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Earplugs are an easy, affordable, and effective way to block out sounds that could otherwise interfere with your sleep, like traffic noise or your partner’s snoring. Common designs fit inside the ear canal by compressing for insertion and then expanding once in place. Others rest in the outer ear canal.
While there are a variety of different earplugs on the market, shoppers should be aware that not all are designed for sleep. Other earplugs are often intended for situations in which the user is awake, like noisy work environments, concerts, or travel. The level of sound that the earplugs are able to protect against is known as the noise reduction rate (NRR).
Among sleep earplugs, shoppers will have a wide selection of different materials, shapes, price-points, and more. We’ll share our favorite options, explain who they may be best for, and detail other factors you should consider to find the right pair for you.
Top Picks Overview
Who it’s best for:
- Shoppers looking for multi-use earbuds
- Sleepers who want a high-performance design
- Back, stomach, and side sleepers
- Actively cancels noise
- Lasts up to 28 hours per charge
- Users can switch between modes
The 3.1 Sleep Earbuds are the latest incarnation of QuietOn’s bestselling sleep headphones. Now with a thinner profile, the buds are designed to fit snugly inside your ear. Each has a foam cushion to reduce discomfort and irritation, and also prevent the bud from dislodging if you change sleep positions or toss and turn during the night. Since the buds don’t protrude from your ear whatsoever, you should be able to sleep comfortably on either side.
Your buds come with foam tips in extra-small, small, medium, and large sizes. Each order also includes a charging cable and charging port that doubles as a storage case. The battery can last up to 28 hours on one charge. One new feature with the 3.1 version is “Journey to Quietude,” a setting that gradually transitions into silent mode. Keep in mind the buds do not play any sort of music or noise, but cancels outside noise and creates near-total silence. This may be an advantage or a drawback, depending on your ideal sleep atmosphere.
QuietOn offers free worldwide shipping, though wait times depend on your specific location. Your purchase includes a 30-night trial with a full refund if you aren’t completely satisfied. Should you decide to keep the 3.1 Sleep Earbuds, you’ll receive a year of warranty coverage.
Who it’s best for:
- People who aren’t sure which earplug size is right for them
- Those who want mid-level noise reduction while they sleep
- Shoppers with tight budgets
- Soft silicone molds to the inner ear without chafing or irritating the skin
- Available in six colors
- Each purchase includes earplug pairs in four different sizes
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!
Most earplugs are relatively affordable, but those with lower price-points vary considerably when it comes to quality and performance. The Loop Quiet Earplugs are designed for medium noise reduction, decreasing outside noise by roughly 27 decibels. This allows you to block sounds to a reasonable degree without missing your alarm in the morning.
The Quiet Earplugs are formed from soft silicone. This material molds gently to your inner ear without the chafing that can occur with rubber or all-foam earplugs. Your purchase comes with tips in extra-small, small, medium, and large sizes. Some trial and error may be required to nail down your ideal size, but the earplug should fit snugly and securely when you change sleep positions. The earplugs do not protrude at all, so you can sleep comfortably in the side position.
Six colors are available. A keychain carrying case is included with your order for convenient use when you’re traveling. Shipping is free of charge if you purchase two or more sets, and low-cost flat rates apply if you purchase one. Loop allows you to try out the Quiet Earplugs for up to 100 nights before deciding whether to return them for a refund or keep them.
Who it’s best for:
- Side, back, and stomach sleepers
- Shoppers who want a low-profile option
- Those needing reusable earplugs
- Flexible silicone minimizes pressure
- Includes two ear tip sizes
- Discreet design with release tab
Made from flexible silicone, The ZQuiet Earplugs have a three-tier shape that should be both comfortable and functional for many sleepers. The set’s compact design is discreet, low-profile, and easy to use. A small pull-tab attaches to the side of the plug to ensure simple removal.
Wearing the ZQuiet Earplugs can reduce ambient sound, snoring, and other noise by up to 27 dB. In addition to their sonic reduction capsule, the earplugs also feature a chamber that’s designed to equalize pressure.
Two different ear tip sizes are included to help users get the right fit. The pliable silicone and streamlined design should allow stomach, back, and side sleepers to wear them without discomfort. These earplugs can also be used to reduce noise in concert venues, while traveling, or in other loud environments.
