Noise Canceling Headphones For Sleeping - Do They Really Work?

23rd May 2020

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Headphones keep the world out and the joy in! When we’re feeling down, we can lose ourselves in our music. When we’re in a great mood, they fill our ears with a bouncy beat and funky lyrics. But did you know that noise canceling headphones for sleeping can make a difference to the quality of your sleep?

If you live in a noisy place, or with a person or pet who snores, a great set of headphones could change your life! Not just any old pair of headphones can be helpful for sleeping, though. You’ll want one that’s noise canceling or noise isolating.

Of course, there’s also a difference between headphones, earphones, and earbuds. Some are in-ear, some are on-ear, and others fit over your ears. We’ll use the term “headphones” generically throughout. But we’ll also go through the differences and which is best for sleeping.

We’ve reviewed a few of the best sleep-related headphone products in 2020. Sleepless nights can be a thing of the past with one of these gadgets!

What Exactly Are Noise Canceling Headphones?

Not all headphones are the same. There are the regular kind, which play your music right into your ears whenever and wherever you want. If you stick them in your ears without a song playing, you’ll still hear all the stuff going on in the world around you.

Then there are noise canceling headphones. These types of earphones reduce outside ambient noise. You can not only have a better musical experience, but they also block out sound even when you aren’t actively listening to anything.

They were originally created for airline pilots! The idea was to minimize distractions and increase relaxation on long flights.

Where Can You Use Noise Canceling Headphones?

These types of headphones are super versatile. Using noise canceling headphones for sleeping is one of the most common ways to use them. Even if you don’t have sleeping issues they’re helpful in certain situations.

They can help reduce common sounds everywhere, including:

  • The bustle of crowds
  • Road sounds in vehicles (as a passenger - never wear headphones if you’re driving!)
  • Rail sounds on a train
  • General commotion on a flight
  • Traffic din and honking
  • The neighbors’ yapping dogs
  • Airplanes flying overhead
  • Your partner snoring (or your own snoring!)

How Do Noise Canceling Headphones Work?

There are two types of noise canceling earphones: active and passive.

The technology behind active headphones is called active noise-cancelation (ANC). You may be surprised to hear that it makes use of microphones to do its thing. Here’s how it works, in a nutshell:

  • The microphone picks up low-frequency sound.
  • In response, the gadget generates a tone that’s the exact opposite frequency (in tech terms, it’s called being 180° out of phase)
  • The two sounds cancel each other out.
  • You hear nothing but peace and quiet!

This simple yet effective bit of tech reduces the volume of the world around you by about 30 to 40 decibels.

Passive earphones are a less techy version. They use layers of sound-absorbing material to reduce outside commotion. They can decrease sound level by up to 20 decibels.

For some insight into sound levels, an increase of 10 decibels indicates a x10 increase in volume! That means that a tone of 20 decibels is ten times louder than one of 30db. That shows that active phones are quite a bit more effective at reducing those decibels.

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Which Is Better: Active or Passive?

This depends on you, but here are some quick pros and cons about each to help you decide:

Active:

  • Volume reduction of 30 to 40db
  • Fairly lightweight
  • Need an energy source
  • Effective in bud or over-ear form

Passive:

  • Volume reduction up to 20db
  • Heavier than active due to extra layers
  • No energy source needed
  • May be less effective in earbud form unless a great seal is formed

Are There Downsides To These Kinds of Earphones?

Not everyone’s eardrums deal well with noise canceling headphones! The feeling can be similar to being underwater or high in the air in a plane.

Some side-effects reported by customers include:

  • Pressure on the eardrums
  • Eardrum pain
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

It’s interesting to note that there’s no measurable difference in air pressure when wearing these! It seems to be purely psychosomatic, but it could be enough to put some people off.

Using Noise Canceling Headphones for Sleeping

Noise canceling headphones are an awesome thing to have if you spend any time:

  • Walking in public
  • In a busy office environment
  • Traveling on public transport
  • In a noisy environment
  • Meditating in public spaces such as parks
  • In an environment where you need to focus

If you don’t have to deal with those things, you can still use a set of noise canceling headphones for sleeping. We all sleep, so every person can benefit from them!

You can use normal earphones for sleeping if you simply want some relaxing music to doze off to. For some people, this can be enough to kick in a deep sleep.

If you’re one of these people, we recommend giving Bedphones a try. They’re one of the smallest of their kind, designed for comfort, and produce big sound for small phones!

