SleepPhones are headphones specifically designed to be worn in bed. They were originally created for use by those who have difficulty falling asleep, so they can listen to white noise, rain sounds, or similar.
But my interest was rather different. I tend to go to sleep later than my girlfriend, and while I mostly read before sleep, I sometimes like to listen to podcasts or watch videos …
On-ear or over-ear headphones don’t let you turn onto your side, and in-ear ones tend to be uncomfortable when you do, digging into your ear. SleepPhones, in contrast, are designed to be comfortable with your head on a pillow, no matter which way you turn.
There’s a somewhat confusing array of different models, some of which are only suitable for getting to sleep, as they have built-in sounds and cannot connect to your iPhone or iPad. The original (Classic) model is equally useless to iPhone owners, as it has a cable with a 3.5mm jack.
The two main models for iPhone owners are Wireless and Effortless. Both are Bluetooth headphones, the difference between them being that Wireless are charged with a cable while Effortless offer wireless charging via something which looks like a clunkier version of the Apple Watch puck. I tested the badly-named Effortless model – but more on that below.
Look and feel
SleepPhones look exactly like a sweatband, which is pretty much exactly what the outer form is. Available in a choice of colors, the headband is a stretchy fabric made from a mix of polyester and spandex. All the electronics sit inside this double-layered band.
You wear the front of it around your forehead, or across your eyes, with the slim Bluetooth module in the rear. This is slim enough and has a soft enough casing that you really don’t feel it when your head is on a pillow.
The speakers are free-floating inside the sides of the headband. That is, they have a wired connection to the Bluetooth module, but the speakers themselves don’t have a fixed position within the band. It’s the elastic of the band against your ears that holds them in place. More on that in a moment too.
SleepPhones are very comfortable to wear. I was conscious of a slight feeling of tightness across my forehead when I first put them on, then quickly got used to them and was scarcely aware they were there.
You do need to get the right size headband. Too tight, and it will be uncomfortable; too loose, and it will slip down, or the speakers will wander within the band. I’m hat size 57 and found the medium a good fit.
There are three buttons on the rear Bluetooth module, and as they are inside the band, you have to use them by feel. I have to say, this is quite awkward, so I only used the larger center button to switch them on and off (in each case, hold down and wait for the confirmation tone). I didn’t use the two volume buttons, finding it easier to adjust the volume on my iPhone or iPad.
The other thing that is fiddly is adjusting the position of the speakers inside the headband, as you have to kind of work them into position through the fabric, test, then repeat. In theory, you only have to do this once, but they can move if you aren’t careful about how you put the SleepPhones down after use. My plan is to carefully sew a couple of short seams on each side of the speakers to stop them moving.
I wasn’t expecting much in terms of sound quality. This is a convenience product primarily designed for sleep sounds, so I didn’t think much work would have been put into the audio quality. That didn’t concern me, as my planned use was only podcasts and videos.
However, when I did test them with music, I have to say I was impressed. You do need to make sure the speakers are positioned correctly, as the sound falls off very quickly if they aren’t centred on your ears – but once they are, the audio quality was way better than I’d expected. Certainly acceptable for casual listening.
Don’t misunderstand me: SleepPhones aren’t on a par with the sort of premium headphones I usually use, but I have zero complaints with their intended use, and they are usable for music too.
The one complaint I have is charging. Although the wireless charger sounds convenient, meaning you can recharge the headphones without removing the Bluetooth module from the band, it’s very fiddly in practice. They have to be very precisely aligned in an off-center position, and the indicator light on the charging puck is on the side the cable comes in. The fabric also hangs over the puck, making it even harder to see the indicator light.
The wireless-charging model is called Effortless, but this is anything but! I’d honestly recommend opting for the wired-charging model instead.
Pricing and conclusions
At $149.95, SleepPhones aren’t inexpensive for something you’re only likely to use in bed. But if you frequently like to listen to podcasts or videos in bed, then it’s probably a worthwhile price for the comfort factor.
However, given the awkwardness of wireless charging, I would, as I say, recommend saving yourself fifty bucks and opting instead for the “Wireless” model that features wired-charging. Yes, you’ll have to open the headband flat and partially pull out the Bluetooth module to plug in the charging cable, but I seriously don’t think that will be any more trouble than getting the wireless charger aligned.
At a hundred bucks, if listening to audio in bed is something you do a lot, SleepPhones are highly recommended.
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