If you are a side sleeper like me (most of the time), finding headphones or earbuds to sleep in comfortably isn’t straight-forward.
My favorite earbuds, for example, get pushed into my ear when my head hits the pillow. After a short while they become painful and I have to remove them.
My very comfy over-the-ear headphones don’t fare much better. The ear cups create pressure points and my ears start to hurt. Besides, I am afraid I might break them.
On the other hand, I have found white noise and water streams very helpful to fall and stay asleep, so I definitely like some cans for the ears at night.
For you it could be audio books, music, binaural beats or ASMR.
My preferred sleep headphones should also block noise or even actively cancel noise so that I can sleep in noisy hotel rooms, block snoring noise, and get rid of partying neighbors.
My criteria for selecting the best headphones for sleeping
- Comfort for a side sleeper
- Sound quality
- Noise cancelling effectiveness
Sleep Headphones Wall of Fame
What headphones and earbuds actually work for sleeping? I have tried quite a few and most are not comfortable enough, so I have only listed the headphones that work for me.
And yes, I have found a favorite when it comes to the criteria that matter most to me: comfort and noise blocking effectiveness.
I have tested three different types of sleep headphones and sleep earbuds:
- Micro earbuds
- Sleep headbands
- Flat on-ear headphones
Best headphones for sleeping
1. Because they put no pressure on my ears whatsoever, the MAXROCK in-ear earphones are my overall winner for moderate-noise environments. They are contained in a soft silicone housing and completely disappear in my ear. I have not had a single night where they have not been comfortable.
2. The AGPTEK sleep earbuds come in second. They have changeable ear tips, block more noise and sound slightly better than the MAXROCK. Most nights I find them comfortable, but they are edged out by the MAXROCK. The AGPTEK are a great choice for larger ear canals.
3. CozyPhones Contour (grey) and AcousticSheep SleepPhones (black) are both sleep headbands. They are comfortable enough but less so than the MAXROCK. However, they can be made to block a lot more noise than both the MAXROCK and the AGPTEK.
They don’t cancel noise by themselves, but in combination with earplugs underneath, they are fantastic for cancelling even loud noise, including snoring.
CozyPhones are better suited for warmer temperatures while SleepPhones have better bass and slightly flatter speakers.
Both headbands are also a good option if you don’t like earbuds in your ear.
4. If you like neither earbuds nor sleep headbands, Pansonic’s RP-HS46E flat clip-on headphones are an alternative, albeit less comfortable for side sleepers. They too can be combined with earplugs underneath for great noise-blocking performance.
|one size fits most
- Comfort is the criteria with the strongest weight.
- Headphones with the same rank are equal in over-all performance.
- They may have different strengths though. SleepPhones, for example, have a better bass and thinner speakers, while CozyPhones are cooler and produce more detailed highs.
Most comfortable sleep headphones and earbuds
|MAXROCK in-ear earphones
|AGPTEK sleep earbuds
|CozypPones New Contour
Best sleep headphones for noise cancelling
|AcousticSheep SleepPhones + earplugs
|CozypPones New Contour + earplugs
|Panasonic RP-HS46E + earplugs
|AGPTEK sleep earbuds
|MAXROCK in-ear earphones
How to get the best wireless Bluetooth sleep headphones?
If you toss and turn a lot or want to use your headphones together with a phone that has no headphone jack, you are perhaps also looking for a wireless solution.
In that case I recommend you go with a separate Bluetooth receiver and clip it to your shirt.
Personally, I could live with wired headphones at night, but I love the convenience of putting my iPad on the night stand and streaming music via Bluetooth.
This way I also don’t have to worry about unplugging when I need to go to the bathroom.
At present my favorite solution is to use wired headphones connecting to an Mpow BH203AB Bluetooth receiver which I clip to my shirt. This receiver has outstanding battery life and everything is attached to my body. All headphones in this review work well with this receiver.
Note that the Mpow doesn’t come with a clip, but you can easily attach one yourself. For more on this see the last section of this post.
This has completely removed issues with getting entangled in the wires during the night
And I can also use the receiver with other wired headphones during the day in the gym or even on a motorbike.
My preference may change when I find perfectly comfortable sleep headphones with Bluetooth and long battery life at a reasonable price.
Why not choose sleep headphones with an integrated Bluetooth module?.
Here is what I considered:
- Battery life
- I often play white noise throughout the night, so I need about 8 hours of continuous playback time from my Bluetooth receiver. The Mpow receiver offers 14 hours of continuous streaming.
- Many earphones suitable for sleeping come with Bluetooth modules that have tiny batteries, allowing for only 4 to 6 hours of streaming.
- If you only need music for an hour or so to fall asleep, you will likely get multiple nights out of most wireless headphones and Bluetooth modules.
- Cost effectiveness
- In my experience, sleeping is rough on both the headphones and the wires. Chances are that for a side sleeper even good-quality phones will wear out after a year or so. Should they break, I would like to keep the Bluetooth module and just replace what is necessary.
