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 2022.
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? Here's a few handy pointers...
How to choose the best headphones for sleeping
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.
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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.
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
The Apple AirPods Max are cost more than most other premium wireless noise-cancelling headphones, but they really do justify that extra outlay. They're also extremely comfy, and therefore well-suited to slumber.
Between the cups and your head are memory-foam cushions that easily surround even the largest ears, creating a seal that’s both gentle and surprisingly effective at physically blocking out sound.
Sound is detailed, crisp and spaciousness and build quality is beyond reproach.
It's important to note you need an iPhone or iPad to get the most out of the AirPods Max. Whilst they do work with non-Apple products using standard Bluetooth 5.0, you’ll miss out on many of their unique features.
Assuming you're a keen Apple user with a healthy budget, these are some of the best headphones for sleeping in.
Read the full Apple AirPods Max review
Think of Sony's WF-C500 wireless earbuds as a no-frills version of the WF-1000XM4 (above). They deliver a lot of what makes those wireless earbuds a success without cutting too many corners.
They're good for running and sports, thanks to their IPX4 rating, while you also get ‘fast pair’ connectivity with Android devices and ‘swift pair’ with Windows 10 PCs.
They're simple to get into position and will stay comfortable for hours once they’re there, making them some of the best headphones for sleeping. Sound is nicely balanced, there's loads of mid-range detail on show.
Battery life is 10 hours from the buds themselves, which should be plenty for most, and the case provides another 10 hours so the total battery life can be bettered by some rivals. But, if you're after a great sub-£100 pair of headphones for sleeping, the WF-C500 should be on your shortlist.
Read the full Sony WF-C500 review
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
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
How we test headphones
We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London, Reading and Bath, where our team of experienced, in-house reviewers test the majority of hi-fi and AV kit that passes through our door.
Of course, testing headphones don't often require such facilities (though we do often try audiophile headphones in our reference hi-fi system). What is important in our headphones reviewing process is that each pair is compared to the best in its price and style class – whether that's one standout pair or a few we favour the highest among the 100+ pairs we listen to each year for reviews and What Hi-Fi? Awards judging. What Hi-Fi? is all about comparative testing, and we keep class-leading products in our stockrooms so we can always compare new products to ones we know and love.
We are always impartial and do our best to make sure we're hearing every product at their very best, so we'll try plenty of different types of music and give them plenty of listening time (and time to run in), while the wired headphones that might warrant being used with a DAC are tested with a suitable one. It's not just about sound quality, of course. If a pair has active noise cancellation – increasingly the case these days – we'll ensure part of our testing involves using them in different environments.
All review verdicts are agreed upon by the team rather than an individual reviewer to eliminate any personal preference and to make sure we're being as thorough as possible, too. There's no input from PR companies or our sales team when it comes to the verdict, with What Hi-Fi? proud of having delivered honest, unbiased reviews for decades.
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