Getting a good night’s sleep is central to your physical and mental health. And, unfortunately, most of us have at least some trouble getting to or staying asleep regularly. In the past, I was firmly on the “staying asleep” spectrum, with little problem falling asleep but a consistent habit of waking up in the middle of the night. But, after spending six months wearing the Bose Sleepbuds 2, I am a changed woman.
Bose’s Sleepbuds 2 are specifically designed to fit more comfortably in your ears than traditional earbuds, block noise and provide specialized meditation content instead of your favorite tunes. And though $249 may seem expensive, the serenity these earbuds provide me on a nightly basis is well worth the cost.
What we loved
Though we tested four different sleep earbuds for our best headphones for sleeping roundup, the Bose Sleepbuds 2 were resoundingly my favorite, easily outperforming the more feature-rich yet less comfortable Amazfit ZenBuds.
Not only are they the best fitting of the competition for all-night wear, but even without the company’s beloved noise-canceling feature, they also gave me the most reliable seal, keeping out external noise like traffic and our biggest nighttime problem, my husband’s snoring. Plus, 50 different sound and white noise options are available via the simple-to-use companion app to further mask any disquiet. But alas, if you were hoping to drift off to your favorite podcast or playlist, the Sleepbuds 2 won’t play any other music or personal audio; they’re strictly meant for rest.
The small, smooth earbuds fit comfortably in my ears — in fact, I’ve used no other earbud that has come close to being this comfy in any situation. Wing-style stabilizers help keep the Sleepbuds 2 in place, and I only lost an earbud in the bed once, missing it so much that I found myself frantically searching for it when I woke up, only to locate it under a pillow in the morning.
The Sleepbuds 2 are a departure for Bose — not only do they not do any noise cancellation, but as mentioned, they don’t play music or any other content. They only work with the Bose Sleep app. To set up, you use the app to connect your Sleepbuds 2 to your phone via Bluetooth, then choose from a range of 50 soothing sounds, grouped into categories such as Noise Masking, Naturescapes and Tranquilities.
You simply click the “Add to Sleepbuds” button and load your choice directly onto the headphones themselves — and you can activate a Phone-Free mode and use them without having a device nearby (though you can’t change sounds or use the Sleepbuds 2’s wake-up alarm mode in this mode). I appreciated this because I am militant about not having my phone in the bedroom overnight for better sleep hygiene. And in the end, I didn’t mind missing out on those features (the alarm was very subtle and didn’t wake me, though your mileage may vary).
When it came to choosing audio, I found “Swell,” a white-noise-like crashing waves loop, worked for me. I set it to play for one and a half hours each night, which effectively masked external sounds (including said snoring) as advertised. The result was finally being able to quickly fall back asleep if and when I awakened during the night. Before the Sleepbuds 2, I would spend hours reading on my Kindle Oasis with built-in adjustable light when this happened. Now, miraculously, I even spend some nights completely undisturbed.
A round charging case with a sliding cover connects via USB-C; Bose says battery life is approximately 10 hours on a single charge, but the charging case adds an additional three charges. In my testing, I never ran out of juice but appreciated the insurance of the extra hours in case I ever forget to plug them in or left the charger at home during a short trip.
What we didn’t like
Though the Bose Sleepbuds 2 have most definitely changed my life, they do have a few quirks.
It could be just my taste, but I found some of the nature-oriented audio clips too active and distracting. Noise Masking sounds like Cascade and Downstream made me want to run for the bathroom, while Naturescapes like Country Road made me feel like someone was going to pull a pick-up truck into my bedroom.
But once in a while, if I wanted to relax before I went to sleep, I would try a Tranquility like Drift, which was like lying on a massage bed. The problem is, since I use the Phone-Free mode, I would have to physically turn it off, get up and put my phone in the other room, which kind of defeats the purpose. In addition, you can’t ever change the sounds or use the wake-up alarm in this mode.
Lastly, I am devastated by the thought of losing a Sleepbud, because when I asked Bose if they sell single replacements, they stated that the devices are “paired together during the manufacturing process.” However, Bose also told me that If a customer loses a bud, they can contact the service team and will be offered a discounted exchange/replacement. So the hope is that you wouldn’t have to pay a full $249 to replace the entire product.
The Amazfit ZenBuds, our runner-up for best sleep headphones, come with smaller earbuds, which sat too far back in my ears and were patently less comfortable, but they do offer some advantages over the Sleepbuds. Not only do they come with sleep tracking, something I had to rely on my Apple Watch for with Bose, but the larger library of sleep sounds automatically turn off when the ZenBuds sense you are asleep rather than work on a timer. However, I found the companion app to be wonky during my testing, freezing and then shutting down on two different iPhones.
In the end, the Bose Sleepbuds 2 changed the way I sleep and are easily the best sleep headphones we’ve tested. No longer do I have murderous thoughts related to snoring, and I’ve been able to fall back asleep more often and for a longer period of time, including weekend mornings when a child or ravenous cat may wake me up earlier than I’d like. And for me, that kind of peace of mind is worth the price tag.
How they compare to other sleep headphones we tested
|Built-in sleep tracking||No (Apple Watch required)||Yes||Yes||No|
|Bluetooth pairing support||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Battery life (rated)||Up to 10 hours||Up to 12 hours||10 hours||28 hours|