both sleeping and sports
The Tooks Sportec Band is designed for both sleep and sport, so you get 2 uses from the same product. Made from a choice of soft micro-fleece or dryfit material, either material feels comfortable on your skin while relaxing in bed.
Considering the low price, the sound quality of the Sportec Band is surprisingly good. They block out most sound very well, including lighter snoring and traffic. And if you’re using them to listen to ambient or relaxation 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 dryfit material version.
There’s an inline control on the wire, so you can easily adjust the volume in the night. You can also change tracks with the control, and there’s a microphone which can be used for voice commands when connected to your phone.
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 surprisingly 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 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.