All earplugs in this review are excellent for blocking noise during sleep.
I have tried a large variety of earplugs of different shapes and sizes over the years and come up with this particular selection to give you the best possible chance to find a comfortable plug that suits your ear canal and needs.
My favorite earplugs for sleeping have changed over time. Some companies have changed the formula of their earplugs, making the current incarnation of my former favorites less suitable for me.
Also, I frequently try new earplugs in my quest to find the best ones, so my opinion changes as well. Additionally, I take in the experience of friends and other reviewers.
People’s ears and requirements are different. For this reason, I have also included length, width, and any quirks I have found when using the earplugs in this review.
Best earplugs for sleeping overview
|Rank||Name||Noise Blocking||Comfort||Insertion Ease||Ear canal size||Type||Remark||NRR|
|1||Flents Quiet Time / Moldex Purafit||9/10||8/10||8/10||Normal diameter, longer||foam||hassle-free||33|
|2||Flents Quiet Please||8/10||9/10||8/10||Short||foam||moisture absorbing||29|
|3||3M 1100||8/10||9/10||7/10||Normal diameter and length||foam||in a warm, humid climate hard to insert||29|
|4||3M OCS1135||9/10||8/10||7/10||Smaller diameter||foam||for small ear canals||33|
|6||Mack's Pillow Soft||6/10||9/10||9/10||All||silicone||can become loose||22|
Foam earplugs size (own measurements)
|Name||Length (inches)||Length (cm)||Diameter (inches)||Diameter (cm)|
|Flents Quiet Time / Moldex Purafit||1.06||2.7||0.51||1.3|
|Flents Quiet Please||0.79||2||0.51||1.3|
Flents Quiet Time & Moldex Purafit (NRR 33) ♦
I have both of them right in front of me.
These earplugs have a noise reduction rating (NRR) of 33, the highest available.
And they really do block a great deal of noise, whether it be traffic, snoring, barking dogs, or music. I also find them very easy to insert and comfortable.
The memory foam expands slower than that of most other foam earplugs, which gives you more time to insert them.
Ear canals generally have several bends, and for optimal noise reduction, foam earplugs need to reach beyond the second bend. Quiet Time and Purafit have a pointed tip and are made of a slightly denser material, which I find very helpful for deep insertion of these earplugs.
This, together with the slow expansion foam allows me to wiggle these earplugs beyond the bends even after they have already expanded a bit.
With most earplugs, good insertion is a race against time, and if you aren’t fast enough after rolling them up, you don’t get beyond the bends, leaving you with a more shallow insertion and significantly decreased noise attenuation at the lower frequencies.
Because many people only ever achieve shallow insertion, they don’t realize how good their earplugs actually can be.
With the Purafit / Quiet Time, you have a good chance of achieving deep insertion and a proper seal.
With 1.06 inches (2.7 cm), these earplugs are relatively long, almost too long for my ear canal.
In the past, I would have given them a miss, but because they are so good and easy to put in, I now just make sure that I don’t insert them too deep.
For optimal comfort, I keep a little bit of the earplug outside the ear canal and with some experience this now works very well for me. This also makes them easier to remove than some of the shorter plugs.
How reusable are the Quiet Time / Purafit?
In principle, most foam earplugs, including these are one-time-use, disposable earplugs. So if you want to be absolutely sure to maintain optimal hygiene, you should toss them out after a night’s use.
On the other hand, our bedrooms and hands tend to be much cleaner than what you would typically get at a construction site.
I reuse these earplugs for about a week and they hold up well. Each morning I put them back in a small container and let them dry out for a bit.
The earplugs maintain their slow-recovery property and good seal even after prolonged use, so you could even use them for much longer.
Flents Quiet Please (NRR 29)
Flents Quiet Please are cylindrical earplugs; that is they have the same diameter throughout the complete length of the plug.
In the past I had tried the original foam earplugs, the cylindrical 3M EAR Classic (310-1060) and they worked well but it always took me quite long to roll them up.
I started using Flents Quiet Please (NRR 29) several months ago to see whether they would be easier to roll into a tightly compressed cylinder.
The result is: they are easier to roll and insert then the 3M EAR Classic, they block as much noise and they are very comfortable. They are also much less temperature and humidity sensitive than the otherwise excellent tapered 3M 1100 reviewed next.
With a length of 0.79 inches (2 cm) these are the shortest earplugs in this review. I have to insert them quite deep which makes them somewhat harder to remove. Their diameter is 0.51 inches (1.3 cm).
