Woman wondering if headphones can help her sleep better

Best Headphones to Sleep In – A Complete 2022 Buyer’s Guide

I struggle to fall asleep, I’m not an insomniac (even though sometimes I feel like one), but most nights I toss and turn till the early morning hours, before I eventually pass out from frustration, and wake up a few hours later feeling exhausted.

It sucks, but that all changed the day I discovered how soothing music and other sleep-related audio types, like ASMR, binaural beats, and so on, could actually be. It changed my life.

This was pretty amazing; I could finally fall asleep easily, and wake up feeling refreshed. But, there was still one small issue… my earphones just weren’t made for sleep. I initially used my earbuds, and would wake up with a sore spot after I’d turn on my side while sleeping.

A friend recommended “headphones for sleeping,” and I’ve honestly never looked back. If you’re looking for headphones you can sleep with; there are a few things you need to consider while making your choice. Once you find the right pair, I promise your life will change.

What Are Some of The Benefits Of Sleeping With Headphones On?

1.    It Will Help You Fall Asleep Faster

Look, I can speak from personal experience on this one; the right music in my ears can get me to sleep in seconds.

I realized this when I started a new meditation program, and they played binaural beats in the background.

I was supposed to be meditating, but I just couldn’t fight the urge to sleep. It soon became my go-to nap app – I’d fall asleep with the soothing beats and wake up to the gong.

In 2003, a study published in the Journal of Music Therapy concluded that listening to your preferred music could help you fall asleep, but it could also wake you up again later.

The best might be to download a song you love (or a few), and play those until they’re finished. That will help you fall asleep and stay asleep.

2.    It Can Help Fight Depression

Listening to classical music has been proven to boost brain function, improve overall efficiency, and to serve as a catalyst for improved health and well-being.

Back in 2008, there was also a link found between classical music and the treatment of sleep disorders and depression.

A study published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing aimed to treat patients with sleeping difficulties using 45 minutes of relaxing classical music for 3 weeks before bedtime.

3.    Promotes Better Sleep Quality

I’ve found that listening to music before I sleep helps me wake up more refreshed. When I did some research I came upon a 2004 study on a group of elementary school children at naptime (the little kid in me wants naptime back).

They listened to soothing background music just before falling asleep, and the results were phenomenal. The kids slept longer, and their rest was more efficient than compared to when no music was played.

One thing the study notes is that the results could be negatively affected by the fact that they didn’t play the kids their preferred music.

Listening to the music you love just before going to bed makes a big difference, it seems.

4.    It Promotes Relaxation and Sleep Stimulation (Even for Insomniacs!)

Insomnia is a global issue; thousands of individuals often suffer in silence. There seems to be a glimmer of hope though, as a recent study found that music intervention had numerous advantages for people with primary insomnia.

In the study, music-associated relaxation and listening to music helped insomniacs sleep faster, while listening to music and music with a bit of exercise improved sleep efficiency.

5.    Headphones Can Help With Your Overall Sleep Health

This one has to do with how we sleep while wearing headphones. There are many types of headphones you can sleep with, but some kind of force you to sleep on your back.

That sucks in the beginning if you’re not used to it, but the fact remains that this is the best sleep posture.

Not only is it great for your spine, it actually helps fight aging (fewer wrinkles, ladies) because you aren’t squishing your face against the pillow every night (for 8 hours I might add).

So, put on your headphones and head to bed… tonight we sleep.

But, which sleeping headphones should you actually buy?

You can technically use your normal headphones, earphones or buds, but this can get uncomfortable – and they tend to fall out.

Luckily, there has been some development in this department, and you can actually buy super amazing “headphones” for sleeping.

I put those in inverted commas because these things don’t always look like earphones (probably why it took me so long to find them).

Let’s find out which design is right for you

Finding the right headphones, you can sleep in is critical. Like normal headphones, they deliver music straight to your ears, but there is one major difference – they’re incredibly comfortable (8+ hours of wear can get irritating).

