6 Best Noise Cancelling Headphones for Sleeping [2021]

Woman sleeping while wearing Kokoon Sleep Headphones (From: Kokoon)
Woman sleeping while wearing Kokoon Sleep Headphones (From: Kokoon)

Tips on how to find the best Active Noise Cancelling headphones for sleeping, plus our top six recommendations to help you sleep better.

NameForm FactorBattery LifeSleep PositionPrice
Kokoon Sleep Headphones Best Over-allOver-ear13 hoursBack, Upright, & SideBUY
QuietOn Sleep Earbuds Strong Runner-upTrue Wireless20 hoursBack, Upright, & SideBUY
Taotronics BH042 Best Budget #1In-ear with neckband16 hours ANC off; 8 hours ANC onBack & UprightBUY
Mpow H19 IPO Best Budget #2Over-ear30-35 hours wireless playtimeBack & UprightBUY
Bose QC35ii Most VersatileOver-ear20 hoursBack & UprightBUY
Sony WH-1000XM4 Best for In-Flight SleepingOver-ear30 hoursBack & UprightBUY

How to Pick the Best Noise Cancelling Headphones for Sleeping?

Sleep is one of life’s most precious commodities. It helps us heal, recharges us, and keeps us sane in the face of our busy, fast-paced lives. But as the world gets progressively more hectic, the harder it is to disconnect and have some quiet time. As a result, sleep becomes something we find ourselves getting less and less of.

The lack of sleep can have some serious consequences. It messes with your internal body clock, increases stress levels, affects memory and cognition, hampers the body’s ability to heal, and so on.

Most of us already lead stressful lives as it is. So, it’s important to take steps to ensure we’re getting good, restful sleep when we can.

There are many ways to go about this, depending on what factors are causing your sleep deprivation. If disruptive noises are at the root, a quick way to remedy this is by getting a pair of noise cancelling headphones or earphones. These will help minimize unwanted background noise so that you can fall asleep with ease.

However, noise cancelling headphones aren’t usually built for sleep. In fact, since padding adds to the seal and noise reduction, most of them are too bulky to let you sleep comfortably. That’s why you can’t simply go for just any noise cancelling headphones for sleep. There are many factors you should consider and just thinking about them may cause even more stress!

Naturally, noise cancelling devices aren’t all built the same way. So, to help you make a more informed decision, we’ve compiled some important buying factors to consider before you make a purchase.

Active Noise Cancellation

Woman sleeping while wearing Kokoon Sleep Headphones (From: Kokoon)
Woman sleeping while wearing Kokoon Sleep Headphones (From: Kokoon)

Headphones typically provide two types of noise cancellation – passive or active.

Passive noise cancellation (PNC) utilizes materials, such as foam or silicone, to create a seal over the ear. This seal works by physically blocking out unwanted noise. Active noise cancellation (ANC), on the other hand, uses tiny microphones to listen to ambient noise in our environment. The noise is then filtered and removed by the built-in noise-canceling system.

If your goal is to be able to sleep even in noisy surroundings, you should definitely get a pair of ANC headphones. PNC headphones reduce mid to high-frequency sounds by 15dB to 30dB. Whereas ANC headphones can reduce mid- to low-frequency sounds by as much as 20dB to 45dB. They also protect your ears by decreasing the need to turn up the volume of your music.

Form factor & Sleep Position

Since these headphones (or earphones) will be used primarily for sleep, you’ll want them to be as comfortable as possible. Ideally, it’s best to go wireless. Wired headphones or earbuds can get tangled or pulled off during sleep, which defeats the purpose of having them in the first place.

Sleeping with headphones also isn’t natural. We’ve lived our lives not wearing anything on our ears when we sleep so even learning how to sleep with headphones is a thing. As much as possible, you should go for something that wouldn’t require much adjustments to your sleeping habits.

With that said, take into consideration your sleeping position. Are you a side sleeper? Do you frequently toss and turn? Asking yourself these questions will help you zero in on the features that you should be looking for.

