When was the last time you had a good night’s sleep? Maybe it was last weekend or over the holidays. Perhaps it was before you had kids, relocated to a busy city, or moved in with a snorer. As an audiologist, the sleep topic comes up in conversation more often than you might think.
While the odd turbulent night might leave you feeling groggy and ill-prepared for the day ahead, chronic sleep deprivation over a long period can have serious adverse effects on both your physical and mental health - not mention the impact for tinnitus sufferers.
If you’re reading this while bleary-eyed and drinking your fifth coffee of the day, or perhaps at 3 AM while your partner snores like a human jackhammer beside you, this might sound quite scary.
Well, never fear – a decent night’s sleep may well be just around the corner.
The following list combines old favorites with cutting-edge technology and prioritizes comfort to help you find the very best earplugs for your perfect night’s sleep.
This article features a range of shapes, sizes, materials, and technologies to give you a comprehensive look at what is leading the market in earbuds for sleep.
Here’s a quick run-down on the most common types to give you an idea of what is right for you:
- Foam models are probably the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “earplugs.” Foam earplugs were invented in 1972 and are usually made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyurethane (PU). They generally do a good job of blocking sound when used properly (see image below for incorrect, partial, and correct insertion techniques). To use, roll the foam plug until it is long and thin, insert it deeply into the ear canal while pulling up on the ear to straighten the canal, and hold it in place for 20 – 30 seconds while it expands to fit your ear.
- Flanged earplugs offer quicker protection against noise as they do not have to expand to fit your eardrum. They usually have a two- or three-tiered Christmas tree shape and are inserted by twisting into the ear canal. You can generally buy these in several different sizes to accommodate all ears. They can be used by swimmers, surfers, or while bathing.
- Like wireless Bluetooth headphones, digital earplugs usually feature some combination of passive and active noise canceling abilities. Passive noise cancelation is the same kind of protection you get from standard foam, silicone, or wax earplugs (or even shoving your fingers in your ears) and is achieved by forming a seal around the ear canal to block out external sound. Active noise cancelation improves upon this by playing a sound into the ear canal to mask the external noise further. These earplugs also sometimes feature an external microphone to pick up changes in the volume of your surroundings, which in turn regulates the volume of sound being played by the internal speakers to ensure an unobtrusive listening experience.
- Custom-molded earplugs might be the ones for you if you have particularly small or large ears, a non-standard ear canal shape, or enjoy the satisfaction of a perfect fit every time. Getting a hold of some may require you to visit a local audiologist to have impressions taken of your ears. The audiologist then sends the impressions off to a lab, where they are used to create a pair of earplugs tailored perfectly to your ears.
Alright, let’s get to the list of the best sleep earplugs available in 2022.
1. Mack’s Ultrasoft Foam Earplugs - 50 pairs for $8.99
For a simple, budget-friendly, and effective solution to your night-time noise woes, try Mack’s Ultrasoft Foam Earplugs. Billing themselves as the “Mack-Daddy” of earplugs, reviews online describe them as simple to use, comfortable enough to sleep in (side-sleepers included!), and great at blocking out unwanted sound in a variety of different environments. At the time of writing, 45,549 Amazon reviews from people around the world have given them an aggregate 4.5/5, which is nothing to be sniffed at.
Although they come in the standard “bullet” shape, they perform better than many of their similarly designed competitors, claiming to reduce noise levels by an impressive 33 decibels; that’s about the difference between listening to rain outside and your alarm going off in the morning. To use, roll the soft foam into a thin tube, insert them into the ear canal until only the end is visible in your outer ear, and allow them to expand to the shape of your ear naturally. Mack’s also has a slim-fit version for small and sensitive ear canals.
- Soft, comfortable design makes side-sleeping a dream
- Very impressive noise reduction of 33dB
- Disposable plugs aren’t sustainable or eco-friendly (more than 1 billion pairs of single-use earplugs are thrown away each year)
#2. QuietOn 3.1— Purchase for $289
Note: Soundly readers get 10% off at this link
Headquartered in Finland, QuietOn’s mission is to make “Nordic Quietude accessible to everyone at all times”. Company founders Janne and Matti are both ex-Nokia employees whose idea for an active noise canceling earbud was launched on Indiegogo in 2015. Since then, they have launched three versions of their award-winning earplugs and raised millions from crowdfunding.
TechRadar named them the best earplugs for sleeping in 2021, and as a consumer it’s easy to see why. QuietOn 3.1 comes with a 28 hour battery life, a 1 year warranty, and a 14 day money back guarantee. They are the smallest active noise canceling (ANC) device on the market, and boast an ergonomic shape designed not to get in the way of your comfort, even if you sleep on your side.
It’s important to note however, that the QuietOn 3.1 does not have playback capabilities and unlike some of the entries on this list cannot double up as headphones during the day.
Compact, comfortable design
Impressive battery life
On the expensive side
Can’t be used as regular headphones
#3. Loop - Purchase for $20
Easy on the ears and on the wallet, Loop earbuds are a budget-friendly alternative to tech-heavy noise canceling headphones. A great beginner pair if you are on the fence about whether noise canceling headphones are for you, Loop offers a range of protection from Loop Quiet, which reduces noise by 25 - 27 decibels (SNR), and their Experience and Experience Pro, which offers background noise reduction while keeping speech and other sounds clear.
Their Quiet model is recommended for sleep, and all models can be washed and reused infinitely. Loop has a lifetime guarantee, and the company will replace any broken or worn-out parts free of charge.