There are 4 general designs that you can choose from:

  • Over-ear: These are similar to your usual headphones; however, they are built for longer wear comfort and exceptional noise-canceling capabilities. The one downside is that they are a bit bulky. If you enjoy sleeping on your back, or would like to make it a habit – these are a great choice.
  • On-ear: One would think these are essentially just smaller versions of the normal over-ear headphones. They can either come with a headband, or a clip-on mechanism that fits around the ear. The cushioning is smaller and often flatter, but it doesn’t go in the ear, making the fit less secure than over-ear headphones, I ended up having them constantly slide from on ear or the other and would wake up to a sore ear because they were crushing it. Outch! Never again!
  • In-ear: These would be your typical earbuds, that perfectly fit in your ears, offering exceptional noise canceling and sound quality. As the sound doesn’t have to travel far, you can get pretty good audio even with a decent set. The big issue here, and why it’s important to choose wisely, is comfort. Earbuds can quickly create pressure points that can cause irritation.
  • Headbands and sleep masks: Innovation at its best. Some clever people considered combining a sleep mask/headband with headphones – and of course, it worked. The material is soft and squishy, it fits snugly around your head, while blocking out most light and they’re somewhat noise-canceling.

Hands Down the most comfortable option for side-sleepers, the added cushioning takes the pressure off from the internal parts.

Your headband or sleep mask can have a wire or have wireless Bluetooth capabilities, whichever you prefer.

One more cool thing that I have to bring up — because I tried this and it’s insane — is the amazing effect that you get while listening to white noise or autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR, sounds with these headbands.

Because they don’t go into your ears, and you actually don’t even realize you’re wearing headphones, it just amplifies the sound, and if you’re an ASMR or white noise fan, you’ll understand. To be immersed is kind of the point.

What other factors should you consider when buying headphones to sleep in

There are actually quite a few things you need to consider when buying the right set of headphones.

I didn’t realize it, but when I bought my eye mask headband (which is still awesome to have, and doesn’t break the bank, so I could afford to have two sleep headphones), is that I didn’t always want it over my eyes.

So, in actual fact, the headband would have been a better fit for me from the start.

So, consider the versatility…Perhaps you prefer to buy an over-ear set, because you’d like to use them to listen to music during the day too. Whatever your needs are, consider them before taking out your wallet.

The next thing that is super important is the design. I have a friend who absolutely cannot wear bulky headphones.

Irritates him to death. So if that’s you, you definitely want to consider what type of headphones you can sleep with.

On the other hand, you might be ok with bulky, but you prefer something light. Definitely consider the weight of the design you choose.

Lots of different design aspects, like the body material, speakers, cushioning, can all add up in terms of weight.

Your bulkier sleep headphones will weigh around 1.5 pounds, while the smaller in-ear headphones would way 6 ounces or less. Check the specs before you buy.

That brings me to the comfort level. Some people absolutely won’t skimp on comfort when it comes to sleep gear. Very important here — read the reviews!

I can’t stress this enough, I can tell you what my opinion is about something, but if you’re super sensitive, you need to go through a few reviews and make sure you get the set that scores the best on the comfort reviews.

When it comes specifically to the in-ear headphones or earbuds, you have to consider the shape.

This is pretty important, considering your ears are unique. Some manufacturers will even send multiple silicone tips, so you can choose your perfect fit at home.

Lastly, you need to think about your go-to sleep position. We all have one, and if you like sleeping on your side, and nothing’s ever gonna change that — you probably shouldn’t buy the bulkier over-ear headphones. The slim on-ear headsets could work, and better still – the headband.

Also, if you toss and turn at night, the headband might really be perfect for you – that sucker ain’t coming off.

Your constant movement could also damage wires, so consider wireless headphones whichever you choose.

Last but not least, take a look at the warranty length. This varies from supplier to supplier, and it’s important that you take note, because some don’t even have a warranty at all.