Here are some wireless options to consider depending on what type of sleeper you are:

Over-ear headphones

Best for: Back sleepers and upright sleepers

If sleeping on your back comes naturally, you can opt for the standard wireless over-ear headphones. These will give you good noise cancellation, minus the worry of them falling out while you’re sleeping. Over-ear headphones are also a good option for those who prefer not having earbuds jammed into their ear canals for 8 hours every night.

Side sleepers may also get away with using over-ear headphones. Models with more streamlined profiles will still give you that unintrusive support even when sleeping on your side. Some over-ear headphones also come with non-bulky padding that can cushion the ears just as well as the thicker ones can.

True wireless earbuds

Best for: Side sleepers

True wireless earphones are smaller, more discreet, and less bulky, making them great for side sleepers. They eliminate the possibility of getting tangled up as you sleep. They also lessen the likelihood of the earphones getting tugged out of your ear.

A good fit is essential if you’re considering these types of earphones. This doesn’t just ensure that the earphones will stay put as you toss and turn at night, but it also enhances its noise-reducing capabilities. Since most earphones come with different sized replaceable ear tips, finding the perfect fit shouldn’t be a problem.

Another way to ensure a secure fit with wireless in-ears is to choose ones with wingtips or fins. These extra bits of silicone that jut out help anchor the earphones more securely in the ear. This makes them less likely to fall out when accidentally nudged.

In-ears with neckband

Best for: Restless sleepers

If you tend to be a bit more mobile while falling asleep, your best bet is wireless in-ears with a neckband. These are particularly helpful for those who are hesitant to use true wireless earphones because they don’t want to deal with the annoyance of losing an earbud in the sheets while tossing and turning. The wire is also not long enough to get tangled up or tugged during sleep.

Perhaps one downside some may find with these types of earphones is that the neckband wires may feel somewhat uncomfortable overnight.

Aside from the mentioned form factors, headbands and sleep mask headphones are also popular types for sleep headphones. However, there is currently no such type with built-in ANC as of the time of writing.

Comfortability

Man reading with headphones (From:Unplash).
Man reading with headphones (From:Unplash).

Long-wearing comfort is a crucial factor to consider when choosing headphones for sleeping. An obvious reason for this is because you’re going to be wearing them for an extended amount of time. And in that prolonged amount of time, even the smallest annoyances can become very pronounced if consistent enough.

For example, any headphones or earphones will feel fine in the first 15-30 minutes of wearing. It’s only after an hour or two that you’ll realize they might feel too stuffy on the ears, or the clamping force is too tight, or the ear pads aren’t cushy enough.

That said, it’s important to get a good sense of how headphones or earphones feel when worn. Obviously, the best way to figure this out is by trying them on. But if you can’t do this physically, there are several factors to consider when determining the comfortability of headphones. For sleeping, in particular, you should examine the following.

  • Cushions: Cushions refer to headphone earpads and earphone ear tips. Aside from design and comfort, they contribute to sealing the ear canal to improve the noise isolation of headphones. For earpads, always look for something with enough padding but still breathable. Fabric-type materials are usually more recommended. While for ear tips, memory foam is the way to go.
  • Adjustability: Having more adjustability options allows you to customize the way your device fits you. This is especially important when using your device to sleep because you want them to feel like they practically aren’t there. For earphones, go for those with multiple sizes of ear tips options. And for headphones, For headphones, look for ones that have rotatable ear cups and extendable headbands.
  • Size: Size refers to the overall profile of the device. Since these headphones and earphones are to be used for sleep, you’ll want to stay away from bulky designs and go for ones with ‘slimmer’ profiles.

Build quality

Hands holding headphones (From:Pexels).
Hands holding headphones (From:Pexels).

Build quality refers to a device’s durability. This encompasses the type of materials used and the overall ‘feel’ of the device (if they feel expensive or cheap.)