Because of their cylindrical shape, they should fit ear canals with small, medium, and large diameters.
If you find most earplugs too long for comfort, I recommend you give these a try.
Like all other earplugs in this review, these are disposable earplugs.
I can reuse the Flents Quiet Please a few times before they lose their ability to block noise but they don’t hold up nearly as long as the Quiet Time.
The Quiet Please earplugs are made of a porous foam, which seems to absorb more earwax and moisture than the denser material of the other plugs reviewed here. I feel this helps quite a bit to prevent earwax from accumulating, but it also makes the earplugs less durable (for people who want to reuse them).
3M 1100 Earplugs (NRR 29)
I have used the 3M 1100 earplugs for many years for sleeping and still do.
For me, they are perhaps the most comfortable ones of them all, provided I get them properly inserted.
They are about 1 inch long, the optimal length for my ear canal, so I can completely insert them and experience no discomfort whatsoever.
From their noise reduction rating of 29, you would think, they would be a lot worse than the Quiet Time / Purafit, but for me, they are almost as good.
Noise reduction ratings are averages, of course, and there is considerable variability amongst users.
So shouldn’t these earplugs come in at number 1 than?
They 3M 1100 are fantastic in a cooler and dryer climate. Under these conditions, they are initially stiffer than other earplugs—making it easy to roll them into a torpedo shape and insert them.
Stiff earplugs: how could these be comfortable?
Fortunately, under body heat and moisture, the 3M 1100 soon become very soft. After a few seconds, I don’t feel them at all and yet they seal and do a wonderful job.
They block a little less low-frequency noise than the Flents Quiet Time, but I get rewarded with supreme comfort.
But the 1100 have a quirk: In a warm, humid climate, even out of the box, the 1100 become soft and expand very quickly. Under these conditions, I have a very hard time inserting them and often fail multiple times.
Some people put them in the fridge before insertion and this does help, but then they might become too stiff.
I recommend that if you find your 1100 expand too fast, cool down your bedroom and dehumidify it (AC dehumidifying mode is enough) before rolling and inserting the earplugs.
Because of the climate sensitivity of the 3M 1100, I use the Quiet Time / Purafit more often these days. They are hassle-free to insert and work in all climates I have tried them.
But I also still use the 3M 1100. I often alternate between different earplugs to avoid any pressure points in my ear.
I recommend these earplugs for normal-sized ear canals in a cooler and dryer climate.
3M OCS1135 Ear Soft Yellow Neons (NRR 33)
With a diameter of 0.47 inches (1.2 cm), the 3M OCS1135 (312-1250) are the slimmest earplugs in this review. They are 0.94 inches (2.4 cm) long—about average in length.
This makes them ideal for users with small ear canals.
They are excellent and comfortable noise blockers, but my ear canal is a bit too large and long for them: Like the Quiet Please, I need to insert them quite deep to be effective, which makes them more difficult to remove.
The OCS1135’s tip is slightly softer than that of the Flents Quiet Time and the Quiet Please.
All in all the 3M 1135 take a bit more practice to insert than both Flents models but they work very well and I haven’t found them to be temperature sensitive.
I recommend these if you ear canal is smaller and you find most other earplugs simply too big.
Ohropax Classic (NRR 23)
Invented in 1907, Ohropax Classic are the original earplugs.
Unlike the previous earplugs, which are all made of some kind of memory foam, these are made of a moldable wax-cotton mix. The cotton is in there to keep the wax together. Ohropax Classic are also covered in cotton wool to prevent them from sticking together.
Note that the cotton outside needs to be removed before usage.
Foam earplugs need to be rolled up and inserted into the ear canal.
In contrast, to apply Ohropax Classic, remove the cotton, warm them in your hands, roll them into a ball, and flatten them against the ear canal entrance.
Do not form a cone and try to insert them into your ear canal!
You might not be able to remove them if you do this.
These and the moldable silicone earplugs reviewed next are designed to only seal the ear canal entrance. This makes these wax earplugs a very comfortable option for sleeping, even if you can’t tolerate any kind of earplug in your ear.
Ohropax are stickier than other wax earplugs. Because of this stickiness, they seal very well and rarely fall out. But they also leave a bit of a residue, which some people don’t like.
Because these earplugs only seal the canal entrance, they block significantly less noise (in particular low-frequency noise) than well-inserted foam earplugs.