If you do want to shut everything out, you can try using noise canceling headphones for sleeping. You’ll fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and not be woken by the usual sounds that keep you up at night.

An easy-to-use tool such as this for reducing noise can be super if you:

  • Live in a noisy neighborhood (traffic, animals, etc.)
  • Are a very light sleeper
  • Have to endure the sounds of snoring
  • Live with someone who needs noise to fall asleep!

Even if you don’t have trouble sleeping, they can be great for minimizing distraction if you:

  • Listen to music or an audiobook before falling asleep
  • Listen to a podcast before bed
  • Struggle to relax before falling asleep

Benefits of Using Them for Better Sleep

You may wonder why increasing the effectiveness of your sleep makes a difference. Sleep is sleep, right, whether you wear headphones or not.

That is true, but just one bad night’s sleep can have some nasty effects.

  • Fatigue
  • Decreased memory
  • Impaired hand-eye coordination
  • Unusual irritability
  • Decreased self-control

On the flip side, getting an uninterrupted night’s sleep can have some huge benefits, such as:

  • Improved concentration
  • Better performance
  • More physical energy
  • Better mood
  • Increased willpower (to avoid binge eating!)

If you struggle with sleep due to sound interference, it’s worth trying this technology out.

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FAQs

Here are some of the most wondered-about questions regarding this method of sound-dampening.

What’s The Difference Between Noise-Canceling and Noise-Isolating?

It’s simple - active sets are noise-canceling, while passive sets are noise-isolating.

As we learnt above, the technology used in active headsets literally cancels out low-frequency sounds.

In isolating devices, the padding isolates the wearer from the outside by its design.

Are In-Ear, On-Ear, or Over-Ear Headphones Best?

This is a fairly individual thing. It depends on whatever you find comfortable and effective. It’s pretty easy to figure out the mechanics of each one.

  • In-ear: also known as earbuds, these fit directly into the ear.
  • On-ear: these rest just on the ear, and are about the same size as it.
  • Over-ear: these are the biggest, covering the whole ear with “ear cups”.

All of the types come in canceling and isolating varieties. It comes down to which is the most comfortable for you!

Is It Safe To Sleep With Them On?

While it is advised to be careful, you definitely can sleep with your headphones on. It helps decrease night-time noise and get a better night’s rest.

If you are planning on sleeping with your phones on, you’ll need to decide which style will be best for you. Some can sleep comfortably with over-ears, while others prefer on-ears. In-ears can cause pain if you end up sleeping wrong on them, but it all depends on the style of the pair you choose.

Some other things to think about include:

  • Wireless or wired?
  • Powered or not?
  • How active are you in your sleep?

Can My Headphones Get Damaged While I Sleep?

As long as you don’t fall out of the bed and land on your ear, your phones should stay safe. The only thing you may need to consider is the possibility of bending the cable if you roll over onto it!

Headphones that are designed for sleep are more petite than normal ones, though. This ups the comfort factor, but naturally makes them more susceptible to wear and tear. Especially if you’re lying on them for 8 hours a night!

Make sure the company you get them from has a solid warranty in place. Not only is this indicative of quality, it will give you peace of mind when using them!

Best Noise Canceling Headphones For Sleeping

We’ve covered the pros and cons of some of the best noise canceling headphones for sleeping on the market in 2020.

Active (Sound-canceling) Options

Bose QuietComfort 20 Noise-Canceling Headphones

These in-ear noise canceling headphones are incredibly versatile. They’re great for listening to music and taking calls, and easy to switch from one to the other using the inline mic.

The sound quality is superb, thanks to Bose’s Active EQ. The unique cone-shape design aims for comfort. It’s also great for creating a seal to further block out external action.

This “Aware” function allows these little buds to be both highly effective and super safe. You can switch noise-canceling on or off at the touch of a button. No need to worry about your SO wandering into traffic while wearing these! As long as they make an effort to stay aware where they need to be, they'll be perfectly safe.

Pros

  • Come with Aware mode.
  • Built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery.
  • USB charging cable included.
  • Inline microphone with one-touch answering function.

Cons

  • Only work with selected Apple, Samsung, and Android devices.

Bose QuietControl 30 Wireless Headphones

Bose makes some good stuff, and this is a great wireless alternative to the above wired set. The neckband design keeps them pretty stable even while you sleep.

