Last updated: August 10, 2021

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Do you often have problems getting some rest at night? When you go to sleep, your thoughts are racing and you never really get the rest you were hoping for? Then sleep headphones could be a possible solution to your problems. In this article we have compiled a lot of information, background and criteria for the perfect sleep headphones and their practical grooves.

We are glad that you came across our great sleep headphones test 2021. We'll give you all the information you need to not only learn what makes good headphones for the night, but also learn about the benefits of listening to music while falling asleep.




Summary

  • Sleep headphones are specifically designed to still be comfortable in bed, not to slip out and not to disturb during a night's rest.
  • Many studies suggest that music makes it easier to fall asleep and reduces stress. Very little of this has been conclusively proven, but it can't hurt to try it out.
  • The two main types of sleep headphones are in-ear models and headband headphones. Both have different advantages and disadvantages.

The Best Sleep Headphones: Our Picks

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying sleep headphones

Many people find it pleasant to fall asleep to music, audio books, white noise or other sounds, and it makes it easier to get some rest. If this is also true for you, you should definitely think about buying sleep headphones. We will explain what they are in the following paragraphs.

What makes sleep headphones and what are the differences between them and normal headphones?

Headphones designed for sleeping differ from normal headphones primarily in one characteristic:

The flatter and lighter, the better!

They are significantly flatter or otherwise optimised to sit comfortably in the ear in different lying positions. This means they won't slip out and you can listen to whatever you want while dozing off.

Where can I buy sleep headphones?

When it comes to sleep headphones, your first port of call should be your nearest electronics store. Whether Media Markt, Saturn or expert, all well-stocked shops that offer headphones should also have models specially made for bed in their range.

Alternatively, the websites of the stores or Amazon are the best option.

How much do sleep headphones cost?

The price of sleep headphones depends entirely on how much you value audio quality. Of course, you can always go for an absolute luxury product from a brand like Sennheiser, but why spend so much money if you're going to spend a lot of your time sleeping with the headphones anyway?

Classical music benefits greatly from good headphones.

Of course, we're not saying that audio quality doesn't matter, but you have to know for yourself how much money you want to invest in passive relaxation.

In general, you can buy very good sleep headphones for around 20 €, which offer a more than adequate sound experience and the necessary wearing comfort. Also consider what you want to listen to. For nature sounds or white noise, the sound quality is completely negligible, but for classical music or other complex pieces, it might be worth spending a little more.

When and for whom are sleep headphones useful?

First and foremost, sleep headphones are useful for you if you are someone who likes to listen to music or other sounds to fall asleep. Normal in-ear headphones are usually too uncomfortable to fall asleep on, headsets are bound to cause you to roll over them painfully or otherwise destroy them, and speakers inevitably ensure that several people are allowed to share in your nightly entertainment.

The logical solution to this problem is headphones that are specifically designed to be worn in bed. So if you have any of the above problems, it can be well worth buying them to make your night's rest more comfortable. Once you've found a good solution, nothing will stand in the way of listening pleasure. And that has some effects on your sleep quality that are not to be neglected.

Schlaf Kopfhörer-1

Insomnia is an extreme source of stress. Music can help.
(Image source: 123rf.com / Białasiewicz)

Especially if you often suffer from sleep deprivation, it can be worthwhile to listen to music before falling asleep or while falling asleep. Studies already point to possible successes of music therapy, even if these have not yet been definitively proven. However, since it is very easy to simply listen to music before falling asleep, it is definitely worth trying. (1)

Just like in everyday life, however, it is important that you do not set the volume too high. Many people tend to turn their music up very loud to cut themselves off from the outside world, but this is very bad for the ears. In general, it is recommended that you turn the music up to a level where you can just hear it. (2)

Did you know that music above 85 decibels can be harmful?

Apps can help you recognise when you have reached this level. Many devices now even give you a warning when you turn up the music too loud.