When we’re asleep, we’re mostly completely unaware of our movements, and we’re certainly not able to control them. If you’re a mobile sleeper, flimsily-made devices may give you durability issues. So, you’re better off investing in a pair of sturdy headphones or earphones that can withstand any amount of tossing and turning you do in your sleep.

To determine good build quality, consider the following:

  • Materials used: For headphones, check to see if the headband is made from dense plastic. Cheaper plastics have this ‘rickety’ feel to them, almost like you could snap them in half with your hands alone. Metal-reinforced headbands are even better as they are made to last longer and endure more physical stress. If the headphones are foldable, know that hinges can be potential weak spots.
Waterproof materials are something to look out for as well, especially if you tend to get a bit sweaty during the night. This ensures your device stays in tip-top shape despite exposure to moisture.
  • Warranty: Usually, devices come with the standard 1-year warranty. Longer warranty coverage (2 years and up) is indicative of the brand’s confidence in the durability of its product. This tells you that the product will likely last you through the first year or longer without any serious issues.
  • User reviews: If you can’t go to a physical store and check out the products for yourself, you can always go through user reviews online. Reviews from real people will give you a better idea of how a device fares in real-world settings. Just try not to stick only to 5-star reviews. You want to get as broad an impression as possible, so make sure to go through 2-star and 1-star reviews too.

Noise masking

Another factor to consider when buying headphones or earphones for sleep is the inclusion of additional noise-masking features. Aside from noise reduction, many made-for-sleep devices also allow you to play white noise or ambient sounds through a companion app. These features can be very valuable for those who have an especially hard time falling asleep.

For example, white noise consists of low-, mid-, and high-frequency sounds. These sounds are played simultaneously at the same amplitude. This uniformity of sound reduces brain activity and helps you relax. It also helps mask other disruptive noises, including the symptoms of tinnitus.

The colors of noise are numerous. In addition to white, there’s also Pink noise, Brown noise, Blue noise, Violet noise, and Grey noise. Each type of noise highlights different sound frequencies at different amplitudes, so they will affect every person differently.

Battery life

Headphones equipped with ANC technology require more power to work. Most of the time, if the battery is drained or extremely close to draining, the ANC won’t run, even when connected via aux cable. So, it makes sense to go for headphones with robust battery life.

Many ANC headphones nowadays can last 40-50 hours on a single charge. This is ideal because you’ll be guaranteed at least a few days’ worth of noise cancellation, even if you forget to charge your device.

To get the most out of your ANC headphones, it’s not enough to settle for a high-capacity battery. It’s important to look at charging time as well. Some headphones can yield as much as 60 hours of playback, but take ages to fully charge. This isn’t necessarily bad, but if you need to use your device right away, it can be inconvenient.

Fast Charge is another great feature to have. This allows you to get a substantial amount of playback (at least 2-5 hours) after a quick 5-10 minute charge. It’s a very handy feature for those who keep forgetting to charge their devices before sleep.

Price

When it comes to price, you wouldn’t exactly be wrong in saying that expensive headphones are better. Most top-of-the-line headphones usually have better audio drivers, richer sound quality, improved noise cancellation, a more premium, durable build, and loads of extra functions.

It’s important to remember that these features aren’t strictly limited to expensive headphones alone. Many affordable models have them as well. Moreover, a high price tag doesn’t always mean the highest quality. Sometimes, you’re paying more for a luxury brand name or snazzy design aesthetics.

So, while it’s tempting to go for those stylish, uber-expensive headphones, try to prioritize quality over price. One way of doing this is by sticking to a specific budget and focusing on features that you can make the best use of.

For example, if your sole purpose is to have noise cancelling headphones just for sleeping, you can probably skip the models with extra features like Ambient Sound mode, voice assistant integration, etc. But if you’re okay with spending a bit more, you might as well opt for a pair of headphones that you can also use during the day for music listening and calls. Either way, you’ll be getting the most out of your money.

