is arguably the most important part of feeling your best. You can , and stream all the YouTube has to offer, but if you’re up tossing and turning all night because the person sleeping next to you (who, you keep telling yourself, you love so much) is snoring like a freight train, you’re probably not going to wake up ready to tackle your day.
While you can certainly opt for a sleep divorce — Steve Romine, head of Bose Health Division, shared with me that up to 25% of couples either sleep in or different rooms — you might want to see if you have any luck with earplugs first. There are a lot of options out there, but the best earplugs fit snugly in your ear canals and help cut down ambient noise so you can drift off to sleep a little more peacefully.
When it comes to earplugs, options run the gamut from your basic foam earplugs to moldable silicone putty to high-tech sleep buds that play pink noise as you snooze.
The Bose Sleepbuds II aren’t your average earplugs. Classified as a noise-masking device (rather than noise-canceling), these sleepbuds don’t just block off your ears. They use technology that helps cover up unpredictable, sudden and impulsive sounds, like snoring or the honking of car horns, by giving you a different, comforting sound to listen to. They come with 10 preloaded sounds — everything from airplane noise to a waterfall to your standard white noise — that play throughout the night. You can also use the app, which has 40 sounds in total, to swap out sounds based on your mood or preference.
As soon as I turned the Sleepbuds II on, it was like the outside world faded away. While I could still hear faint snoring, they helped take the edge off by turning it into background noise and I was back to sleep within minutes. I usually go to sleep sans earplugs, then reach for them in the middle of the night when my boyfriend starts snoring and I can’t sleep. But the Bose Sleepbuds II improved my sleep so much that I found myself putting them in as soon as I got into bed and sleeping with them throughout the entire night, whether there was noise or not.
That’s because, as Jack Yu, Bose Sleepbuds II product manager, put it, “Noise is an enemy of sleep, but a bigger one is the inability to turn off your mind.” As someone who deals with chronic anxiety, these sleepbuds were a huge blessing for drowning out racing thoughts. Ironically, although I have a fear of flying, my favorite sound was the airplane noise. It sounded exactly like the soft engine sounds you hear when you’re in the back seats of a plane and it lulled me to sleep every time.
They were also as comfortable as they were effective. Once the sleepbuds were properly placed in my ears, I could barely feel them. They didn’t move or shift at all during the night, and they were secure in my ears so they never felt like they were going to fall out. I sleep on my side and there was no poking or pain whatsoever.
Each charge lasts about 8 hours, so I could only really get one night out of them before having to charge them again. There were some nights I forgot to plug them in, but even without the sounds playing, they do a decent job of acting like regular earplugs at blocking out noise. Read more.
The QuietOn Sleep Earbuds boast a 20-hour battery life and while I was skeptical that they would live up to these claims, they passed my longevity test — and all other tests — with flying colors. These sleep earbuds are specifically formulated to cancel noise from low-frequency sounds, like snoring, noisy neighbors or airplane sounds, and they do the job really well.
They’re similar to the Bose Sleepbuds II in that they play a sound rather than just blocking your ears, but there’s only one sound — a faint white noise. It was really all I needed though. The sound was calming and pleasant and just the right volume to be beneficial but not intrusive.
One thing I really liked about these is that, unlike the Bose Sleepbuds II, you can control them right on the earbuds themselves. There’s a little button on each earbud that you push down to turn them on and off. This makes them really easy to operate in the middle of the night when you’re jolted awake by snoring or other loud sounds and need some quick relief.
And they’re really comfortable too. They didn’t feel as secure as the Bose Sleepbuds II, but they stayed flush with my ear so I could sleep on my side comfortably and didn’t fall out during the night. I could use them for about three nights, depending on how much sleep I was getting, without needing to charge them. Their storage case also doubles as a charger, so it makes it easy to just plug them in when you need a recharge.
If you’re strictly a side sleeper, Mack’s Pillow Soft Silicone Putty Ear Plugs are your best bet. They’re made of soft, fully moldable silicone that shapes to your ear opening and forms an airtight seal that blocks out noise. Although these took a little getting used to — I’ve never tried silicone earplugs before — they quickly became one of my favorites.
Aside from the fact that I was able to shape them to fit my ears perfectly, they were soft and comfortable and stayed completely flat on my ear opening, so they didn’t hurt my ears at all. Most importantly, they did an excellent job at blocking out snoring and any other ambient noise (like three large cats play-fighting in the middle of the night).
