Best headphones for sleeping Buyer’s Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?’s round-up of the best headphone for sleeping you can buy in 2021.
A good night’s sleep is vital for staying healthy. While a comfy bed and good “sleep hygiene” are both important factors, a decent pair of headphones can help too. As well as lulling you with soothing tunes or a podcast to clear your head, the best headphones for sleeping can also help block out the noise outside your window.
So what should you look for in a decent pair of sleep headphones? Obviously comfort is key. You’re not going to drift off to the land of nod if your ears are in agony. If you want in-ears you’ll need a decent seal from the ear tips but you’ll also want earpieces that don’t protrude too far that could get caught on your pillow or hurt your ears. If it’s an over-ear pair you’re going for, make sure their ear cups are nicely cushioned and not too bulky.
Then there’s the style. Wireless are best, as there’s no cable to get tangled up in. With on-ear pairs, you’ll probably have to sleep on your back – it’s likely to be too uncomfortable on your side.
You should consider the placement of the headphone controls, too. Some wireless models have controls built into the side of the earbud, which you don’t want pressing down into the pillow, as it could activate them with the slightest movement. In-ears might work better with just one earbud in your non-pillow-resting ear, if you can live without listening in stereo.
Last but by no means least, you need to consider sound quality. Thankfully, all the models listed here are excellent performers in their own right, you just need to pick the design you prefer.
If you’re looking for an affordable pair of everyday in-ears that have bedtime in mind, these should be high on your list.
The faceplates are flat, which will be more comfortable should you want to keep both buds in and lie on your side. Beyerdynamic even says as much, touting that as one of the main selling points. So if you’re listening, watching, or simply sleeping in bed, the Byrds should do you proud.
Five sizes of ear tip should provide a comfy fit, no matter what your ear size. And, while there’s no noise-cancellation, the tips are flared, providing a decent level of noise-isolation.
In-line controls let you play/pause and skip tracks, which beats scrabbling around in the dark.
The audio is nicely balanced, especially for a budget pair of buds. It’s a full-bodied sound, with plenty of bass weight that stops short of sounding boomy. Their comforting sound will help you wind down at the end of a hard day.
Read the full review: Beyerdynamic Soul Byrd
The Sony WF-1000XM4 were named ‘Best headphones under £150’ at the What Hi-Fi Awards 2021. We’ve made no secret of our love for the noise-cancelling buds and the good news is they’re as good for sleeping in as they are an everyday pair of headphones.
Comfort is second to none. The all-new earbud design of the XM4 is based on a combination of customer feedback about their predecessors, the WF-1000XM3, and research about the human ear. Besides the new-look, the XM4 come with brand new ear tips made from polyurethane, which feels like a cross between silicone and foam. We find they sit snugly in your ear opening, but they are comfortable over longer listening sessions.
Because the XM4 are truly wireless, there’s no cables to get tangled up in. An impressive eight hours of battery life should be more than enough to lull you to sleep. There’s even noise-cancelling onboard for blocking out noisy neighbours, foxes and the like. The sound quality – they produce an open, spacious sound that gives every vocal room to breathe – is superb and you can use one bud on its own. A good option for anyone seeking Mister Sandman.
Read the full review: Sony WF-1000XM4
The Melomania 1 Plus – a refined take on the original Melomania 1– last a marathon nine hours, which should see most people all the way through the night. (If you sleep more than nine hours a night, lucky you.) When you’re not sleeping, take the carry case with you, and its recharging skills will give you a whopping 45 hours of juice to play with. Handy if you find yourself far from a charging point and in need of some shuteye.
You can also control them just by speaking using Siri or Google Assistant, which is a lot simpler when you’re bleary-eyed at 3am.
The sound quality is very good indeed, especially at this price. They’re at ease handling dynamic shifts, and render an excellent amount of detail. Just a word of warning – the fit split opinion in the office, so make sure you try them on before you buy.
Read the full review: Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus
Let’s get this out of the way right now: there are better-sounding noise-cancelling true wireless headphones out there. But Apple’s premium pair offer something few rivals can match – fantastic comfort, and a very slick user experience (as long as you use an Apple device, that is). And, when you’re trying to sleep, these are important things to consider.
At just 5.4g, they have a ‘barely there’ feel that means you can quite happily snooze with them in. You control music through a series of squeezes on their stems, which is pretty easy even when half asleep. Worried about waking your partner? Try the Ear Tip Fit Test in the Bluetooth menu of your Apple device, and it’ll play some music which it analyses the fit and tells you how good your seal is to remove sound leakage. It’s almost like they were designed to be worn in bed…
Speaking of which, the noise-cancelling microphones adjust 200 times a second to counteract any incoming noise. If these can’t help minimise the effects of your partner’s snoring, nothing will.
