The tiny Bose Sleepbuds II are as comfortable as in-ear headphones come, and the library of sleep sounds can help you drop off, but they are still a hard sell at this price when they can’t play your own audio.
- Comfortable to sleep in
- Large audio library
- Block out sound well
- Can’t play your own audio
- Some charging issues
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If you’re not familiar with the Bose Sleepbuds, the first thing to know is that you can’t listen to your own choice of audio on them. They can only connect to the Bose Sleep app to play tracks from the library of sounds designed to help you sleep.
The reason you can’t play your own audio becomes clear when you take the buds out of their case. They are absolutely tiny, because they’re designed to be worn all night long without hurting your ears. Given that Bose has packed 10 hours of battery life into the buds, there’s presumably no room for anything else.
The buds sit inside your ear without protruding at all. As a side sleeper I can lie with my head on the pillow without the buds exerting any pressure on my ears. This is better with plusher pillows, but even on a fairly flat one I didn’t experience any discomfort and the buds stay in place when you move in your sleep. After a couple of weeks using the Sleepbuds II, the design continues to amaze me.
The headphones also do a good job of blocking out external sounds, to the point where I had to ask my wife to nudge me if our baby started fussing while I was wearing them. If you turn up the volume you can block out pretty much any external noise, even if you live on a busy street or have neighbours with barking dogs.
In the Bose Sleep app there are 40 sounds to choose from, broken up into three categories: noise masking, naturescapes and tranquilities. The first category is white noise, including static, rain and the swell of the ocean. The second category is pretty similar, in truth, and the last is relaxing tones.
Once you’ve found a few sounds you like – the crackling campfire and ocean swell were my favourites – you transfer them to the Sleepbuds, an operation that takes a couple of minutes per sound. All playback is still controlled by the app, including lowering and raising the volume, meaning if you do want to adjust something you have to unlock and use your phone, which isn’t that relaxing. To be fair the headphones are simply too small to fit controls on.
You can set a sleep timer for the sound if you don’t want it to play all night, with options ranging from 30 minutes to eight hours, and you can also set an alarm on the headphones to gently wake you up.
The headphones last 10 hours on a charge and the case can fully recharge them three times. However, I found that when left in the case the buds’ battery seemed to discharge, and on a couple of occasions I opened it to find that the buds and the case were dead. It may be worth leaving the case plugged in on your bedside table so you don’t find you’re unable to use the Sleepbuds just before you go to bed, because they take six hours to charge and the case takes three.
Although the headphones are certainly comfortable enough to sleep with, it is still an odd sensation. When I fell asleep wearing them but awoke in the middle of the night, my instinct was always to take them out. They weren’t uncomfortable, but felt strange enough that it was bothering me to have them in.
It would undoubtedly feel less odd over time, and if I did have a loud noise to mask I’d have probably kept them in, but continuing with them for the whole night proved counterproductive at times.
As for helping me get to sleep I haven’t had a huge amount of success with the Sleepbuds II. The sounds are relaxing, but as someone who usually falls asleep to a podcast, I still find that method a more reliable way to get to sleep.
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I can certainly see how these would be a big improvement if I had loud noises to mask. They would also Sleepbuds II be brilliant for trying to sleep on a long journey by plane or train. In the current situation, however, I wasn’t able to test that.
The other big sticking point is the price. The Sleepbuds II are £229.95, which is an awful lot for a single-purpose device. If they could play music and podcasts, even with mediocre sound quality, it would significantly increase their appeal. Amazfit has just launched the ZenBuds, which have a similar design and purpose to the Sleepbuds II and cost £119. Coach will test those soon, and if they can offer a fit as good as the Bose buds then the ZenBuds will clearly be a better-value option, though they also can't play your audio.
But there’s no doubt the design of the Sleepbuds II is excellent, and if you have to sleep in a very noisy area they could prove invaluable.
Buy from Bose | £229.95
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.