Drifting Off with Bose Sleepbuds™

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Bose, at its core, is a company that makes problem-solving audio gear. Whether it’s making a plane ride less noisy, or being able to run at the gym without your earbuds falling out, Bose has a history of identifying an audio-related problem, and attempting to fix it. The next problem this company is looking to solve? Terrible sleep. Enter the Bose Noise-Masking Sleepbuds™.

Bose Noise-Masking In-Ear Sleepbuds

I’m a terrible sleeper, so when I caught wind of the existence of Sleepbuds™, I elbowed my way to the front of the line to review a pair. I’m always on the lookout for a non-medical solution to my difficulties falling asleep, so the concept of what Bose is selling here is appealing—and it is a straightforward one at that: a set of earbuds comfortable enough to be worn all night long, while masking some outside sound, and playing back relaxing soundscapes and atmospheres. Sounds simple, right?

Well, as the cliché goes, the devil is in the details, and Bose went all in on them. The Sleepbuds™ take some basic cues from the Bose SoundSportFree Headphones. Like their cousins, the Sleepbuds™ come with a case that doubles as a portable charger and comes with three sizes of ear tips for you to select for use. Unlike the SoundsportFreecharging case, the Sleepbuds’™ case is circular, smooth, and gray, closer in appearance to a pill case than a piece of portable electronics (looking very at home on a nightstand, for instance).

Where the SoundSportFree earbuds are sizeable, the Sleepbuds™ are tiny, and quite lightweight. Placing them in my ears the first time, they fit snugly enough that they stayed in without constantly reminding me I had them in. It was a good first impression, but taking them for a test drive at the office is a far cry from keeping them in overnight.

No small part of my being a terrible sleeper comes from my terrible sleeping habits; I fall asleep with Netflix playing and am usually on my phone right up until I turn off the lights and call it a night. So, out of the gate, the Sleepbuds™ are addressing and correcting some bad habits. The quick experience of their comfort while at the office held up; once in my ears and in bed, they were barely noticeable. At the time I reviewed them, Bose had 10 pre-loaded soothing sounds to select from (though they have hinted that more are coming via future app updates).

Navigating the app was entirely straightforward, and swiping through the 10 options was easy. To keep the form factor as small as Bose has it, there are no controls at all on the Sleepbuds™ themselves. While everything the buds can do is controlled through the app, all the sounds are stored internally on the buds. Nothing is streaming from your phone, which also contributes to the Sleepbuds’™ small size (and also explains why they can’t stream your own music from your device).

For the first night, I chose the “Swell” option, so I could pretend I’m dozing on the beach as the tide comes in. From the settings page on the app, you can select how long you want the ambiance playing, as well as set the volume. To make sure you’re not accidently damaging your hearing, the buds max out at 70dB, which is relatively quiet and below the threshold of potential hearing damage. The app also lets you set an alarm just in case it works too well. But just to be safe, I also set my alarm clock for 10 minutes after the Sleepbuds™ would go off.

The buds stayed in my ears all night despite some tossing and turning. I had some concerns I’d doze off with them in and wake up and find them on my pillow, but the Sleepbuds™ stayed in, no problem. They blocked out most of the noise, pleasantly, from my window AC (it should be noted the buds mask noise passively, but do not cancel noise, allowing you to still experience your surroundings a bit).

The alarm got me up, and was not at all jarring, which was a mild concern I had, considering the buds are directly in your ears. All in all, the performance delivers pretty much as promised, which is a testament to Bose taking a relatively simple concept and putting the Bose spin on it.

So, the real question is, did they help me sleep? I used them for a solid week, and each night, found I had an easier time falling asleep. Did I stay asleep the whole night? No, but it’s unrealistic to think that the Sleepbuds™ could solve all sleeping-related issues. As Bose is quick to point out, these are not medical devices.

After that, you may be left asking, “are these for me?” If you’ve had great success with white noise machines in the past, or are currently using one, this is a big step up, provides you the additional benefit of masking unwanted sound, and gives you an alarm. I’ve had mixed results with white noise machines in the past, but found the Sleepbuds™ to be beneficial. While I reviewed them for a week at home, I would imagine I’d especially appreciate them while traveling, because I often have trouble getting to sleep in hotel rooms, due to the unfamiliar noise.

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