If you struggle to sleep and counting sheep doesn’t work, Bose has come up with a pricey alternative which claims to help you get some shut eye.
At £229, the Sleepbuds are a costlier than a warm bath and a cup of camomile tea, but with more than half of adults sleeping for less than six hours each night, according to recent research, and sleep problems on the rise – is it a price worth paying?
I’m a fantastically light sleeper which means constant background noises such as air conditioning make it hard for me to drift off and even if there’s even a minor disturbance I’ll almost always wake up and lie wide awake staring at the ceiling. It’s certainly not comparable to other people’s sleeping issues, but it did mean that I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted these earbuds to accomplish.
The Sleepbuds are a pair of wireless noise-masking earphones designed to cancel out disrupting sounds from outside such as traffic and noisy neighbours.
At the heart of the product are two in-ear headphones that play 10 pre-recorded sounds at night. They’re almost medical-looking when you first see them and in some ways that feels deliberate – these aren’t headphones, they’re a tool. They’re also tiny and difficult to find if you lose one in the middle of the night – as I discovered scrambling around my bed at 2am in the morning on my first night.
In addition to the fear of losing them, I spent my first night constantly worrying that a) I’d sleep through my alarm or b) I wouldn’t hear if someone broke in to my flat. In fact, it took a conscious effort to actually let them do their job.
Bose has tried to alleviate this alarm anxiety by putting an alarm function into the buds, so that you will wake up when you’re supposed to. But I still spent a good time fretting about being late for work.
Putting them in your ear requires a bit of a knack. You first place the bud in the ear, rotate gently and finally slot the wing inside your ear to keep them in place. Once they’re in you can barely feel them – a key feature if you’re trying to get comfortable in bed. I couldn’t feel them even as I tossed from side to side.
How they work is quite impressive. The headphones don’t cancel sound, instead they mask it using 10 artificially created sounds. Each one has been layered with sympathetic noises designed to drown out background noise such as traffic, snoring, sirens and, of course, noisy neighbours. The sounds are rather organic (wind rustling leaves, river trickling etc), but if you listen closely enough – as you might when struggling to sleep – you can tell there’s something synthesised about them.
Setting them up is all done through the Bose Sleep app and is as simple as pairing some wireless headphones. The app is incredibly easy to use and tells you the battery life, alarms you’ve set and finally lets you alter the sound and volume.
Do they work? Well, this is the £229 question and honestly I’m not sure I have an answer. On one night I slept like a baby, while on another I tossed and turned a lot. All I do know is that on both nights I couldn’t hear London and more importantly I couldn’t hear the air filtration system that has been my mortal enemy since moving into this flat.
Interestingly, they were so good at masking the outside world I’ve since used them at work as well to help me focus on writing. Again, it’s a niche use case but for people who work in offices and need to concentrate they’re not just limited to use at night.
They won’t work for everyone though. And £229 is a huge price to ask for a product that will undoubtedly give such mixed results to people depending on why they’re having trouble sleeping.
What’s more, I wouldn’t want to wear them every single night simply because I still don’t know if I can shake off that feeling of anxiousness about cutting myself off from the outside world. I’m sure I’m not alone in that either.
At the moment I just can’t say to someone spend that kind of money on a product like this. So for now my advice would be to wait a bit, read user reviews and try to see if they’re working for people that suffer from the same sleep issues as you. If you’re still unsure it might even be worth waiting for the next generation of Sleepbuds when hopefully, the price will have come down.
Bose Sleepbuds, £229.