Trust me; you’re gonna want one. I’ve personally tested all the headphones I recommend, but Murphy’s law, something always goes wrong – and when it does, you’re going to want a warranty.

Can side sleepers wear headphones at night?

It all depends on the type of headphones. As I mentioned before, the bulkier over-ear headphones are a no-go, unless you have the type that can fold up halfway, so you’re only listening through one ear, or the slim type. Inevitably, they will eventually fall off during the night.

Side sleepers can handle ergonomic in-ear earbuds, but they can still get uncomfortable after an 8-hour shift.

Some suppliers will include multiple silicon tips so you can fit and choose the best for you, and if you can find that — great.

Alternatively, if you know which tips you prefer, perhaps you can just buy them separately.

But, the mother of all side sleeper headphones for 2020 has to be the headband. As I’ve mentioned before, they’re great for comfort, noise-cancellation, and fit. What I haven’t mentioned are some of the drawbacks.

While they are super comfortable, if you have a small head, they can be too big, and the opposite can also be a possibility.

Some of my friends have also complained that they get a bit too hot… there should be a version for those of us who live in hotter climates.

Can kids sleep with headphones on?

I have quite a few friends with kids, and sleep headphones have been a lifesaver. Sometimes you’re in a noisy place, and you can just see – this kid needs a nap. The headbands are especially great for kids, as they block out any light and external sounds.

You can play soft white noise and have your happy, playful child back in an hour. Of course, it’s advised to test the sound before putting it on your child, consider any wires as a potential hazard (maybe wireless would be better), and you can wash these, so a good idea is to buy two – one in the bag and one in the wash.

Where is the best place to buy them?

While you could get these in store, the best is to shop around online. I’ve searched for the best deals, filtered brands, designs, prices, and check hundreds of reviews so you don’t have to, and condensed all the information in my top 5 favorite headbands below, to give you an idea of the quality and range you can find on Amazon. After trying these headphones, I can personally vouch for them as they tick all the boxes.

And Finally, here are my top 5 sleeping headphones and earbuds for 2022:

There’s a three-way tie for top sleep headphone manufacturer in 2022: Bose, Sony, and Sennheiser, with their superior quality, unmatched sound, and comfort as well as excellent noise-cancellation making them my 2022 top sleep headphone producers.

The models below are the latest versions that I’ve had the pleasure of testing myself, and while I can offer personal advice, the final decision lies with you.

I’m sure with all the facts at your fingertips; you’ll be able to choose the perfect headphones to sleep with.

Top Choice!
Bose QuietComfort 35 II
  • Active Noise Cancellation
  • IPX4 Water Resistance
  • Multi-Function Buttons
  • Dual-Microphone System
  • Alexa and Google Assistant-Enabled
  • Bluetooth an ANC
  • Up to 20 Hours on a Single Charge
  • Bose App
Get them on Amazon

1.      Bose QuietComfort 35 II

What I think sets the Bose QuietComfort 35 II apart from the rest, and why it’s in my top 5, is the design. 

To start off with, I’ve owned many headsets, and while they all mostly offer the same features, it’s the small things that make one stand out above the rest.

▪    Lightweight, Comfy Design

The Bose, while being an over-ear headset, it’s surprisingly lightweight and doesn’t skimp on-ear space (I need that – my childhood nickname was Dumbo).

This gets pretty important when you’re wearing your headphones for 8+ hours. Others have been too tight, or just made of the worst material, leaving made me sweaty. This isn’t the case with the Bose – it gets 10/10 for comfort.

▪   Adjustable Noise-Cancellation Settings

What I also like about them is the adjustable noise-cancellation. My needs vary, sometimes I was the world to quiet down, and other times I need to be a bit more aware – I actually need to hear my alarm in the mornings.

The high, low, and off noise-cancellation settings really put the Bose one step ahead.