- By the same token, the battery in the Bluetooth module is likely going to deteriorate over time. If need be, I would like to swap it out and keep my headphones.
Micro earbuds – the best earbuds for sleeping
Most in-ear phones are not suitable for side sleepers, but I have found comfortable earbuds that are completely contained in the ear so that they exert no pressure during sleep.
MAXROCK in-ear earphones with microphone and volume control
These earbuds are tiny and completely contained in a silicone housing. They have no hard parts and completely disappear in my ear.
The super-soft silicone ear tips are double-flange and, when I insert them deeply, they block a good amount of noise. The tips shouldn’t be much smaller though.
Judging from earplugs, my ear canals are of average width. The way the MAXROCK earphones are designed, they should work for people with smaller up to normal-sized ear canals.
Unfortunately, the tips cannot be changed, so if your ear canal is very large, they won’t block noise and might not stay put.
These earbuds are amongst the most comfortable sleep headphones I have ever worn.
I don’t feel any pressure whatsoever when sleeping on my side and can easily wear them for the whole night. They also don’t get hot.
These earbuds produce a decent sound, albeit a bit thin. But for the size of the drivers, I was surprised. They produce detailed but not aggressive highs. The bass is adequate, provided I insert them deeply.
Overall the sound of the MAXROCK is fine for sleeping and easy listening. I wouldn’t mid wearing them in the gym either. Don’t expect them to replace high-quality headphones though.
Noise-blocking: The double-flange ear tips block a good amount of noise if they seal your ear properly. Together with white noise this should work fine to get rid of moderate amounts of noise at night. They definitely don’t reduce the noise as much as good foam earplugs.
- Very comfortable earbud that completely “disappears” in the ear canal. No pressure whatsoever when lying on the side.
- The entire earbud is contained in a soft silicone housing. No sharp edges.
- One size fits all. The double-flange ear tips should work for smaller to normal-sized ear canals. People with larger ear canals may have trouble getting a good seal.
- The ear tips cannot be changed or replaced.
- I need to pull the thin wires to remove the earbuds. Hopefully they last.
AGPTEK sleep earbuds with microphone and volume control (analog)
These earbuds are contained in a small metal housing. The body is a bit longer but thinner than the Senzer S10’s covered next.
At first, I thought the metal housing can’t possibly be good for sleeping, but to my surprise these earbuds remain comfortable throughout the night.
Most nights, I experience no pressure when sleeping on the side with the AGPTEK earbuds. So for me these work very well, slightly better than the Senzer. Still, the MAXROCK are even more comfortable.
The package includes three different-sized single-flange silicone ear tips (S,M, L). The single-flange ear tips (L) fit my ear and block sound quite well, somewhat better than the MAXROCK.
The trick to make the AGPTEK work is to insert them deeply.
As with other sleep earbuds in this review, to remove them, I have to pull them out using the wires. When removing them, I pull up my ear and carefully pull them out. This does put strain on the wires, but so far it works.
The AGPTEK sound better than the MAXROCK, on par with the Senzer S10, but emphasize the treble more. The midrange could be a bit more pronounced. The bass is strong enough.
Overall, I really like the sound of these earbuds. I am listening to them just now, while riding a train.
In addition, I find these earbuds easier to insert for good sound performance than the Senzer. By comparison, the Senzer are unforgiving. No good seal, no good sound.
The volume control on these earbuds is an unusual analog slider. Adjusting the slider is a bit more difficult than pressing + or -, but it allows for finer volume adjustments. This comes in particularly handy when combining the earbuds with Bluetooth receivers, which often have fairly coarse volume controls.
- Comfortable for sleeping
- Good noise isolation
- Good selection of different-sized ear tips
- Sound quality
- The wires are thin. Let’s see how long they last.
Senzer S10 noise-isolating earphones with microphone and volume control
The Senzer S10 earbuds have an even shorter but wider housing than the AGPTEK; they are almost as small as the Maxrock.
The housing is metal with changeable ear tips. They feature a braided cable with volume control and microphone.
These are the smallest “normal” earbuds I have tried. They are slightly larger than the MAXROCK sleep earbuds. Like the MAXROCK and AGPTEK, these earbuds do not protrude from the ear.
You can choose between small, medium, or large ear tips and even buy third-party tips if none of the supplied ones fit.
They are not quite as comfortable as the MAXROCK and the AGPTEK. I can sleep with them on the side and most nights they work fine. At times, the metal housing does irritate the ear a bit.
The Senzer S10 sound good. They feel more like high-quality earbuds. They produce a good bass and a fine detailed sound, provided the ear tips fit.
However, they are a quite fickle: if the tips don’t completely seal the ear, they sound thin and the bass is non-existent.
Normal-sized earbuds tend to be more forgiving, but, of course less comfortable for sleeping.
The noise-isolation is on par with the MAXROCK earbuds and worse than the AGPTEK. The Senzer S10 earbuds work well for moderate noise levels and noise masking.
They definitely don’t block as much noise as properly-fitted foam earplugs.