ZQuiet’s Earplugs are intended to be hypoallergenic and reusable. Each pair includes a protective storage case as well as a cleaning brush. Customers receive free shipping and a 60-day return window.
Who it’s best for:
- People who reside in noisy neighborhoods
- Sleepers who don't like the sound of white noise
- Those who are easily distracted while working in an office
- High-frequency pink noise can mask other sounds and help you sleep
- Eight volume levels
- Up to 16 hours of battery life
The SoundOff Noise Masking Earbuds play non-looping pink noise intended to help you sleep. Many equate the term “white noise” with any static-heavy ambient sound, but there are actually several “colors” of noise. White noise is simply a combination of sounds with different frequencies at the same intensity level. Those who find white noise jarring or unpleasant should consider pink noise, which features all the elements of white noise minus the high-frequency signals. The result is a more soothing ambient sound many people liken to steady rainfall or lapping waves.
Both earbuds are lightweight and shaped to fit over your ears, so even side sleepers should feel comfortable. You can choose from eight volume levels depending on your personal preferences and the amount of noise outside your home at night. Each purchase includes a handy carrying case, making the earbuds travel-friendly. When fully charged, the battery lasts between 10 and 16 hours – though you should charge the earbuds each morning to ensure full usage throughout the night.
The SoundOff Noise Masking Earbuds are practical for daily use as well, especially if you need to work or study in a loud environment. All orders include a 30-day trial with full refunds for dissatisfied customers. Those who keep their earbuds beyond the trial period also receive a 1-year warranty against structural defects.
Sleepers looking for an earplug multi-pack at an approachable price-point should look no further than the Swanwick Earplugs. These reusable earplugs are made from a flexible silicone design to mold to your ear for optimal comfort.
Thanks to the oversized design, the earplugs fit snugly in the ear without falling out. The silicone is exceptionally soft, so they should not hurt your ears even with nightly use. You can also use them in other environments like concerts to reduce any uncomfortable noise. The silicone is non-porous, making them extremely easy to clean.
Purchases come with a carrying case that comes with a total of six earplugs. Swanwick offers a 30-night trial to test the earplugs and return them for a refund, and they’ll even include a prepaid return label.
Best Active Noise Canceling
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
Who it’s best for:
- People who want earbuds for sleep that are also practical for daytime use
- Those who reside in particularly loud neighborhoods
- Anyone who isn’t sure about their ideal earbud size
- Earbuds adapt to your ear canal in order to provide optimal noise cancellation
- “Aware Mode” blocks background noise without interfering with sounds in close proximity
- Each order includes three sizes of eartip
Conventional earplugs can be effective at reducing background noise — but if your sleep is frequently disturbed by loud sounds or activities outside your window, you may need to go a step further. The second-gen QuietComfort Earbuds II from Bose actively cancel background noise. Cutting-edge technology allows the buds to adapt to your ear canal’s unique shape, resulting in a noise cancellation level tailored to your specific anatomy. Your order also includes small, medium, and large sizes to help you nail down the most comfortable fit.
If you like listening to music as you fall asleep, the earbuds offer pristine sound quality and controls for bass and treble. Even without any playback, the buds should prevent sleep disturbances from ambient noise. You can also wear them at work in “Aware Mode,” which reduces background sounds without interfering with conversations and other activities in your immediate vicinity.
When fully charged, the earbuds should perform for up to six hours. A charging case included with your purchase carries three additional charges, so you could potentially use the earbuds for up to 24 hours. For quick listening, a charge of just 20 minutes powers the buds for up to 2 hours. Bose provides free 2-day shipping, and your order comes with a 90-day trial. The company also offers price-matching if you find the QuietComfort Earbuds II sold through an authorized retailer at a lower price.
How to Choose Earplugs for Sleeping
Selecting the right earplugs for sleeping can help improve your rest. However, there is a wide range of options available, so you’ll need to consider a variety of factors to decide which earplugs are best for you. Quality and comfort are particularly important, but other criteria may come into play in your purchasing decision.
What to Consider When Purchasing Earplugs for Sleep
We’ll break down the top things shoppers look for when purchasing earplugs for sleeping. On the surface, earplug options may seem quite similar, but focusing more closely on the aspects that set them apart can help you hone in on a pair that suits your needs.