6 Best Noise Cancelling Headphones for Sleeping [2021]

Kokoon Sleep Headphones

Best Over-all
Close look at Kokoon Sleep Headphones (From: Amazon)
Close look at Kokoon Sleep Headphones (From: Amazon)

Key features

  • ANC: Yes
  • Sleep position: Back, upright, and side
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy and 3.5mm audio cable
  • Battery: 500mAh Lithium-ion (13 hours on a full charge)
  • Charging time: 1.5 hours for a full charge
  • Companion app: Kokoon Relax
  • Extra features: Biosensor Technology, EEG Brainwave sensors, In-app audio library

The Kokoon Sleep Headphones are designed with optimum comfort in mind for peaceful uninterrupted sleep. The combination of innovative design and intuitive functions easily puts these headphones at the top of our best ANC for sleep list.

The Kokoon Sleep headphones don’t fail to impress at first glance. The sleek design features ventilated silicone earcups that promote better airflow and keeps your ears cool throughout the night. The ear cups also come with washable fabric coverings made with natural fibers, which add to its comfort factor.

The headphones are highly adjustable with an extendable headband and swiveling ear cups. This allows the device to easily mold to your proportions for a more snug fit. Slimmer ear cups were made possible by having some of the circuitry built into the headband. This gives the device a more streamlined profile so that you can sleep on your side with ease.

The Kokoon Sleep headphones are the only headphones on this list with biosensor technology that monitors brain activity, movement, and disturbances. Through this function, the headphones will know when you’re falling asleep and will automatically introduce white noise to help deepen your sleep.

On the Kokoon app, you can track your sleep progress and learn what audio combinations work for you. The app comes with an extensive audio library curated by Sleep Scientists. From there, you can choose from various soundscapes and relaxing music tracks and customize your listening experience for a good night’s sleep.

The Kokook app is available for download on Apple and Android devices.

One downside to these headphones, however, is that there’s no quick way to check the battery level. Typically, when you connect a pair of headphones to your phone via Bluetooth, it indicates how much battery is left in the notifications panel. Unfortunately, the only way to do this is by opening the Kokoon app.

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QuietOn Sleep Earbuds

Strong Runner-up
Close look at QuietOn Sleep Earbuds (From: QuietOn)
Close look at QuietOn Sleep Earbuds (From: QuietOn)

Key features

  • ANC: Yes
  • Sleep position: Back, upright, and side
  • Connectivity: Wireless
  • Battery: Rechargeable (20 hours on a full charge)
  • Charging time: 2 hours for a full charge
  • Companion app: N/A
  • Extra features: 2 kinds of audio modes, extra memory foam ear tips

The QuietOn Sleep Earbuds feature a super-compact, minimalist design created under the guidance of an acclaimed industrial designer Antti Ylisassi. QuietOn also combines ANC technology and acoustic noise attenuation that blocks out low-frequency ambient sounds.

QuietOn Sleep is the smallest ANC earbuds in the market. Its compact build is discreet and takes up minimal space when worn. This allows you to sleep on your side without feeling uncomfortable pressure in your ears. They also come with extra ear tips in different sizes to further customize your fit.

These earbuds use feedforward ANC with the help of a microphone located on the outside of the earbud. QuietOn can reduce noise across a wide spectrum of frequencies, they’re most effective at canceling low-frequency sounds. These include the steady droning sounds of traffic noise, home appliances, vehicle engines, and snoring. This makes them excellent if you’re trying to get some sleep in a busy household or while traveling.

QuietOn comes with 2 different audio modes – Hearing and Silent. Using a dedicated button, you can switch on Silent Mode, which activates the ANC, when you need to get some shut-eye. Hearing Mode, on the other hand, removes the ANC so that you can communicate easily with those around you, without needing to remove the earbuds.

Not sure what mode your earbuds are currently on? Just snap your fingers near the device and it’ll tell you.