▪   Exceptional Battery Life

Another feature I really love about the Bose is the crazy battery life, I don’t know if it’s just because it’s new, but they lasted an entire week!

Ok, to be fair, I only listened to around an hour’s worth of white noise while falling asleep, and thereafter they just served as a barrier between my ears and my wife’s snoring (sorry, baby).

▪   Versatility

And while these are great sleep headphones, they’re also super versatile. The sound quality is up there with the best for listening to music, and being a Bluetooth headset; I could actually connect to two devices and listen to two audio files simultaneously (this was also quite weird at times — especially when some ads popped up randomly in my browser).

Usually, I would play background white noise, while listening to a voice note or a podcast – pretty cool feature.

▪   Insider Tip:

It seems the latency is affected a bit by the noise-cancellation feature. So, if you’re watching a late-night movie before going to bed, and it’s pretty quiet in the house – just turn off the noise-cancellation, and it should work perfectly. You really do need the sound to match the mouth movement.

Overall, the QC35 II is great for sleeping, and comes with a lot of advantages when used as your primary headphones too.

Sony WH1000XM3 Noise Cancelling Headphones
  • Incredible Noise Cancellation
  • 30 Hours of Playtime on a Single Charge
  • 5-Minute Charge Will Give You 5 Hours of Playback
  • Alexa Built-in
  • All-Day Comfort
  • Foldable Design
Get it on Amazon

2.   SONY WH-1000XM3

Sony is known for its exceptional quality and crisp sound quality, and the Sony WH-1000XM3 doesn’t disappoint.

▪   Sound Quality

Where the Bose lacks in sound quality, the Sony makes up for it 100%. Honestly, these blew me away.

The sound can be customized to your liking. If you’re all about the bass, and no treble – the Sony’s got you covered. Overall, the sound is really clear even for Bluetooth.

▪   Bluetooth LDAC Enabled

Speaking of Bluetooth, the Sony headphones are also LDAC enabled, taking the sound to a whole new level. Trust me.

Unfortunately, your phone or audio device also needs to have LDAC connectivity, and not all do. Go to your device and Bluetooth settings to see if you can use this function.

▪   Immersive Noise-cancellation

Noise-canceling on the Sony is also very good. While you do need some volume to really get the best effect, you don’t need much (depending on how great your hearing is), 25% volume is going to absolutely drown out EVERYTHING else.

What I personally loved the most about the noise-canceling on the Sony is that I truly felt immersed in the white noise. A thunderstorm is a thunderstorm; it’s unreal.

▪   NFC Pairing Capabilities

A very cool add on is the NFC (Near-field communication) pairing capabilities – simply tap your phone to your headphones, and you’re good to go.

On the other hand, the Sony can’t pair with more than one device at a time. While this didn’t bother me too much, it all depends on how you’d like to use your headphones.

▪   Insider Tip:

As for the design, I really can’t fault the Sony WH-1000XM3, but I would like a bigger ear-cup (that’s just me).

The Sony WH-1000XM3 is still lightweight, comfortable, and the battery lasts, making it a perfect sleep headphone.

If I can be picky — the one thing that does lack is the dual pairing functionality. Not, a deal-breaker though.

3.   Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless

For me, the Sennheiser is like that girl you have a crush on. It’s love at first sight, and the looks won me over, but as I got to know her, she blew my mind with all her amazing characteristics.

The Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless undoubtedly has the sleekest design of the lot.

▪   The Look

When it comes to design, Sennheiser is at the top of their game with the PXC 550. You can feel the ergonomics; the shape hugs your ears perfectly.

The rotating ear cups also add to the overall comfort, adjusting to your natural shape.

▪   Battery life

I got over 30 hours on these babies – needless to say; I was very impressed. There have been some reports that this doesn’t last, but that’s to be expected.

▪   Comfort & Excellent Sound Quality

I have big ears, and comfort is critical. I found that there was more than enough space while still giving me great sound and noise-cancellation.

