Recently updated on October 8th, 2018 at 11:40 am
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When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, environmental distractions are one of the biggest reasons why several people failed to get the amount of rest that they should. Environmental distractions are not often considered among the causes of sleep disorders even though they form the most common factors interfering with sleep. Various studies have found that even people without any sleep disorder or medical condition often fail to get quality sleep at night because of their sleep environment. Of course, the sleep environment could mean a lot of things. It could mean the temperature of the bedroom, the quality of the mattress, the size of the bed, and ambient light. But it could also mean environmental noise, something that we usually have no control over.
Imagine your neighbor’s kids running about above your floor while you try to sleep. Or your roommate playing loud music. Or cars passing on the street through the night. Or your partner snoring away to glory. All these noises are beyond our control. You cannot stop the neighbor’s kids from running about in their house, your roommate may not agree to turn down the music, there is no way you can block the traffic outside, and you cannot make your partner stop snoring, even though it annoys you to death. Although this may seem trivial factors, you might be surprised to know that they form some of the biggest reasons behind sleep disorders.
Urban people are more likely to suffer from these environmental distractions during sleep. Given that most of these distractions are beyond our control, scientists and technology experts have designed various tools to prevent these distractions from ruining our sleep. We are familiar with the mask and the white noise machine but there is another device that is meant to keep out ambient noise, and that is noise canceling headphones.
If you have ever seen a pair of noise-canceling headphones, especially those meant for sleep, you will instantly recognize them because they look so different from regular headphones. Normal headphones, whether they are made for music, for gaming, or for conferencing, are designed for communication purposes. Regular headphones with noise canceling features and they keep out background noise. But headphones meant to aid sleepers look and function very differently from them.
Many noise-canceling headphones for sleep look much like headbands with earplugs inserted at the right places. The band wraps around the sleeper’s head to provide maximum comfort no matter which position they sleep in. Some of these headphones also come with eye masks to block out both ambient noise and light. This is a perfect solution for those who cannot tolerate any kind of light or noise during sleep. Sleep headphones aren’t the most stylish headphones, but they are great for keeping out distracting noises. You may choose to buy fabric headphones, comfortable earbuds, or full-size headphones with noise canceling technology.
Headphones meant to aid sleep work much like a sound machine – they replace ambient noises with soothing sounds like falling rain or ocean waves or even something ordinary like a buzzing fan. Do not confuse between noise isolation and noise canceling. There are major variations between the two. One blocks out noises by physical means while the other uses technology to keep out the noise.
Noise isolation headphones work a lot like shutting your ears with fingers or cotton buds. This means these headphones have a very snug fit and helping to block out noises. Noise isolating headphones can either be in-ear buds or over-ear models. They have no Technology involved and block out noise by fitting closely over your ears.
Noise cancellation headphones are more expensive because they use a certain kind of technology to “cancel” noise. Noise canceling headphones have built-in microphones that pick up the ambient noise and play an opposite noise to cancel it out. This technology is called Digital Signal Processing.
Noise cancellation was a feature first introduced by sound company Bose, but over the years noise cancellation headphones have been brought out by various other companies. They vary in price ranges, features, and design. If this is your first time by noise canceling headphones for sleep, there are all chances you may get confused and overwhelmed by all the different options available today.
How to Choose the Right Noise Canceling Headphones For Sleep
Noise canceling headphones are used for various purposes you may want to use them on the flight to block out ambient noise, you may want to use them in a noisy office to help you work in peace, and you may also use them while sleeping. If your purpose for choosing this type of headphones has to do with sleep, then the following are some of the most important factors to consider when choosing a pair.
Price: Most people new to buying noise-canceling headphones get lured by advertisements selling noise isolation headphones as noise canceling ones. Noise isolation headphones have no special technology involved and therefore are much cheaper than active noise canceling headphones. If you are looking for passive noise canceling headphones, then you can find them for reasonable prices. But if you want active noise cancellation technology for the best results you must spend a decent amount of money for the highest quality. Sometimes you may have to sacrifice quality for affordability or comfort. Premium noise cancellation is expensive, so consider that when choosing headphones.
Comfort: Noise canceling headphones are something you will sleep on with. That is why comfort is more important the sound quality than the durability of noise-canceling headphones. If you use the headphones every night, you will be spending close to 8 hours wearing them every day. Most people preferred to buy favorite headphones because they are the most comfortable. Although they are not as stylish and don’t even offer the best sound quality, they feel more comfortable than full sized headphones. In fact, they don’t feel like headphones at all they are more like headbands with built-in earplugs. Fabric headphones let you sleep in any position without the earplugs putting pressure on your ears or head. However, if you sleep hot, you may find the headband making your head sweat or making you warm at night. If you don’t have any such problem, then fabric headphones are some of the most comfortable ones you can find.