Read the full review: Apple AirPods Pro
If you tend to sleep on your front or back, these Sony WH-1000XM4 wireless noise-cancelling headphones are a great option. They’re some of the plushest and most comfortable cans on the planet right now. They also happen to be What Hi-Fi 2020 Award winners. Put simply, they live up to the hype.
They improve on their (five-star) predecessors with the introduction of new useful features that elevate the user experience (such as ‘Speak to Chat’, which allows you to talk to someone while the headphones are still on your head, all without moving a muscle); and, more importantly, you’re getting a serious hike in sound quality over the XM3s for the money (in part down to a new DSEE Extreme sound processor).
The line’s sense of musicality and enthusiasm remains as addictive as ever here, but you can also hear big improvements over the XM3s across the board. The WH-1000XM4 sounds more composed and confident, especially when it comes to lower frequencies.
If you’re off to the land of nod, it’s well worth taking these sensational Sony headphones along for the ride.
Read the full review: Sony WH-1000XM4
Or check out our list of the best Sony headphones 2021
This is another pair built for sport, and like the others, they provide a snug, secure fit. But unlike some, they have little wings to keep them in place without burrowing deep into your ear cavities, which can make them comfy enough to fall asleep in. If you find them a bit bulky for resting your ear on your pillow, then you’ll have to make the switch to using just one bud.
These Bose in-ears are good for five hours of listening on a full charge, but the carry case will give you another 10, which should be enough for a weekend away.
And so to the sound. It’s bold but nicely balanced, and never threatens to overwhelm you as you try to grab 40 winks. There is rich, weighty bass, crisp highs, and nicely detailed mids.
You can also set a timer from within the app, to switch them off after a set period of time. Handy if you want to preserve battery life rather than have them doing a Lionel Ritchie and playing all night long.
Volume controls are built into the top edge of the earbuds, so you can find your perfect level without reaching for your phone. Because there’s nothing like the glare of a phone screen to disrupt a good night’s rest.
Read the full review: Bose SoundSport Free
Like their successors (the XM4s, above), these chunky cans might not look like the best headphones for sleeping, but trust us, one wear and you’ll be sold. These things are comfy with a capital C – the thick, cushioned ear pads are like a duvet for your ears. Obviously you’ll have to sleep on your back, but if that’s your bag, you’ll get a lot of use out of these.
They’re wireless, so you’ll not get tangled in the night, and the touchpad controls – while they take a bit of getting used to – are intuitive enough to use mid-slumber. Battery life is off the chart – 30 hours will last you near enough a month of sleeps, if you only use them to doze off. And a quick 10-minute tickle will give you five hours of use – so don’t worry if you’re faced with a flat battery when you’re in need of a snooze.
They produce a wonderfully spacious sound that – when combined with the killer noise-cancelling – will make you forget about the world around you. Which is exactly what you need when it’s time to hit the hay.
They’re certainly not cheap. But what price can you put on a good night’s sleep?
Read the full review: Sony WH-1000XM3
If your budget doesn’t quite stretch to the Sonys mentioned above, these AKG’s are good alternative. They too are very comfortable indeed, and unlike some on-ears, they don’t heat up your shell-likes. The result? A pair you can wear for hours without any discomfort.
The wireless Bluetooth connection is solid, with no dropouts during our testing. Which is good, because a poor connection could jolt you awake.
Sound quality is fantastic. It’s remarkably clear, with loads of detail, and they produce impressive scale and separation too. Put them on at bedtime, and you’ll soon be lost in music.
Downsides? There’s no noise-cancellation. But at this price, that’s not the end of the world. If you’re after a budget pair of wireless on-ears to help you work, rest and snooze, look no further.
Read the full review: AKG Y50BT
Battery life is a particular strong point for these AKGs. They’re good for a marathon 30 hours, but activate the noise-cancelling and that drops to a still very respectable 15 hours. So they’ll last the night and you should still have enough left for your morning commute.
They’re very much a midrange pair of on-ears – cheaper than the Sony WH-1000XM3s, but pricier than the AKG Y50BTs. And for the money, they’re some of the best we’ve tested.
They’re so comfortable even those who dislike on-ears will happily wear them all day (or all night, as the case may be). And the noise-cancellation is superb, able to reduce any nocturnal goings-on to just a background murmur. So next door can play their TV as loud as they like.
Controls on the right ear cup are simple to use, so they won’t frustrate you while you’re trying to nod off.
Sound? There’s an impressive amount of detail on show, which, when combined with the noise-cancellation, will help you forget about the real world and focus on getting some shuteye. They fold up small enough to sling in a jacket pocket too, making them the ideal travel companion. Can’t sleep on a train? These could well help…
Read the full review: AKG N60NC Wireless
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