The Bluetooth range is up to 10 meters, so you can leave your phone safe on the bedside table while you sleep. It has a dual-mic system that helps reduce ambience while you’re listening to music and make clearer calls.

These use newer tech to allow you to control the level of noise cancelation on-the-go. That, and their volume-optimized EQ, allows you to have the best of both - a safe and high-quality experience.

Pros

  • Wireless, so don’t restrict movement.
  • Free Bose Connect app.
  • Allows for noise-control.
  • Bluetooth range of 10m.
  • Neckband design helps keep them stable while sleeping.

Cons

  • Noise-canceling may power down while you’re asleep, reducing the effect.

Sony WF-1000XM3 Industry Leading Noise Canceling Truly Wireless Earbuds

With 3000 reviews and a 4-star rating, these earbuds are a true sound-canceling gadget. They utilize Sony’s proprietary HD Noise Canceling Processor QN1e. This tech helps improve cancelation and audio quality at the same time.

They’re pretty small, and their flatter design makes them one of our choices to use when sleeping.

The “true wireless” label is accurate.They promise an uninterrupted, L/R simultaneous Bluetooth transmission. You won’t get a dead spot when you turn over in the night!

If you download the Sony Connect app, you can control your ambient sound settings as you please. A nice feature is that they monitor your activity and change modes automatically.

If you’re short on time, charge them for 10 minutes to get up to 90 minutes of playback. A full charge will give you around 6 hours.

Pros

  • Industry-leading tech.
  • Uninterrupted L/R Bluetooth transmission.
  • Sony Connect app for sound control.
  • Alexa voice control.
  • Quick-attention mode.
  • Adaptive sound control monitors your activity and switches modes automatically.

Cons

  • Cancelation tech can compress the speaker’s voice on phone calls.

Sony Noise Cancelling Headphones WH1000XM3

Many people may struggle to sleep with over-ear headphones. Despite that, we’ve included these on our list as the best noise canceling headphones for sleeping on an airplane.

Almost 10 000 people have reviewed this product, which has resulted in a rating of 4.6 stars out of 5. That’s a pretty great rating, so we can assume they go above and beyond when it comes to serving their purpose.

They’re Alexa-enabled so you can do everything by voice command. A really nice feature is their Quick Attention mode. Just cover the right ear cup and the volume will automatically decrease.

These are one of the best products in the word at the moment. We recommend them if you’re planning on doing a lot of traveling. They’re our choice for the best noise canceling headphones for sleeping in a car or plane.

Pros

  • Soundproof with industry-topping ANC technology.
  • Alexa-enabled for voice assistance.
  • Quick-attention mode for easy switching.
  • Up to 30 hours playback from a single charge.
  • Foldable for easy carrying.

Cons

  • Some customers report them being easily breakable.

Passive (Sound-Isolating) Options

Maxrock Sleep Earbuds

These buds are ergonomically designed to fit perfectly into the ear. They’re pretty good at blocking out all outside audio clutter. They’re made to fit most ears, with a two-layer design that allows for it to form a snug seal and move as little as possible.

The silicone speaker housing is soft and comfy enough for extended wear. If you’re a restless sleeper, you’ll need to be careful not to get wrapped up in the cord during the night. It’s fairly thin, but you don’t want to snap the cable or pull your phone off the bed or table!

Pros

  • Mini in-ear design.
  • Ergonomic two-layer earbud.
  • Soft silicone for comfort.
  • Clear & crisp audio performance.

Cons

  • Cord might strangle you in your sleep!
  • No different sizes of silicone flanges.

Noise-Covering Options (Best for Music)

If you don’t need a fancy noise-killing pair of earphones, one that plays music can be effective to help you sleep. Check out these options if you just want something to block out the dog’s snoring and help you float away.

DubsLabs Bedphones Sleep Headphones

These miniscule buds have received glowing reviews from some big names. Think Mashable, Adweek, and Budget Travel! With comments like “Comfy enough to wear all night”, and “Comfy, flat, and pillow-safe”, you won’t have any issues with these during the night.

They’re less than ¼” thick, so you could possibly forget that they’re even there. You can also choose from wireless or wired, to suit you. The infinitely adjustable ear hooks make sure they stay snug all night long.

Give them a try and you’ll see why everyone is raving about them!

