Bose Sleepbuds may help you to get to sleep and stay asleep – well at least until its personal alarm wakes you. But there are caveats.
More than half of Australian’s suffer from regular sleep deprivation. Sleep experts have found that apart from avoiding things like alcohol, caffeine and establishing a better circadian rhythm, our environment affects sleep too.
Temperature/humidity (19° and <50% are considered optimal), darkness (a darkened room with no bright light sources like LED alarms), mattress type, and noise all need to be just right for a good sleep.
Studies confirm that external noise (often from traffic) and internal noise (fans, air conditioners, dripping taps, partner snoring) can cause poor sleep and result in long-term health issues.
Those same studies suggest that 50% of participants experience better sleep quality with reductions in both noise and lighting issues.
Enter Bose Sleepbuds
Bose is careful not to make any clinical or health claims. You won’t read that they are the panacea to better sleep, that you will get to sleep faster or sleep longer. What you will read is that they can help control one aspect of the sleep environment – noise.
And after testing we agree – Bose Sleepbuds minimise background noise.
The secret is three things. Sleepbuds reduce sounds using a fitted silicone sleeptip that slips into the outer ear (not the ear canal). It is not noise cancellation that Bose is an expert at. Bose supplies small, medium and large sleeptips. We found that a comfortable fit was more important than a tight fit.
Bose Sleepbuds cover noises and replace them with more palatable ones. For example, if your partner is a chainsaw snorer, it offers a choice of several noises (tracks) – let’s call it anti-noise – to help mask that.
When fitted correctly it does not block all the noise – you need to be able to hear alarms etc. Subjectively we say it reduces that noise by around 50% and then uses the anti-noise to smooth over it.
Daniel Lee, systems engineer for Bose sleepbuds, said:
Noise-masking is a science. It’s more than ambient sound or white noise. You can’t achieve it by simply turning up the volume on calming songs. And depending on the situation, it’s more effective than active noise cancelling — even ours.
When it’s quiet, even the slightest sound seems loud. Bedside [white/pink noise] machines can’t cover it, earplugs can’t block it, and [Bluetooth] earbuds meant for sitting, standing, or moving can’t be worn for hours laying down — especially on your side. But Bose sleepbuds can. And if you’re someone who’s tried everything and nothing’s worked, or haven’t tried anything believing nothing will [work] we made them for you.
Review. Bose Sleepbuds
Australian website here.
What are Bose Sleepbuds?
A pair of tiny left and right (1cm round, 1.4g) electronic buds placed in either a small, medium or large silicon StayHear+ Sleeptip. The buds are small enough to comfortably side-sleep.
Inside each bud is a rechargeable battery and some electronics to communicate with an iOS or Android app. They are not speakers per se.
They play noise tracks and include:
- Warm static (perhaps my favourite for reducing snoring)
- Downstream (babbling brook)
- Cascade (waterfall)
- Altitude (plane cruising)
- Shower (seems good for relaxing and clearing the mind)
- Rustle (my second favourite seems to cover outside noises best)
- More to come
You select the track and volume that works best for your environment. For example, chainsaw snoring seems to reduce with Warm static. Fan or air conditioning noise work best with Rustle. If you listen carefully, you can hear outside noises, but they are smooth, less objectionable.
The tracks can play all night (from when you put them on to take them off) or be set for intervals from 30 minutes to six hours. The battery is good for 16 hours of use. They dock in a USB charging travel charging case. It also acts as a power bank.
Be careful that with some phones the music may stop playing after an hour or so even though you select ‘play all night’. You simply need to find the battery management for that app and allow it to run in the background.
Do they work?
I have only used them for two nights. Yes, they assist in blocking external noises, cover these with agreeable sounds, and I was off to sleep quick smart. But I usually go to sleep quickly, so I am not sure if that was the buds or me.
My partner is a chainsaw snorer, and it blocks that very well. The tracks are innocuous, you barely notice them at recommended volumes.
But for three reasons, these did not work for me.
First, I have hay fever and get itchy ears. The Sleepbuds are fine for a few hours, but the urge to later stick a finger in there for relief is too great. Plus, I found that they made my ear canal hot.
Second, I suffer from pulsatile tinnitus where you can hear your heartbeat in your ears. We are not talking about a gentle throb but a whacking thump, thump that keeps me awake. It is a very common issue, and people get around it by using two pillows in a v-shape to keep their ear/s off the pillow. Sleepbuds intensify this issue.
Finally, hearing occlusion. This effect is the sensation of increased loudness (sound pressure level), especially in the low frequencies, a person experiences to self-generated sounds (vocalisation, chewing, swallowing, walking, and the like), when the ears are covered (occluded).
Many additional conditions can affect sleep – no matter how good your noise management is.
- Women going through menopause with hot flashes or those with thyroid problems will wake frequently.
- Restless sleepers that toss and frequently turn to restore circulation.
- Sleep apnoea
- Frequent urination caused by diabetes, prostate, urinary tract infection or diuretic medications
The bottom line is that if you are a poor sleeper, then Bose Sleepbuds probably won’t improve that.
GadgetGuy’s take. Bose Sleepbuds could work for you
Channel Seven Sunrise GadgetGuy Val Quinn went to the launch in New York, and there is a video of how it works.
He was so impressed that he bought a pair each for him and his wife.
I’ve used them on aeroplanes – coming back from NYC and in both directions to the Apple event. They are handy as you can side-sleep. It cuts out plane noise, galley, talking people, etc.
On a plane, you need to turn the volume up a bit as they do not ‘cancel’ the noise around you, but rather, they cover it up with other sounds. Putting on my Bose Noise Cancelling QC35 II’s showed how good they are at cutting the plane noise. But I prefer the sleep buds to earplugs on a plane any day for sleeping.
I have noticed a bit of ear itch at the end of sleep, but nothing that would wake me up or prevent me from getting to sleep. I imagine that you’d get accustomed to this if used a lot. Also, I found the middle size tips quite comfortable.
In a quiet place such as my house, I sleep all night and use the alarm to wake me up early for Sunrise. All without waking my wife up, which she appreciates.
And while Val won’t admit it, he does snore, and his wife will benefit enormously.
- Beautifully designed
- Use the right size tip for comfort first and sound isolation second
- The carry case is also the charger and power bank
- 16-hour battery means you can go a couple of nights between charges
- Bose will release further tracks to cover specific noises
- Would have liked at least one extra set of Sleep tips (I suspect they will wear out when used every night).
- People will complain about the price – $379. There is no medical rebate.
- Noise reduction is only one part of the sleep panacea.
- If you are a poor sleeper anyway, they won’t improve that.
- If they don’t work for you, it may be hard to return them as these are ‘personal’ product just as underwear is.
Availability and Price
Bose sleepbuds cost $379 at Bose stores, online and Bose retailers.
As a device to help manage the impact of external noise on sleep.
- Overall: 4 out of 5
- Features: 4 out of 5 – block, cover, replace sound, good battery life
- Value for Money: 4 out of 5 – Unique so there is nothing to compare it with
- Performance: 4 out of 5 – Does what Bose says it will
- Ease of Use: 4 out of 5 – Download the app, charge in the case
- Design: 4 out of 5 – Would have preferred additional sets of sleep tips in the package. The incident of hot or itchy ear after a few hours use may be a concern for some.