According to studies, listening to music before falling asleep not only has a positive effect on the quality of sleep (3), but can even have such a stress-reducing effect that even patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder can benefit from the therapeutic effect of music. (4, 5)

However, if you don't pay attention to how loud you turn up the music, you may lose your hearing completely in the long run. So give your ears a break regularly so they can recover. In general, the effects of prolonged direct exposure to sound are still too unexplored to expose yourself to unnecessary risk. (6)

Always remember: if you can just hear the music, you have reached the optimum volume.

What are the alternatives to sleep headphones?

Normal in-ear headphones

Alternatives to sleep headphones that work the same way are few and far between, but some are effective. The most obvious alternative is, of course, normal headphones. If yours feel comfortable while you sleep, there's no real reason to change, because you've already found the perfect solution.

Advantages
  • No additional device
  • often better audio quality
Disadvantages
  • Mostly useless for side sleepers
  • if the headphones slip out, they can break

Speakers

Another option would be a headphone pillow. The loudspeaker is built into the pillow. The big advantage of this, of course, is that it prevents any problems with the construction of your headphones. The disadvantage is that the sound can easily leak out and disturb your partner, for example.

Voice assistants such as Alexa, Google Home and others have the same disadvantage. Although they usually come with many apps to help you fall asleep, they are speakers. The same applies to these: your partner should be very insensitive.

Advantages
  • No foreign objects in the ear
Disadvantages
  • In most cases useless if you don't sleep alone

Decision: What types of sleep headphones are there and which is right for you?

If you are thinking about getting sleep headphones, the most important question is what kind of headphones to get. As with regular headphones, you have several options when it comes to the design of the headphones.

In-ear

Sleep in-ear headphones would be the classic here and the next step up from going to sleep with normal in-ears. The models that are specially optimised for sleep offer extremely small or flat earpieces and are therefore much more comfortable than the standard versions. This means that even if you are a side sleeper, you can get some rest without the foreign objects in your ears being a nuisance.

Headband

The other important option is a sleep headband. You simply put this on before you go to bed like a normal headband and avoid the problem of foreign bodies in the ear completely, because the headband only lies on the head. However, you will have to cope with a slight pressure on your head all night long due to the fabric. For many people, this is unfamiliar or even more unpleasant than headphones in the ear.

With both types, however, there is the disadvantage that the air circulation in and around the ear is severely impaired. This promotes earwax formation and reduces blood circulation. So always make sure to give your ears a break and clean them well (7, 8).

Type of headphones Advantages Disadvantages
In-ears Very light, no pressure on the forehead annoying cable, foreign body in the ear
Headband no foreign body in the ear, optimal solution for side sleepers always slight pressure on the temple, unfamiliar headgear in bed

Buying criteria: Use these factors to compare and evaluate sleep headphones

In the following, we will show you which aspects play the most important role when deciding on sleep headphones.

The criteria you can use to compare sleep headphones include:

In the next paragraph, we will explain what each criterion entails.

Construction

In-ears or headband? How big or small should the earplugs be? Pure rubber, plastic or metal elements? What material should the headband be made of? Are you allergic to any of them? These are all questions you can ask yourself before you buy sleep headphones. Especially with higher-priced models that will be with you for a while, this criterion is very important.

Comfort

Wearing comfort is of course a highly subjective criterion, but it is also the most important. After all, everyone sleeps differently, turns or stays still the whole night, some people only sleep on their back, others are side sleepers.

Did you know that people move between 30 and 80 times during the night?

The body needs to stay active to strengthen joints, muscles and bones. That's why your mattress should not be too soft, otherwise you will sink in and movements will become more difficult.

Nothing is more counterproductive than having sleep headphones in your ears to keep you awake at night. The big problem, of course, is how hard it is to know before you buy whether you can sleep well with the particular model in your ear.

However, you shouldn't let this stop you, as products can always be exchanged in such cases, especially if you buy them from Amazon.