Pros

  • Helps you fall asleep and stay asleep.
  • Portable, and comes with a travel pouch.
  • Less than 1/4” in thickness.
  • Wired or wireless options available.
  • Adjustable and flexible ear hooks.
  • DubsLabs has created a Sleep Sounds playlist.
  • Comes with a satin eye mask.
  • 1-year warranty.

Cons

  • No variation in color combinations.

Acoustic Sheep SleepPhones

This headband design is perfect for a comfy sleep. The headphones are made to be noise-covering. They have a layer of soft, fleecy material to absorb outer audio.

They work best if you listen to music, as the music will also drown out other sounds.

This headband is a fantastic option if you’re looking for comfort over cancelation. It still has some noise-blocking ability. No more waking up with sore ears - this is a blissful head cushion that comes in various colors and sizes.

Pros

  • Soft, machine-washable fabric.
  • Available in wired or wireless.
  • Doubles up as an eye mask.
  • Removable speakers.
  • Noise-blocking.

Cons

  • Some devices will need an adapter.
  • Without music, noise may still be quite noticeable.

Sleepace Sleep Headphones

A mask/earphone combo is always a great idea for sleeping. It keeps out the light while helping cover up surrounding hustle that may keep you awake.

If you like to fall asleep to music, these could be a good fit for you. You can pick your music, and Sleepace has some white noise tracks and ASMR for you to try out.

Even better, the software monitors your sleep and detects when it needs to switch off. No more running the battery flat for no reason!

Pros

  • Comfortable, washable eye mask with built-in earphones.
  • Removable speakers.
  • Made of silk and lycra.
  • Sleep monitoring function.
  • Music stops when you sleep.

Cons

  • Won’t work on phones without a 3.5 mm headphone receptacle.
  • No cushioning, so could cause slight ear pain if sleeping on your side.

Tooks Sportband

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This stylish headband is versatile enough for sport and sleep. Choose between black, pink, or winter white, to match your gym outfit or PJs!

The earphones are easy to remove so you can keep the fleece clean. It’s quite comfy to sleep with, but may not reduce noise much unless it’s actively playing music.

Pros

  • Integrated microphone, volume, and music/call control.
  • Soft microfleece for extra comfort.
  • Wired or wireless options.
  • Removable headphone speakers.

Cons

  • Not suitable for children below the age of 13.

Homder Sleep Headphones

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Although these state that they’re noise-canceling, they don’t use ANC tech. That means they’re only noise-isolating at best.

Customers do report that there is no sound-blocking unless music is playing. With that in mind, we feel they fall best under noise-covering earphones.

They’re super soft and have extra padding on the sides. You can sleep comfortably in whichever position you like.

They’re Bluetooth-enabled, so you won’t have to worry about a cable snaking around your neck in the night.

Pros

  • Rechargeable battery.
  • Velcro adjustable eye mask.
  • Soft and washable.
  • Bluetooth-enabled.
  • Block light and noise.

Cons

  • The speakers in the mask shift when you put on the mask.
  • Won’t block noise unless you turn them on and play something.
  • Hard to remove the headphones to clean.

Watotgafer Sleep Headphones

This Bluetooth mask ticks all the boxes for being a comfy and easy-to-use sleep music player. It won’t cancel or block out ambient sound. But if you want to drift off with a melody in your ears, you can count on this gadget to do that for you.

It has pretty great ratings, and is one of the most comfortable out there. Its memory sponge 3D padding design makes it easy on the ears and the nose. You can wear it for hours and not wake up feeling like your head is in a vice grip.

Pros

  • Breathable, slow-rebound memory sponge.
  • Soft for side sleepers.
  • Rechargeable battery (over 8 hours playing time).
  • Wireless, Bluetooth 5.0.
  • 3D inner design for comfort.

Cons

  • Pairing with a device seems to be a bit tricky.

Alternatives

If you don’t like the idea of wearing things on your ears or you’d rather use something else, you can try:

Conclusion

Using noise canceling headphones for sleeping can help you get a better rest. They work best if you’re surrounded by low-frequency noise at night.

If you just want something to play your music or a podcast before you sleep, you can go for a non-noise canceling pair. They’re more affordable and serve their purpose well.

The fact is, if you choose a pair of headphones that uses true noise-canceling technology, you’ll find your sleep quality improves. It makes a difference when you’re no longer waking up constantly!

Of course,they aren’t a miracle solution. You should practice good sleep hygiene and make sure you have a regular night time routine, too.

Happy sleeping!