The price-point for a pair of earplugs usually depends on its materials and reusability. If you buy disposable earplugs in bulk, prices start at under 25 cents per pair. Reusable pairs often cost closer to $10 each, though some technologically-advanced, noise-cancelling devices cost over $100.
The best value will depend on your intended usage. If you plan to use earplugs every night and don’t mind cleaning them regularly, reusable earplugs will most likely save you money in the long run. The ongoing monthly cost of disposable earplugs can add up. However, if you plan to only use earplugs occasionally or you don’t want to clean them between uses, disposable options may be a better value.
Reusable vs. Single Use
Some earplugs are intended for single use, while others are built for reusability. Disposable, single-use earplugs usually are composed of less durable materials to make them more affordable. They can be highly convenient, since you throw them away after use rather than cleaning them.
Reusable earplugs use more durable materials engineered to stand up to nightly use. They should be cleaned regularly, which some owners may find inconvenient. However, they produce less waste and may save you money over time.
Earplugs may use a variety of materials, including foam, silicone, wax, and latex. Foam is usually the most common and affordable option. Silicone models generally rest at the entrance of the ear and do not penetrate the ear canal much, if at all. Many people consider wax earplugs among the most effective, but they usually carry a higher price despite the fact that they are intended for single use.
Some earplugs may also contain latex. For most individuals, this shouldn’t be a problem, but those with latex allergies should look at product descriptions carefully to ensure they select a latex-free model.
The level of noise reduction is measured by NRR, or noise reduction rating, which indicates how many decibels (dB) the earplugs are capable of blocking out. Higher numbers indicate more significant potential noise reduction. Earplugs typically have an NRR between 22 dB to 33 dB. Depending on your needs and how loud the noises in your bedroom are, options on either end of this range may be appropriate.
If you plan to wear earplugs while you sleep, comfort is critical. Several factors can contribute to how comfortable earplugs feel to you, including their materials, size, and shape. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to anticipate which earplugs will be most comfortable for you, so finding your ideal pair may be a matter of trial and error.
Is it Safe to Sleep with Earplugs?
Experts typically view earplugs as safe when used as directed, but there are some potential risks. Regular use of earplugs could contribute to earwax buildup, which can cause dizziness, tinnitus, itchy ears, and hearing difficulties. Additionally, putting an earplug in too deeply and/or removing it too quickly could also risk damage to the ear canal.
While muffling noise is the goal of wearing earplugs, this can have drawbacks. You may be less likely to awaken to important sounds, like an alarm or a child crying.
To reduce some of the potential risks associated with earplugs, sleepers should follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Maintaining clean hands and ears, carefully inserting and removing the earplugs, and cleaning or disposing of them according to the provided guidelines should help make them safer and more comfortable. However, if you are concerned, have an underlying condition, or experience pain or discomfort, it’s always best to talk to your doctor.
Frequently Asked Questions About Sleeping with Earplugs
Most experts consider sleeping with earplugs safe, but it does carry potential risks, like earwax buildup, damage to the ear canal, and blocking out important sounds. To minimize risks, follow the instructions that come with the earplugs. Inserting or removing them incorrectly or not following hygiene procedures could lead to issues.
The noise reduction rating (NRR) is a unit of measurement that indicates how many decibels (dB) earplugs and other hearing protection devices can block out when used correctly. A higher NRR indicates a greater potential for noise reduction. Ratings typically range from 22 dB to 33 dB for earplugs.
Correctly worn earplugs should block or significantly reduce the sound of snoring. However, if your partner snores loudly and/or your earplugs have a lower NRR, you may still hear some sounds.
While earplugs are an affordable and effective way to reduce nighttime noise, there are several other options, including headphones, sound apps, white noise machines, fans, and room modifications.
Several sleep headphone designs are available, some of which rest in the ear and others outside. Some sleep masks and pillows have built-in speakers to give sleepers listening options without the use of conventional headphones. Sound apps can be used on your favorite device and/or in conjunction with headphones. They may include music, meditations, nature sounds, sleep stories, and more.
White noise machines produce a consistent background sound that some liken to rushing water or radio static, and this can help drown out other sounds. A fan can have a similar effect.
Finally, room modifications may be useful. Soft materials, like curtains and carpet, can help absorb sound to keep the room quieter. If the noises are coming from outside, soundproof curtains are worth considering.
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