The QuietOn Sleep Earbuds can only be used for noise cancellation. It doesn’t come with Bluetooth connectivity or a music playback option.

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Taotronics BH042

Best Budget #1
Close look at Taotronics BH042 (From: Amazon)
Close look at Taotronics BH042 (From: Amazon)

Key features

  • ANC: Yes
  • Sleep position: Back and upright
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
  • Battery: Rechargeable (16 hours with ANC off, 8 hours with ANC on)
  • Charging time: 2 hours for a full charge
  • Companion app: N/A
  • Extra features: 6 ear hooks and buds, flexible neck strap, IPX5 waterproof & sweatproof, dual batteries

The Taotronics BH042 earbuds provide decent ANC and give you the option of choosing from 6 different-sized ear hooks and buds. This guarantees the best and most comfortable fit possible, even when sleeping sideways. It also ensures you get a great seal for optimum noise reduction and minimal sound leakage. For these reasons, these are our favorite budget ANC earbuds for sleeping.

The earbuds come with a flexible slim strap that goes around your neck. These prevent you from losing the earbuds if you toss and turn while sleeping. They’re also thin enough that you can lie on them without feeling any discomfort.

Robust dual batteries can yield a solid 8 hours of ANC – perfect for an entire night of blissful, uninterrupted sleep. It also has an IPX5 rating, which keeps your device and its sensitive components safe from moisture if you tend to sweat during the night.

Bluetooth connection on this device is quite steady, and you can actually get an additional 10 feet of range out of them. The downside is that there is no option to turn the ANC function off. As a result, there’s no way to preserve battery life if you wanted to.

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Mpow H19 IPO

Best Budget #2
Close look at Mpow H19 IPO (From: Amazon)
Close look at Mpow H19 IPO (From: Amazon)

Key features

  • ANC: Yes
  • Sleep position: Back and upright
  • Connectivity: Wired and Wireless (Bluetooth 5.0 and 3.5mm audio cable)
  • Battery: Rechargeable (30-35 hours on a full charge)
  • Charging time: 2 hours of playback on a 10-minute charge
  • Companion app: N/A
  • Extra features: Hi-Fi audio, adjustable memory-protein ear pads and headband

The Mpow H19 IPO is another scene-stealer in the arena of budget ANC headphones. It combines industrial-grade noise reduction, great sound quality, and an ultra-lightweight design for an affordable price, making it our second favorite budget pick.

These headphones are designed for ultimate comfort. The ear cups and headband are fully-adjustable, allowing them to better conform to your head proportions. The memory foam ear pads are covered with soft protein leather, while the adjustable headband is wrapped in foam padding.

Both are ergonomically-designed to sit comfortably over the head and ears, distributing pressure evenly so you can wear them longer. The headphones also weigh only 0.5 lbs, which definitely won’t feel burdensome even when worn all night.

The built-in ANC takes care of bothersome, unwanted noises so that you can enjoy that ever-elusive peace and quiet. Hi-Fi audio further enhances your listening experience by delivering rich sound quality that makes music even more engaging. With the combination of these two features, you’ll be able to wind down and fall asleep with more ease.

While the Mpow H19 IPO gets good reviews when it comes to noise cancellation and sound quality, the audio volume leaves a lot to be desired. However, this may not be too much of an issue for those who prefer to use these headphones for the noise cancellation factor only.

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Bose QC35ii

Most Versatile
Close look at Bose QC35ii (From: Amazon)
Close look at Bose QC35ii (From: Amazon)

Key features

  • ANC: Yes
  • Sleep position: Back and upright
  • Connectivity: Wired & Wireless (w/ NFC)
  • Battery: Rechargeable (20 hours on a full charge)
  • Charging time: 2.5 hours on a 15-minute charge
  • Companion app: Bose Connect
  • Extra features: 3 levels of noise cancellation, Bose AR, volume-optimized EQ, ultra-comfortable build, Voice Assistant integration

The Bose QC35ii mixes excellent noise cancellation, great functionality, and superior comfort in a single device. It comes with many great features that can take you through a busy day to quiet, restful sleep. Despite not being specifically designed for sleeping, these headphones are often recommended to those who find it difficult to wind down, earning them our Most Versatile ranking.

