The science is clear: Deep sleep is one of the most important ways we can positively impact our physical and mental well-being. But according to a Phillips international survey conducted in 2021, just 32% of people reported feeling rested most mornings. That’s helping fuel interest in audio wellness tech that help you fall/stay asleep as well as meditation aids that ease anxiety and stress when we’re awake — with the goal of improving sleep.
Sleep earbuds and headbands must be low-profile and fit securely enough to let you sleep in whatever position you normally use without causing an ounce of discomfort and without falling out in the middle of the night. The reason these devices often lack active noise cancellation is because that would both add bulk and be less effective at mitigating higher-frequency sounds like voices and traffic than masking (obscuring unwanted sounds with a wash of noise). Also, in a nod to the ample scientific evidence that phones are terrible pre-sleep companions, some sleep earbuds don’t require a smartphone connection to function.
Guided meditations can help calm an anxious mind whether in the middle of the day or just before we drift off at night. While the popularity of apps like Calm and HeadSpace has skyrocketed, phones are often the very thing we need to escape for at least a few minutes while we clear our heads. Audio devices like those covered below offer a moment’s peace through meditations and soundscapes, with the aim of easing anxiety so your brain will let your body fall asleep. Some require a Bluetooth connection to your phone, but all have the ability to let you avoid having to interact with the phone for basic operation.
Bose SleepBuds II ($249, www.bose.com)
Lacking any noise cancellation or music streaming, the SleepBuds II are meant for one thing only: Masking sounds that might keep you up with soft soothing sonic washes. A smartphone app lets you choose a growing collection of sounds as well as set an alarm, and the battery lasts for 10 hours (plus another 30 from the case). Flexible wings keep them in place, and reviewers across the board find them extremely comfortable.
QuietOn SleepBuds 3 ($269, www.quieton.com)
These compact earbuds’ active noise cancellation is their only feature. They’re effective at eliminating a wide range of low-frequency sounds to let you sleep in peace while letting higher-frequency sounds like alarms and voices through. The earbuds are held in place by memory foam tips – no fins or wings here. And with no Bluetooth to drain the battery, they work for an impressive 28 hours on a single charge (plus three extra full charges from the case).
Amazfit ZenBuds ($149.99, us.amazfit.com)
The ZenBuds eschew media streaming, but they do connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth so you can use the Zepp app to track your sleep quality (powered by a built-in heart rate monitor), set alarms, and choose from a wide variety of soothing sleep sounds. They’re small and light, held in by U-shaped wings that sit comfortably in your outer ear. Bonus feature: The earbuds detect when you’re asleep and stop playing sounds to conserve battery life.
AcousticSheep SleepPhones Wireless ($99.95, www.sleepphones.com)
Consisting of a pair of flat speaker panels in a hypoallergenic machine-washable headband, the SleepPhones Wireless bluetooth stream music, audiobooks, meditation sounds, and more from your smartphone. It doesn’t block out ambient sounds, though you can choose a noise-masking sound to listen to. The headband comes in two different fabrics, one fleece for normal indoor use and one breathable for exercising or hot climates. Battery life is admirable at 24 hours.
Sleep Band Pro ($49.99, www.sleepband.com)
This headband is actually a sleep mask with thin Bluetooth headphones built-in, so you can completely block out light and stream everything from music and podcasts to white noise and meditation sounds from your phone. The electronics are removable so you can wash it, and the battery lasts for 24 hours on a charge. Buttons on the front let you control volume and play/pause.
LIVLAB Hoomband Headband ($79.90, www.hoomsleep.com)
The Hoomband’s washable elastic fabric holds a pair of very flat Bluetooth headphones that can stream any content from your phone for up to 10 hours per charge. But the real power of this headband lies in the app, which gives you access to over 100 hours of free audio content (updated regularly) ranging from hypnotic stories and documentaries to binaural soundscapes and white noise, as well as guided meditations.
Morphée ($99.99, us.morphee.co)
Morphée is like an old-fashioned egg timer that plays soothing sounds and guided meditations so you can calm your body and mind and fall asleep. The device is all analog; it lacks any sort of screen, and it has a built-in speaker and a jack for wired headphones. You turn the three metal keys on Morphée’s face to access audio sessions that range from binaural nature sounds and relaxing music to breathing and visualization exercises. The beechwood shell adds a nice rustic touch, and the battery lasts for about a week!
Muse S (Gen 2) ($399.99, www.choosemuse.com)
The Muse S headband senses your brainwaves via its built-in EEG and gives you biofeedback to help you improve your waking focus and your sleep quality. By monitoring your brain, heart rate, and body position, the device gives you a ton of personalized insights. It also connects to your phone using Bluetooth and gives you access to soothing soundscapes called Digital Sleeping Pills that respond to your brainwaves and guide your brain to sleep. The company offers a bundle with a premium subscription via the included app that has over 500 guided meditations and lets you pipe in audio from your favorite apps on top of the Muse content.
Zenimal Kids+ 2.0 ($69.99, www.zenimals.com)
Kids can participate in the mindfulness revolution too, with the turtle-shaped Zenimal Kids+ 2.0. It’s a simple device with a speaker, on-board controls and memory, and it’s pre-loaded with nine kid-friendly guided meditations and three sleep-inducing sounds. The most exciting part is that it has a built-in microSD card reader, and you can purchase Zenimal cards with extra meditations, music or sounds on them.