Schlaf Kopfhörer-2

Many headphones are uncomfortable, especially for side sleepers.
(Image source: 123rf.com / Rawpixel)

However, there are some details you can check in advance. If you want to buy in-ear models, you can simply try sleeping with the corresponding normal headphone model. If you can't get any rest at all with them, it's probably not worth buying a sleep version, but a headband sleep headset can still be worthwhile.

Again, it's easy to acclimatise, at least if you have a headband at home. Just put it on and lie down with it, if you can fall asleep without any problems, such a model is probably the better buy.

Wireless or wired

Another essential question is whether to get wireless or wired headphones. Here, too, you should be aware of how much you move around in your sleep. Cables can easily become a problem. Whether they wrap around parts of your body, get stuck under your ribcage and cause pain or, in the worst case, rip a mobile phone off the bedside table, there can be some problems.

The solution to this can be wireless sleep headphones. These have the great advantage that you don't have to worry about long cables. Instead, at most a short one hangs from the back of your neck and should be able to rest there for a night. The price point is a little higher for this, but a Bluetooth function doesn't make as big a financial difference these days as it did a few years ago.

Sound quality

Last but not least, a word about sound quality. As mentioned earlier, you can spend a lot of money on this criterion, but always keep in mind that you will probably only use your sleep headphones to go to sleep. The pure audio quality is therefore only of secondary importance. This is especially true if you don't listen to music, but rather to podcasts or nature sounds. For these, exceptionally good audio quality is even more secondary.

The trick, therefore, is to look for headphones that offer a good ratio of sound quality to price. Especially if you don't want to spend a lot of money on headphones, you should look at models in the price range of about €20. These offer perfectly adequate sound for the vast majority of users and are still absolutely affordable.

Facts and figures on the subject of sleep headphones

Which music is best for falling asleep?

Research into the best genres for a healthy and good night's sleep is still in its infancy, but the results so far are quite interesting. For most people, the playlist for falling asleep is limited to comparatively quiet, slow songs with a tempo of around 60-80 BPM.

However, a majority of the people surveyed in a study on this topic scored lower on playlists with theoretically relaxing but unfamiliar songs (9).

Can you learn while you sleep?

Studies are still quite divided on this. While some researchers suggest that you can reactivate memories at night by listening to the same music you listened to while studying (10), how effective such methods actually are is still largely unclear (11). The amount of studies on this topic is simply too low.

Photo source: belchonock/ 123rf.com

References (11)

1. Jespersen KV, Koenig J, Jennum P, Vuust P. Music for insomnia in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015, Issue 8. Art.
Source

2. Metternich FU, Brusis T. Laryngorhinootologie. 1999 Nov;78(11):614-9.
Source

3. Harmat, L., Takács, J. and Bódizs, R. (2008), Music improves sleep quality in students. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 62: 327-335. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2648.2008.04602.x
Source

4. Linnemann, Alexandra; Ditzen, Beate; Strahler, Jana; Doerr, Johanna M.; Nater, Urs M. (2015): Music listening as a means of stress reduction in daily life. Psychoneuroendocrinology 60, S. 82–90.
Source

5. Kira Vibe Jespersen, MSc, Peter Vuust, PhD, The Effect of Relaxation Music Listening on Sleep Quality in Traumatized Refugees: A Pilot Study, Journal of Music Therapy, Volume 49, Issue 2, Summer 2012, Pages 205–229
Source

6. Petrescu, Nicolae. “Loud music listening.” McGill journal of medicine : MJM : an international forum for the advancement of medical sciences by students vol. 11,2 (2008): 169-76.
Source

7. Mazlan, R et al. “Ear infection and hearing loss amongst headphone users.” The Malaysian journal of medical sciences : MJMS vol. 9,2 (2002): 17-22.
Source

8. Hodgetts, William E.; Rieger, Jana M.; Szarko, Ryan A. The Effects of Listening Environment and Earphone Style on Preferred Listening Levels of Normal Hearing Adults Using an MP3 Player, Ear and Hearing: June 2007 - Volume 28 - Issue 3 - p 290-297
Source