- Small earbuds that don’t protrude from the ear
- Changeable ear tips
- Also suitable for daytime listening
- Braided cable
- Complete seal necessary for good sound and proper bass
- The metal housing can cause irritation during sleep
Headband headphones for sleeping
These sleep headphones contain flat speakers in a headband. The speakers can be adjusted so that they sit directly on the ear. They are available in a fleece fabric for cooler climates as well as in a mesh or breeze fabric for warmer temperatures.
Sleep headbands are a great alternative if you don’t want earbuds in your ear.
The fabric muffles higher-frequency noise a bit, but headband headphones are generally not noise cancelling or noise-isolating in any way. They rely completely on noise masking, i.e., drowning out disturbing noise with music, white noise, or other sounds.
But because they sit on your ears rather than in your ear canal, you can play white noise through the phones and wear earplugs underneath!
I find this combination of sleep headphones and foam earplugs very effective for blocking even loud noise at night, including snoring noise!
If you need to block loud noise, this combination is a better option than sleep earbuds.
As a side sleeper I find headbands more comfortable than most normal earbuds, but less so than the MAXROCK and AGPTEK sleep earbuds.
My two favorite sleep headbands are CozyPhones and SleepPhones.
Cozyphones Contour are wired headband headphones with a braided cable and flat speakers in a headband made of fleece on the outside and mesh material on the inside.
These headphones produce a pleasant, slightly bright sound, but lack a bit of bass. I find the sound quality perfectly adequate for sleeping.
Even at a room temperature of 26 to 27 degrees centigrade they don’t feel hot.
For me as a side sleeper they are comfortable, but at times they wake me up and I have to readjust the speakers and wires because they have created pressure points.
SleepPhones Classic are made of fleece material and a tad warmer than CozyPhones. They are suitable for cooler temperatures. At 26 degrees they are still alright, but get a bit too warm for my taste.
They also come with a braided cable and no volume controls or microphone.
SleepPhones speaker inserts are even thinner than CozyPhones’, which makes them less noticeable. Again, I can sleep with these on the side.
They are perhaps a bit more comfortable than CozyPhones, but depending on the pillow even their thin wires and speakers can create some pressure points and require readjusting.
These headphones produce a stronger bass and warmer sound than CozyPhones, but sound slightly muffled.
Which sound I prefer depends largely on the type of music I listen to.
SleepPhones by themselves don’t cancel or block noise. As with other headband headphones, these take the edge of higher pitched noise, but you have to play a masking sound to get rid of external noise sources.
However, combined with earplugs they make formidable noise blockers, allowing me to sleep through almost anything.
Flat on-ear headphones
Panasonic RP-HS46E Slim Clip On Earphones
If you don’t like earbuds and sleep headbands, the Panasonic RP-HS46E clip on-ear headphones are an option. Just slide them on and the clip behind the ear keeps them in place. I find them light-weight and extremely comfortable during normal use and when lying on my back.
Also, unlike some sleep headbands these headphones don’t make your ears feel hot and sweaty, even after prolonged use.
They are very flat so I can lie with them on my side, but, depending on the pillow, the clip gets pushed against my ear and they can become uncomfortable.
Whether you can use them as a side sleeper depends on your pillow and your sensitivity.
For side sleeping, I prefer sleep earbuds and headband headphones, but these are an option if you don’t like anything in your ear and find headbands too warm or uncomfortable.
The RP-HS46E sound good enough for sleeping, but a bit flat. They also lack bass. These headphones are fine for audio books and white noise, but I wouldn’t use them during the day.
They sit on the ear and don’t cancel noise by themselves, but like with sleep headbands you can turn them into great noise blockers by wearing foam earplugs underneath and playing white noise.
Making sleep headphones and earbuds wireless and connecting them to modern phones via Bluetooth
Recently, I got a new Bluetooth receiver, the Mpow BH203AB.
This receiver works great for sleeping. I get more than 14 hours of continuous play time out of this little helper, allowing me to listen to white noise or music throughout the night without any worries.
At last, I have found one with a really good battery (250 mAh)!
The Mpow BH203 receiver has lit controls for volume, skipping tracks, play/pause, and answering phone calls, and two microphones.
The flashing Bluetooth connection indicator can be a bit annoying at night. I have solved this problem by covering it with a little black sticky dot. I don’t mind the lit controls, but if you don’t want any light, you can cover these with little dots as well.
This receiver doesn’t have a clip, so I attached one using Velcro tape. This way I can clip it to my shirt pocket or collar and toss and turn without any worries about my iPad or phone. Also, I can just get up and go to the bathroom without unplugging any wires.
If you have a newer iPhone or Android phone without a headphone jack, this Bluetooth receiver is a very convenient solution.
I now use this receiver also with other wired headphones and earbuds during the day, e.g., while exercising at the gym, riding a motor bike, or watching TV.
That’s it from me for now. What are your favorite sleep headphones? Please let me know in the comments.
If you only need to block noise at night, but don’t care for listening to music read my post How to Block Out Noise When Trying to Sleep.
Effective and comfortable earplugs for sleeping are covered in this post.