The airtight seal also kept them firmly in place, and they didn’t fall out even when I tossed and turned. Every time I wore these, I woke up with both still in my ears, a feat that many standard earplugs haven’t been able to accomplish. The six pairs also come neatly packaged in a plastic carrying case, to keep the silicone clean and free from debris in between uses — a small but appreciated touch.
The Eargasm Squishies are another moldable silicone option that are similar to the Mack’s Pillow Soft Silicone Putty Ear Plugs. The biggest difference between the two, besides the color, is in the directions. Mack’s silicone earplugs must be used whole — you can’t break them or cut them apart. However, Eargasm says if the earplugs are too big, you can break off a piece to get that perfect fit. This is helpful if you have small ears, like me, and find that using the entire silicone earplug just feels too intrusive.
As far as noise reduction goes, the Eargasm Squishies were just as effective as Mack’s putty earplugs. The two have the same noise reduction rating — 22 dB — so I was expecting that the performance would be in line, and it was. The comfort level was also similar, although the Eargasm Squishies had the slight advantage since I could break off a piece and make them a little smaller. The Eargasm Squishies also come in a convenient carrying case with eight reusable pairs.
The Mack’s Slim Fit Foam Ear Plugs look like any regular old foam earplugs, but I could feel the difference in quality as soon as I put them in my ears. They quickly formed an airtight seal and muffled sound instantly. While I could still hear some noise (earplugs aren’t meant to completely eliminate noise, by the way), the loud snoring going on next to me went from a roaring thunderstorm to a minor distraction that was easy to tune out. These particular earplugs have a noise reduction rating of 29 dB. For reference, most earplugs on the market have a rating of 0 to 30 dB and the higher the number, the more effective they are.
And they’re specifically made for small ear canals. I’ve used other foam earplugs in the past and always have issues with them falling out in the middle of the night. It wasn’t until I had a conversation with Pete Brenner, whose family started selling Mack’s earplugs in 1962, that I realized it’s because I wasn’t using the right size earplugs for me. It makes a huge difference in effectiveness, so keep that in mind. The foam is also soft and pliable, so it molded right to my ear canal for the perfect, comfortable fit.
If you don’t have small ears, you can still take advantage of Mack’s advanced snore-blocking technology with its Snore Blockers or Original Soft Foam Earplugs. If you go with any of these options, make sure you thoroughly read the directions before putting them in your ears. One of the most common reasons these types of earplugs get a bad review is because they’re not inserted properly.
The SoundOff Sleep Noise Masking Device is another option that’s similar to the Bose Sleepbuds II and the QuietOn Sleep Earbuds in function. Like the QuietOn Sleep Earbuds, they play one sound — a pink noise that has almost a wave-like vibe.
Pink noise, which is similar to white noise, but with a smoother sound that hits the same notes as sounds you would find in nature (wind, rain or waves), is supposed to help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly and, in my experience, it really worked. I find some white noise a little jarring or unnatural, like it’s there to cover something up, rather than soothe you. But the pink noise playing in the SoundOff device was soothing, calming and effective at blocking out snoring.
One thing I really liked about these earplugs is that the controls are right on the device itself. There’s a small button that you hold down to turn on the pink noise, then you can press it to toggle through five levels of volume. I kept it on the second or third volume settings for the most part, and I was able to get through two nights of sleep without needing a recharge.
As far as design goes, I didn’t have high hopes for comfort level when I first saw the SoundOff device. Rather than a slim earbud or squishy foam that you put in your ear, they’re shaped like a hearing device, with an earpiece that goes in your ear and a looped plastic piece that wraps around the outside of your ear and holds the earplugs in place. But they were surprisingly comfortable. The adjustable plastic is soft, and it bends and moves with you, so even when I was sleeping on my side, I could barely feel them.
The Vibes Hi-Fidelity Earplugs are different from others on this list. They’re actually designed for live music festivals, so rather than blocking out noise, the intent is to lower the decibels of the sound around you to make the noise more manageable. This makes them the ideal choice for traveling, when the noise can get overwhelming but you don’t want to be completely checked out from the world as you take a quick snooze.
Unfortunately, because of current travel restrictions, I wasn’t able to test them during actual travel, but I did wear them in a coffee shop and while I was waiting in line to check out at a busy store, and they did an excellent job of blocking out voices, reducing pitches and dulling loud music.
You can use them for sleeping at home too, but only if you’re strictly a back sleeper. The earplugs have a stem that sticks out straight from your ear canal, so not only are they uncomfortable when you’re sleeping on your side, it’s possible that they would get pushed too far into your ear and cause problems.
The earplugs come with three different ear tip sizes so you can find the ideal fit for your ear canal and a small carrying case that makes them easier to travel with.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.