Noise Cancelation Technology
As mentioned earlier, many customers confuse between active and passive noise cancellation technology. Passive noise cancellation is no technology at all. It is just a pair of close-fitting headphones or earplugs that create a barrier between your ears and the noise. Therefore, noise isolation headphones are not expensive at all. Active noise cancellation is called destructive interference. Most premium headphones with active noise cancellation can block out constant ambient noises like people talking, the buzzing of the fan or air conditioner, the sound of airplane engines, etc. But they cannot block out sharp, sudden noises like someone shouting babies screaming or doors slamming. Even if you sleep with these headphones on you may still be able to hear these sharp, sudden noises.
Wired or Wireless?
Noise cancellation headphones for sleep mostly come wired. Even though these cables are thin, they are often the biggest problem with headphones, especially if you sleep with them. A lot of people fear that the cable might get tangled around their neck during the night. Although this fear may not be reasonable, there is another very real annoyance, and that is pulling on the cable while tossing and turning. This can make the device can fall, break or malfunction. This is the reason why wireless sleep headphones are better. Wireless models also come with longer-lasting batteries.
Active noise cancellation headphones are not just a pair of drivers sitting on your head. There is a microphone and audio processing built in the headphones, so they function as an electronic device and need a constant power supply. No other headphones come with batteries, but noise cancellation headphones do. The batteries are what the microphone and the audio processor run on. If the batteries die, the device will stop working until you replace them. That is why when you buy noise cancellation headphones always remember to check the battery life. This varies from one device to another and from brand to brand, but the average battery life should always be more than 6 hours. Most active noise cancellation headphones use replaceable batteries, so you should always keep an extra pair with you in case the batteries die suddenly.
When buying an active noise cancellation headphone, you must keep in mind that they are very different from regular headphones. Since they function as a full-fledged electronic device, they have all chances of breaking down suddenly. This is when you will need to call customer service. Before you buy any noise-canceling headphones, make sure to read more about their warranty and what other customers have to say about the customer service. If you are buying a high-end headphone, repairing it or getting parts replaced can be very expensive. You must check for a warranty of at least 2 or 3 years and a prompt and efficient customer service so that you know you will get the support you need in case the device has issues.
How Do they Fit?
Sleep headphones should ideally be tried on before purchase. This isn’t possible if you are shopping online but if you are shopping from a store, make sure to have the headphone on at least for 30 minutes to see how it fits and works. If you’re buying a passive noise cancellation headphone, check if the fit is snug and if it allows any noises to sneak in. If you are buying an active noise cancellation headphone, toggle with the on and off feature to see how it functions. Don’t forget to check the fit. Considering you will be using these to sleep with, the fit should be comfortable.
Quality of the Device
If you are buying only one active noise cancellation headphone, you can use them for several other purposes aside from sleeping. You can use them like any other headphone for better clarity and fewer distractions. That is why when you try on a headphone to check its fit, also make sure to check the quality of the noise cancellation feature. Don’t just turn on the noise cancellation; also put on some music or audio to check the clarity. If someone accompanies you, ask them to talk at different levels to check if you can hear them. Even though no one will be able to mimic the sound of an airplane, it will still help you get a good idea of what to expect from the headphone.
Best Noise Cancellation Headphones for Sleep
You can tell that environmental distractions are a big issue from the number of noise cancellation headphones available today. Noise isolation headphones are cheaper but active noise cancellation headphones have better quality. Although the features are the same in all active noise cancellation headphones, the variations in price, brand, advantages, and downsides make a choice harder. You can also find several headphones in the same price range offering the same features and quality. If this is your first time buying a noise cancellation headphone, you can expect to face some serious confusion.
Here we have shortlisted a few of the best noise cancellation headphones you can buy in 2018.
Able Planet Sound Clarity NC510B
If you are a noise canceling headphone newbie and do not want to spend hundreds of dollars on something you have never used before, this from Able Planet gives the best bang for your buck. This is one of the most affordable noise cancellation headphones on the market today and is also lightweight to go to sleep with. The noise cancellation circuit is very powerful and eliminates all kind of ambient noise including a jet engine, conversations, and traffic. You can use it for both sleeping with and for listening to audio. Because of its powerful noise cancellation feature, the audio it produces is free from all background noise, and the sound quality is also on a par with the higher-end varieties. The device comes with a pair of replaceable AAA batteries, so you can always change them when they die.
Having said that, it must also be noted that the Able Planet Sound Clarity noise cancellation headphone is not perfect. A lot of users have complained about the earbuds being too small, and others have raised issues with the lack of comfort. Aside from that this is a decent pair of active noise canceling headphones that you can buy without spending pattern of cash on something expensive.
CozyPhones Sleep Headphones
$19, yes, you read that right. The CozyPhones sleep headphones cost only 19 dollars, which is 10 times cheaper than most on the active noise canceling sleep headphones on the market today. What do they perform equally well? Unfortunately, a $19 headphone will never match up to a $200 headphone, but it does the job well. The reason why CozyPhones headphone is so popular despite not having the best sound quality is that of the comfort. These are the most comfortable sleep headphones you will ever find. The fabric headband is soft and snug, so much so that after a while you forget that you have anything on. The band comes with speakers built inside. This lightweight breathable band is also ideal for those who sleep hot because it does not feel uncomfortable or cause sweating.