They also create more of an occlusion effect, i.e., body generated sounds and one’s own voice may appear boomy and slightly amplified.
Still, Ohropax Classic are very respectable noise reduction devices, and if foam earplugs weren’t around, these would be one of my go-to solutions for nighttime use.
I recommend these earplugs for people who find foam earplugs uncomfortable or want to take a break from inserting things into their ear canals.
Mack’s Pillow Soft (NRR 22)
Mack’s Pillow Soft are made of moldable silicone putty. Like wax earplugs, they are not to be inserted into the ear but formed into a ball and pressed against the ear canal.
Consequently, these also don’t go into the ear but seal the canal entrance instead.
Their noise blocking ability is virtually the same as that of the Ohropax Classic. While not nearly as effective as foam earplugs, Mack’s Pillow Soft are nevertheless good at reducing everyday noise and very comfortable.
When it comes to snoring, footfalls, traffic rumble, and other “bassy” sounds though, foam earplugs (and noise cancelling headphones) offer much more relief.
The silicone putty used in the Pillow Soft earplugs is less sticky than the wax-cotton mix employed in the Ohropax Classic, but they are also slightly more prone to falling out.
Personally, I like the more reliable seal of the Ohropax Classic, but if you don’t like their stickiness; these also do a good job.
Boosting the effectiveness of foam and wax earplugs for sleeping
Both foam and moldable earplugs help to reduce the noise in your bedroom and allow you to sleep better.
But, when the room gets quieter, sudden noises stand out even more and the brain seems to ”turn up the internal amplifier,” looking for sounds.
A great way to mitigate this is to create a constant noise backdrop that is somewhat noticeable with the earplugs inserted. That way, the brain has something to listen to and most sudden noises disappear.
I use a white noise machine (mostly the Lectrofan) on my nightstand. I put in my earplugs, select a white noise pitch that sounds comfortable and turn up the volume just enough so that I can hear a waterfall-like sound in the background. It doesn’t have to be loud to be effective.
I have found this combination of white noise machine and earplugs to be helpful in so many different environments, including hotels, motels and while camping, that I now often travel with my sound machine. When I don’t have an outlet close-by, I just power the machine via USB using my phone’s auxiliary battery pack.
One notable downside of combining a white noise machine with earplugs if you sleep with a partner that doesn’t use earplugs is this: you may hear a soothing sound faintly in the background while they may perceive the sound as obnoxiously loud.
This is more of a problem with strong-attenuating foam earplugs than with wax.
Also, don’t play loud white noise if you sleep with a child in your bedroom.
Earplugs playing white noise and other sounds
If you don’t want passive earplugs or a white noise machine, but rather pipe in some soothing sounds, including white noise, ASMR, or audio books to help you fall asleep, sleep earbuds like MAXROCK are a good option. They have a double-flange silicone tip that seals well if your ear canal is smaller.
They also work for larger ear canals, but then they don’t seal well.
Alternative: for a few weeks now, I have been testing a similar Bluetooth version of these sleep earbuds using the same ear-tip type but in a slightly larger size. I get 16 hours of continuous play time and they seal my ear canal (which is perhaps a bit larger than average) well.
Please note that the noise blocking ability of these sleeping earbuds isn’t on par with that of foam earplugs. But, together with sounds streamed in, they provide decent noise isolation.
For more alternatives, check my post on headphones and earbuds for sleeping.
How to insert earplugs for optimal performance?
Foam earplugs need to be slowly rolled into a compressed “torpedo” and then inserted in the ear canal. Roll up the earplug, pull your ear up and out, slide in the compressed earplug, and then let go of your ear while holding the plug.
You can wiggle the earplug a bit if it gets stuck, but don’t try to force it in. If a plug doesn’t slide in without effort, remove it and roll it even tighter.
The deeper you can insert foam earplugs (without them becoming uncomfortable) the better they work. The difference between deep and shallow earplug insertion can be 20 dB for lower frequencies. Note that 10 decibels additional attenuation is being perceived as a halving of the noise volume.
Never insert moldable wax and silicone putty earplugs into your ear canal.
Instead, roll the moldable earplug into a ball, pull your ear slightly up, and flatten the ball on the ear canal entrance.
For more detailed instructions please read my post on how to insert earplugs.
Finally, a couple of years ago NIOSH ran a pilot study that found that earplug lubrication can make insertion of foam earplugs a lot easier.
I wish you a good night’s sleep.