▪   The Warranty

Oh yeah, this is the thing about Sennheiser – these guys are all about customer service.

I had a friend who complained about his battery life after a year of daily abuse, and his headphones were replaced with no questions asked.

▪   Excellent 8D Sound

I love 8D music (and if you don’t know what it is, you can thank me later) and I honestly have to say that I was lost in the moment, it felt like an orchestra was playing all around me.

If you’re into surround sound effects, the Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless is for you.

▪   Works While Charging

This seems straight-forward, but trust me, not all headphones have this feature. If you use your headphones a lot, or you’re very forgetful, this comes in really handy.

▪   Insider tip:

The Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless is a teeny bit on the tight side, so if you have a small head or you like a snug fit, you’re good to go. 

The battery lasts forever, but there’s a feature that verbally warns you of low battery life when it reaches 20% – every half hour.

I’m sure there has to be a way to switch this off, I just haven’t found it.

Bose QuietComfort 20 Noise Cancelling Headphones
  • Bose Noise Cancelling Technology
  • Deep, Clear Sounds
  • 3 pairs StayHear Tips (S, M, L)
  • Rechargeable Battery
  • Inline Mic
  • Comes with a Carrying Case
Get it on Amazon

4.   Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise-canceling Headphones

The Bose QuietComfort 20 is different from the other headphones in that it is an in-ear design. What I love about them is their ergonomic, snug design and fit – I hardly feel them.

They’re perfect for those who prefer smaller earbuds as opposed to bulkier headphones. These could be my all-time favorite Airplane Sleep Headphones of all time – I’ll explain why.

▪   Snug fit for frequent flyers

They’re not that super tight, block out all external sound, fit. The Bose QuietComfort 20 is a comfy, light fit, and I can easily rest my head to the side on my aisle seat to get some sleep.

What would normally happen is that the tight earbuds would create pressure points in my ears, definitely not the case here.

The bit of room allows the earbud to adjust to my position. I can sleep with them without any issues.

▪   Allows Some External Sounds

This brings me to the noise-cancellation, it isn’t the type that’s going to block out all sound, and I need that when I’m sitting in the airport lounge waiting for my flight to be called, or when I’m taking a nap and would like to hear the food cart come by (I just turn off the ANC then, and sleep with the muffled sounds and my white noise music).

▪   Compact Carry Case

Traveling, it’s easy to lose stuff, and for that reason, I really like the compact carry case that comes with the earbuds.

I’ve made it a habit of always putting them away and haven’t managed to forget them somewhere, yet.

▪   Insider Tip:

While the earbuds come with smaller fit silicone tips, you also get two other sizes included.

If you want complete noise-cancellation, just swap the smaller tips for the bigger size silicon tips – guaranteed 100% noise-cancellation.

5.   Best sleep mask / Headband

The WINONLY Headband (yes, that’s the name) is revolutionary, and a must-have for anyone who travels often or likes to sleep in complete darkness.

The earphone headband or sleep mask is a great piece of creative engineering – I mean, who thought of this?! Give that man a Bells!

▪   Comfort

You would’ve been wearing a sleep mask or headband anyway while taking a nap on a flight or taking a jog – now you can listen to your favorite tunes at the same time.

The Enjoying Earphones Headband is as comfortable (if not more) as any normal headband, and the sound quality is surreal.

▪   Sound quality

What I love the most about the headband is that you don’t feel the headphones, there is no bulky cushioning or in-ear buds. This adds a crazy effect to any white noise, ASMR, or 8D sound experience. 

▪   Function

Because it’s a headband, you can actually use it to go for a jog, and listen to music. Kids also love wearing these because they’re so comfy and some designs are really fun.