The biggest complaint about the CozyPhones Sleep headphone is that the speakers inside move around too much during sleep. If you toss and turn a lot through the night, the speakers may fall out of the band. Aside from this, the headphones are a great choice for anyone who wants to buy inexpensive noise-canceling headphones for meditation, exercise, or sleep.
If you plan to use your noise-canceling headphones for other purposes also, then you need a Bluetooth wireless headphone. This one by Logitech is expensive but offers exceptional sound quality, noise cancellation and comfort. You can use these headphones for any kind of noise cancellation be it on a flight in the office or at home. Although expensive, this pair of headphones has superior build quality, 21-hour battery life, and comes as both wired and wireless, with both active and passive noise cancellation. The true capacity of this headphone can only be experienced when you listen to any audio. The sound is good in the wireless version, but it’s even better when you plug it in. Lightweight and comfortable fit is also a huge advantage of this headphone Logitech is known for all its wireless products, and this headphone does not disappoint.
However, this does not mean they are perfect. The wireless mode cannot be used without the noise cancellation feature on. So, if you want to go to sleep with it, you will have to keep the cables plugged in. If you are looking for a sleep headphone without the cables, this may not be the right choice for you.
Bose Quiet Comfort 35 series II – $349
If you don’t mind the price tag and want only the best there is in noise-canceling headphones; the Bose Quiet Comfort 35 series II is one of the finest you can get. What’s so great about the Bose Quiet Comfort 35 series II? It is Alexa enabled. All you have to do is press the action button and then control the settings with your voice. Simply ask Alexa to adjust noise canceling level and go handsfree anytime. If you are not an Alexa user, you can use the action button to control between the three noise-canceling levels. The Bose Quiet Comfort 35 series II comes with additional features like a microphone, music sharing, and the integrated Bose Connect app. You can either buy only the headphone or add the car charger.
If you want to buy the Bose QuietComfort but also want better sound quality, you can invest in the Sony MDR. This headphone offers some of the same features as the Bose QuietComfort, but also has better audio quality. The noise cancellation feature comes with three different modes- office, bus, and airplane. The device can automatically switch among the modes, depending upon the level of ambient noise. The MDR is better in terms of audio quality, but not so much in the noise cancellation department. The device comes with a battery but is also rechargeable via USB. This feature isn’t available on many higher-end headphones.
Marketed as the world’s thinnest headphones designed for sleep, Bedphones are small, wireless headphones covered in foam padding for the ultimate fit and comfort. Manufactured by Dubslabs, these small and lightweight earphones can be used for listening to any kind of audio in bed, and also for keeping out ambient noise. Most noise-canceling headphones in the market are too big and uncomfortable to sleep with. This is where Bedphones come in. Unlike regular earbuds, these lie flat against your ear instead of going inside. Even those with hearing aids can easily use Bedphones. The device comes with a one year warranty and free shipping within the US.
The Dreampad isn’t exactly a noise canceling headphone; rather it is a pillow with a patented music technology inside. Developed by integrated listening systems, the dream pad keeps noise out by playing music. It is like a sound machine but only in the form of a pillow. The music is only audible to the person sleeping on the pillow. The Dreampad also includes a mobile app which helps you synchronize your breathing with the sound of the ocean waves.
What Not to Expect
When buying noise canceling headphones for the first time, most buyers have the expectation of blocking out each sound possible. This is not a realistic expectation. There is no such device yet on this planet that can block out the sound of a plane or a train. If you want to get the best sleep possible on a flight or on a train, you must buy the best noise cancellation headphones available, but even they cannot guarantee to eliminate every bit of noise. As mentioned earlier in this post the noise canceling technology is designed to eliminate constant sounds. Therefore, any sharp, sudden sound like a door slamming or someone shouting will not be eliminated you may even be able to hear babies crying or sharp honking sounds.
Sleeping with the headphone also comes with other annoying issues like comfort and fit. The ones with fabric headbands do not offer the best noise cancellation and the ones that do usually come in over-the-ear models, which are not right for side sleepers. In many cases, the headphone may be the one keeping you awake at night. There are also price variations among the different varieties, so you can never be sure whether to buy the $40 generic headphones or the $400 premium ones. And trying a pair out at the store does not give you any idea about how it will function when you sleep with.
The bottom line is to not expect noise cancellation headphones to make your environment completely peaceful and quiet. They all have their own downsides and must be tried and tested for the best results. The alternative to sleep headphones is a sound machine, a small portable device that sits on the nightstand and plays soothing sounds to drown out ambient noise. Sound machines are also often far less expensive than higher end sleep headphones.
Regardless of what sleep headphone you choose, it is recommended that you perform thorough research before purchase and read user reviews to know more about how the device functions.