The Kokoon Relax headphones might not be something you actually wear to sleep, but they can still help you drop off and are comfortable headphones to use in general.
- Comfortable over-ear design
- Extensive library of sleep-aiding sounds
- Can be used as normal headphones
- Sleep tracking
- Side sleepers can’t wear them to sleep
- ANC is not very powerful
- Sound quality does not match equivalent-priced headphones
- Very expensive
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There are few things as frustrating as not being able to sleep, and it can have a huge negative impact on your physical and mental health. As a result, people are prepared to pay quite a lot for products that will help them sleep.
A good thing too, from Kokoon’s perspective, because its Kickstarter-funded sleep-aiding headphones cost an awful lot. They’re £350, which is the sort of money that would get you a top-end set of Bose noise-cancelling headphones. For that price, you’ll want a guarantee that they’ll work before shelling out.
Fortunately, they do. Or at least I can certainly see how they would. However, there are significant caveats. For one, they did not help me sleep, simply because I sleep on my side and I couldn’t get into a comfortable position to do so while wearing them – more on that later. There’s no doubt, though, that the Kokoon headphones have an incredibly comfortable over-ear design.
They offer active noise cancellation and connect to the partner app, which can pipe in a range of guided spoken-word relaxation sessions and other audio that can help you get to sleep. The headphones can also be used as normal Bluetooth headphones and come with a wire so they can be plugged in if you run out of battery – they’re listed as lasting 11 hours, though I found I needed to charge them after nine or ten.
Inside the headphones’ pads are EEG sensors that monitor your brain to track your sleep. Kokoon collects data on when you fall asleep and for how long and uses it to personalise the featured audio in the app, recommending sessions featuring techniques that have proved effective for you in the past.
The headphones and app are pretty equal parts of the whole Kokoon package and you can’t use other headphones with the app, though there are other apps like Calm that offer similar guided pre-sleep sessions. The allure of the Kokoon package is that the headphones are smarter when it comes to sleep tracking and more comfortable than others, combined with the exclusive app.
Overall, I was impressed by the headphones. They are very comfortable to wear for long periods, even with glasses on and during the day, and don’t get as hot as other over-ear headphones I’ve used. However, as mentioned above, I couldn’t sleep in them because I lie on my side.
With a deep, soft pillow it’s not horribly uncomfortable to wear them while lying on your side, but I still couldn’t get to sleep. They’re comfortable to wear if you lie on your back, for sure, and they’re also great when in a seat on public transport. I’m sure they’d be good on a plane too, but the fact remains that if you’re a side sleeper you might well not be able to sleep in them.
I was also unimpressed by the active noise cancellation on the headphones, which is far less effective in reducing external noise than that of the Beats Solo Pro and Apple AirPods Pro headphones I was also using when testing the Kokoon. When on a train I didn’t notice much difference when the ANC was turned on or off, though you do get significant passive noise cancellation from the over-ear design at least.
The app, on the other hand, did impress. There is a good range of guided sessions plus relaxing sounds, and the five-session introductory series is invaluable in both teaching you how to get the most from the headphones and explaining several techniques that can help you relax and sleep.
These techniques are based on cognitive behavioural therapy and are backed up by research – in short, they work. They’re effective in helping you forget the stresses of the day and relax, even if you then have to take the headphones off so you can turn on to your side to go to sleep.
There are other apps that provide similar techniques, but the Kokoon app is the best I’ve tried, making it clear which sessions to try next and guiding you through the techniques in a simple and effective manner.
I can’t speak for the quality of the sleep tracking, having not been able to experience it, but in theory the headphones can track time spent in REM, light and deep sleep as well as measuring the time it takes for you to fall asleep using a session. If you do take the headphones off as you fall asleep, you don’t have to worry about turning them off – they can detect that they’ve been removed and will shut themselves down after 15 minutes.
When you’re not using them to try and relax, the Kokoon headphones make for a decent set of office cans. The sound quality is good, though nowhere near the standard of what you’d normally get from a set of £350 headphones, and they are great to wear all day. You will attract some strange looks owing to the design, though.
It’s hard to come to a definitive conclusion on these headphones. They’re not nonsense – they will help people sleep – but I do think a significant number of people won’t find them comfortable enough to wear all night. That said, you can use them to relax and then take them off to actually sleep – the sleep tracking is less important than the “helping you get to sleep” bit, in my opinion.
My main problem is the cost. That’s a lot of money that you could spend on an amazing set of headphones to use with another, similar app. And personally, I tend to be wary of spending so much money with a recently established company. There is a certain extra peace of mind that comes with spending a large chunk of change with a brand like Bose, which has impeccable customer support, instead. While the app and headphone package Kokoon offers is great, I’m just not sure it’s the best way to invest north of £300 in trying to help yourself sleep.
Buy on Amazon | £349 (Currently reduced to £322.49)
Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.