9. Trahan, Tabitha; Durrant, Simon J.; Müllensiefen, Daniel; Williamson, Victoria J. (2018): The music that helps people sleep and the reasons they believe it works: A mixed methods analysis of online survey reports. PloS one 13 (11), e0206531.
Source

10. Gao, Chenlu; Fillmore, Paul; Scullin, Michael K. (2020): Classical music, educational learning, and slow wave sleep: A targeted memory reactivation experiment. Neurobiology of learning and memory 171, S. 107206.
Source

11. Gao, Chenlu; Fillmore, Paul; Scullin, Michael K. (2020): Classical music, educational learning, and slow wave sleep: A targeted memory reactivation experiment. Neurobiology of learning and memory 171, S. 107206.
Source

Studie zum Einfluss von Musik auf Erwachsene, die unter Schlaflosigkeit leiden
Jespersen KV, Koenig J, Jennum P, Vuust P. Music for insomnia in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015, Issue 8. Art.
Go to source
Studie zu Gehörverlust durch Musik
Metternich FU, Brusis T. Laryngorhinootologie. 1999 Nov;78(11):614-9.
Go to source
Studie zur Schlafqualität mit Musik
Harmat, L., Takács, J. and Bódizs, R. (2008), Music improves sleep quality in students. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 62: 327-335. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2648.2008.04602.x
Go to source
Studie zur Stressreduzierung durch Musik im Alltag
Linnemann, Alexandra; Ditzen, Beate; Strahler, Jana; Doerr, Johanna M.; Nater, Urs M. (2015): Music listening as a means of stress reduction in daily life. Psychoneuroendocrinology 60, S. 82–90.
Go to source
Studie zum Einfluss von Musik auf die Schlafqualität von Menschen mit PTBS
Kira Vibe Jespersen, MSc, Peter Vuust, PhD, The Effect of Relaxation Music Listening on Sleep Quality in Traumatized Refugees: A Pilot Study, Journal of Music Therapy, Volume 49, Issue 2, Summer 2012, Pages 205–229
Go to source
Studie zur Lautstärke von Musik
Petrescu, Nicolae. “Loud music listening.” McGill journal of medicine : MJM : an international forum for the advancement of medical sciences by students vol. 11,2 (2008): 169-76.
Go to source
Studie zu Nebenwirkungen bei der Benutzung von Kopfhörern
Mazlan, R et al. “Ear infection and hearing loss amongst headphone users.” The Malaysian journal of medical sciences : MJMS vol. 9,2 (2002): 17-22.
Go to source
Studie zum Effekt von In-Ear-Kopfhörern auf Erwachsene
Hodgetts, William E.; Rieger, Jana M.; Szarko, Ryan A. The Effects of Listening Environment and Earphone Style on Preferred Listening Levels of Normal Hearing Adults Using an MP3 Player, Ear and Hearing: June 2007 - Volume 28 - Issue 3 - p 290-297
Go to source
Aufsatz zum Thema Musikgenres
Trahan, Tabitha; Durrant, Simon J.; Müllensiefen, Daniel; Williamson, Victoria J. (2018): The music that helps people sleep and the reasons they believe it works: A mixed methods analysis of online survey reports. PloS one 13 (11), e0206531.
Go to source
Studie zur Reaktivierung von Erinnerungen durch Musik im Schlaf
Gao, Chenlu; Fillmore, Paul; Scullin, Michael K. (2020): Classical music, educational learning, and slow wave sleep: A targeted memory reactivation experiment. Neurobiology of learning and memory 171, S. 107206.
Go to source
Studie zum Lernen von Vokabeln im Schlaf
Gao, Chenlu; Fillmore, Paul; Scullin, Michael K. (2020): Classical music, educational learning, and slow wave sleep: A targeted memory reactivation experiment. Neurobiology of learning and memory 171, S. 107206.
Go to source
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