Don’t need recharging
Simpler design with no active noise canceling technology
Can’t be used as headphones for music
#4. Sony WF-1000XM4 - $279.99
While the name “WF-1000XM4” isn’t particularly impressive, these clever buds more than make up for it with their wealth of tech, noise-canceling abilities, and long-term wearability. They aren’t marketed specifically as sleep headphones, and while some side-sleepers might find them a little too bulky, they do fit snugly against the concha of the ear and don’t have a stem, like AirPods. Reviews online specifically praise their ability to be worn whilst asleep, and the innovative ‘Noise Isolation Earbud Tips’, which fit snugly into the ear canal and provide passive noise cancelation.
Unlike the Bose Sleepbuds, these Sony earbuds don’t have their own accompanying relaxing “sleepscape” app. Still, they can stream any audio from your phone or other wireless devices, including similar relaxing tracks on Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon or Apple Music. They have inbuilt microphones to take calls without having to disconnect. The microphones also monitor your environment to let important sounds (like alarms and nearby voices) through the noise cancelation while filtering out unwanted background noise. You can even set these levels manually for a truly customizable experience (and so you don’t miss your morning alarm!).
- Cutting edge ANC technology
- Crystal clear sound quality
- More versatile than earbuds specifically designed for sleep
- Charging case included
- Relatively expensive
- Bulkier design may not be suitable for all side sleepers
#5. Happy Ears Plugs - $14.50 per pack
Invented, designed, and produced in Sweden, Happy Ears Earplugs celebrate the simplicity of Scandinavian design. With no electronics, no single-use or disposable parts, and no filters, Happy Ears delivers a simple yet versatile earplug that is just as effective for sleep as it is for swimming, motorsports, or concerts.
Their Discovery Pack features their simple design in small, medium, and large at a discounted rate to help their customers find the perfect fit. They offer free shipping on this bundle, and if you aren’t happy with any of the products in this pack, drop them an email, and they will refund your purchase in full. Though it seems very unlikely you’ll find anything to dislike – New York Magazine has called them your “best bet,” and Forbes named them their “best earplugs for sleep.”
Once you’ve found the right size for you, you can order single-size replacement packs directly from the brand. Happy Ears recommends replacing your earbuds once every six months, so they have launched a 100% recycled range in fully compostable packaging, which comes in a pack of two. The idea is you repurchase them once a year, rather than every six months, to cut down on shipping emissions. You can even order three packs in a range of colors.
American customers won’t have to wait months for postage either, as Happy Plugs’ hub in Salt Lake City offers 1-4 day shipping to the continental US.
- Reusable and offer a fully recycled model
- Simple design, easy to use
- Comfortable fit in a range of sizes
- Small size is potentially fiddly
- More expensive than other reusable earplugs
#6. MeeAudio Snooz-Z - $99.99
If you’re looking for a more bespoke experience tailored to your sleep needs, custom-molded earplugs might be a good investment. MeeAudio offers a pair of medical-grade silicone plugs for just shy of $100, and guarantees a noise reduction of up to 29dB to help you get a quiet night’s sleep. The style ensures a secure fit no matter how much you toss and turn, and the plugs are color-coded red for right and blue for left so you can easily tell them apart even in low-light conditions. Shipping time is 3-4 weeks from receipt of your ear impressions, but an additional $80 rush request will get them to you within 5 working days if you really can’t wait for a good night’s rest.
Keep in mind that you will need to visit an audiologist to take ear impressions. This cost is not included in the price of MeeAudio’s product (nor most other similar custom earplugs online). Prices will vary depending on your provider, but you can expect to spend around $100. These plugs can easily last 5+ years and are likely to save you money over time versus buying and disposing of single-use foam plugs. You can find an American Academy of Audiology accredited clinic here.
- Custom molded fit improves the seal, helping to block noise more effectively
- Infinitely reusable
- MeeAudio store your impressions on file for quick and easy reprinting should you lose one
- Extra cost of an audiologist on top of $100 initial fee
- Quality of the earplug also depends on the quality of molds taken by audiologist
- 3-4 week wait period after they’ve received impressions
#7. Kokoon Nightbuds - $249.99
The last time we discussed Kokoon Nightbuds on the blog, they hadn’t yet been released. Since launching at the end of 2021, however, the reviews are in, and people seem to enjoy the high-quality audio, comfortable fit, and accompanying app (which not only plays a range of sounds for relaxation and sleep but also collects data on your sleep quality). Kokoon Nightbuds do not feature active noise cancelation but instead rely on a combination of passive cancelation, and intelligent noise masking, which blocks out any remaining environmental noise with sounds of your choice played through the internal speakers.
In many ways, the Kokoon Nightbuds feel like a very agreeable middle ground between the Bose Sleepbuds II and Sony WF-1000XM4s. Like Bose’s product, Kokoon’s Nightbuds come with their app full of dreamy audio, but they also stream from apps like Audible, Spotify, Apple Music, Soundcloud, Netflix, and more. Using the external microphone, you can even take calls on them. The in-ear thickness of the Kokoon buds themselves is also more than half that of Bose’s Sleepbuds II (5.4mm compared to Bose’s 12.7mm).
For around the same price as both products, Kokoon Nightbuds offer greater versatility than Bose and are better adapted to sleep than the Sony WF-1000XM4s. While having been on the market only a few short months, their durability is yet to be measured; initial reports look positive.
- Designed for sleep but easily adapted for use as regular wireless headphones
- Great reviews of audio quality and comfort
- Specialized sleep app
- Good but not fantastic 12h battery life, meaning they will need daily recharging