These headphones are built for long-wearing comfort. In addition to impact-resistant materials like glass-filled nylon and corrosion-resistant stainless steel, they’re also outfitted with luxurious soft cushioning. The headband is wrapped in a premium material called Alcantara®, and the ear pads are made from soft protein leather. Together they provide great support that you’ll be thankful for when trying to grab some Zs while traveling. They even feel good on those who wear glasses.

Using the Action button located on the ear cup, you can select from 3 different levels of noise cancellation. This can come in pretty handy if your surroundings are especially noisy and you want to kick the ANC up a notch.

The Bose QC35ii also comes with Bose AR, an audio-only augmented reality feature that adjusts your audio based on the way your head is positioned. It works to give you a more immersive listening experience to relax and lose yourself in. Coupled with volume-optimized EQ, you’re sure to get balanced audio quality regardless of where you are.

You can access Bose AR through the Bose Connect app, which is available for download on Apple and Android devices.

Truly versatile in every sense, these headphones make daily tasks easy with Voice Assistant integration. With this feature, you can access your music, information, and take calls through a voice prompt or a quick press of a button.

When using the headphones via Bluetooth, the ANC is automatically engaged and cannot be turned off (unless in wired mode). While this can be inconvenient for those who use the headphones for work, it likely won’t be an issue if you’re using them for sleeping.

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Sony WH-1000XM4

Best for In-Flight Sleeping
Close look at Sony WH-1000XM4 (From: Amazon)
Close look at Sony WH-1000XM4 (From: Amazon)

Key features

  • ANC: Yes
  • Sleep position: Back and upright
  • Connectivity: Wired & Wireless (w/ NFC)
  • Battery: Rechargeable (30 hours on a full charge)
  • Charging time: 5 hours of playback on a 10-minute charge
  • Companion app: Sony Headphones Connect
  • Extra features: HD Noise Canceling Processor QN1 chip, Atmospheric Pressure Optimizing, Ambient Sound Control, DSEE Extreme™, Quick Attention mode

The Sony WH-1000XM4 pretty much redefines air travel with an array of features designed to make long-haul flights more comfortable (and bearable). It’s equipped with a high-quality plastic build and supple pleather padding that makes it feel snug even after long hours of wearing. It also combines start-of-the-art noise cancellation, smart sensors, and intuitive functions, making these headphones our top pick for in-flight sleeping.

The noise cancellation on the WH-1000XM4 is boosted by the HD Noise Canceling Processor QN1 chip. The chip closely monitors sounds in your environment and makes up to 700 real-time adjustments per second to ensure that you only hear what you want to hear. It’s especially useful if you want to snooze during a lengthy layover in a busy transit area.

You won’t have to worry about missing your flight call either because the Ambient Sound Control feature is designed to filter in important sounds like boarding calls, announcements, and the like. Similarly, Quick Attention Mode also helps you stay alert to essential sounds by lowering the volume of your audio with a simple hand gesture.

The headphones’ DSEE Extreme™ software delivers excellent sound quality. It also adds a layer of richness to relaxing soundscapes and music tracks designed for sleep. This is further enhanced by Atmospheric Pressure Optimizing. This feature monitors changes in in-flight air pressure to give you consistently good sound output and noise reduction.

You can customize your sound and noise reduction settings even more on the Sony Headphones Connect app. The app is available for download on the App Store and Google Play.

The Touch Control panel can be quite sensitive. Sometimes, adjusting the position of the headphones can trigger Quick Attention Mode. It can also cause accidental track skips and volume adjustments. However, with some practice and familiarization, it should become less of a problem.

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