Hi-Tech Sleep with the Bose Sleepbuds

The Bose Sleepbuds had an interesting development cycle. Instead of creating something entirely in-house, Bose turned to crowdfunding to figure out the interest level of a high-tech audio sleep aid. The experiment was a success and the product quickly sold out on Indiegogo. I recently received a pair as a gift and, after using them for a few nights, have some initial impressions.


The Good

My biggest concern was that the Sleepbuds wouldn’t stay in my ears overnight once I entered a deep sleep. (I tend to start out as a back sleeper, then all bets are off.) I found the Sleepbuds rolled up in a sheet the first morning, but after that they’ve stayed in reliably. They’re comfortable, with soft rubber fittings that come in small, medium and large. Compared to other Bose earbuds I own, the rubber material seems much softer on the Sleepbuds. The cone shape leading into the ear fits snugly and securely. It’s possible to push it too far in which can be irritating after a few minutes. It takes a few uses to figure out the right fit, which isn’t unexpected.

The Sleepbuds aren’t general-purpose earbuds, meaning you can’t listen to just any audio stream. You’re limited to ten sounds available from the iOS or Android app, although Bose claims there are more sounds coming. The sounds are what you’d expect: various white noise and some loops, like campfires and streams. I prefer the white noise options, which I’ll get into later. And because these are linked with an app, you can’t use them standalone. If you’re paranoid about how your data is used, this might be an issue.

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The Sleepbuds do a great job of blocking out sound, but they aren’t noise-canceling. They’re “noise-masking.” If you’re in a loud room or your sleepmate snores loudly, they won’t be enough to give you a quiet night’s sleep, even at maximum volume.

One nice feature I noticed was, once I took the Sleepbuds out of their charging case, they immediately linked with the iPhone app and starting streaming audio. Not needing to navigate to the app and start it was welcome.

The charging case is where the Sleepbuds live when you’re not using them, or when they aren’t lost somewhere in the sheets. I’ve found the case can recharge the Sleepbuds 3-4 times on a single charge before it needs to be plugged in. The five dots indicate the case’s charge level, while the flashing lights by each ‘bud indicate if you’ve successfully placed the ‘buds on their respective magnetic charging base. Overall, Bose did a great job with this part of the design and experience of using the Sleepbuds.

The Bad

Of course, no product is perfect. If you’re a side sleeper, which I sometimes am, no amount of rubber padding will mask the feeling of a plastic marble getting pushed into your ear canal. That’s woken me up a few times since I started using them. Not a show-stopper, but annoying enough to mention.

Then there are the sounds. The white noise sounds, like Circulate and Warm Static, are fine because they’re ignorable. Other sounds, like Rustle and Tranquility, have loops that are too short. If you’re paying attention to them even slightly, it’s easy to pick up where the loop restarts and, if you’re like me, you’ll spend more time listening for the loop than entering sleep.

The Results

The Sleepbuds don’t magically put you to sleep. They will block out a good deal of sound and give you a droning noise to focus on while you attempt to get to sleep. If you’re stressed about the day you’ve had, or the day you’re about to have, you’ll still have to deal with that. At best, the Sleepbuds give you a personal cone of relative silence with small footprint.

At $250, the Bose Sleepbuds are an expensive audio sleep aid, but it’s an aid that works for me. I wouldn’t use them while flying due to the risk of losing one or both in a seat, but  they’re definitely part of my at-home sleep routine now.

Have you tried the Bose Sleepbuds or something similar? Let me know in the comments.

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