It wouldn’t be a complete buyer’s guide if I didn’t mention some of the downsides to wearing sleep headphones:

While listening to music while you sleep can have numerous health benefits, like improving mood, reducing anxiety, preventing depression and even better sleep quality – there are also a few risks to long-term use of headphones while you sleep:

  • Buildup of Earwax: While the noise-canceling effect is great, the tight fit of certain headphones can increase ear wax buildup. This is typically a problem in men, but ladies –  you can also be affected. This can lead to some serious ear pain (which is luckily easily resolved with some ear drops and a tech break.
  • Otitis externa: Quite an unpleasant experience, trust me. To be honest, I’ve had this, but it wasn’t caused by my earphones – it was caused by summers spent in the pool. This is quite common and nothing to be concerned about. If your earphones are causing it, perhaps consider buying over-ear headphones or headband earphones.
  • Distraction: Yes, great music can distract you. Ok, on a serious note – great headphones, with great sound, or exceptional noise-canceling capabilities can distract you to the point of harm. If you wear them while you’re sleeping, you could possibly not hear your child cry, or someone break in. Just keep that in mind, it’s the same for earplugs. If you want to cut out the noise, you cut out all noise – which isn’t always good.
  • Hearing problems: This is only if you completely abuse your volume dial. You are, however, using these headphones to sleep, so I’d hope you won’t crank up the volume too much. Just remember, your ears need a rest too, keep the volume low(er).
  • Strangulation hazard: Ok, this one is for the youngsters (and some of the adults). Don’t let a crazy tosser (I’m not cursing here) use wired headphones. JUST GO FOR WIRELESS if you can’t sleep in one position.

That being said, the chances of any of the above happening to you, is very unlikely. Just listen to your body, don’t do anything crazy, and sleep in peace.

Here are some sleeping headphones alternatives:

If that completely put you off headphones, there are some headphone free alternatives for a peaceful night’s rest:

●       Earplugs

If you’re not into music or electronics next to your face while you sleep, but you’d still like to drown out the noise – earplugs are a great option.

These little suckers go with me EVERYWHERE. I’m a light sleeper and I love sleeping in absolute silence.

Earplugs are great for that, they fit your ear perfectly, blocking it all out, and they hardly ever fall out (and if they do, it’s usually only the side you sleep on, meaning the sound is still buffered).

They can be a bit hard to find in-store, but luckily you can get a whole box on Amazon. Each pair is also individually wrapped, which is great for traveling and hygiene.

One drawback to earplugs – it can be a pain to get them in. It’s a bit of a mission, and I recommend doing it in front of the mirror the first few times.

Take the earplug between your index and thumb, roll it around till its a thin stick, and then QUICKLY jam it in your ear.

If it feels uncomfortable, try again. Don’t reuse your earbuds forever – you have a whole box, and they get dirty as you use them (hello ear wax).

If you can keep your current set in a small box when you’re not using them, that will help them last longer.

●       White noise machine

I have a Dreamegg D1 PRO Sound Machine and a set of sleep headphones. Why? Because sometimes, I just want to sleep without headphones, but I still want the white noise.

This is the best out there. Honestly, you can read the reviews. Great sound, I love the fact that it remembers the last setting I was on (so many of these things don’t!), and the warm night light (I really don’t like the bright LED types).

One more thing that can be pretty hard to do with the headphones is to get them to eventually go off, and continued music can wake you up again (defeating the purpose) and in the case of babies, you actually need to give their ears a rest so they can develop fully.

That’s one reason why I love the Dreamegg- it has a timer, so I usually switch mine on for around an hour and then happily fall asleep.

And bonus – you don’t have to worry about their neighbors hearing it because it’s rather pleasing to the ear as the white noise balances the frequencies rather than making more conflicting noise as I’ve mentioned in more detail in this post.

And there you have it, a complete guide to sleeping with headphones. I’m sure you’re amped to go try out your new headphones, choose your best tune and shut your eyes, you’re in for the best rest you’ve had in a long, long time, but if you prefer complete silence, check out my other post on whether or not you can use noise cancelling headphones for sleeping without music.

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