To sleep like a baby, several factors are key to a good night’s rest: a quality mattress, a dark room, and some peace and quiet, which is often the hardest to find. Whether it’s traffic on a busy street, loud neighbors, or a bedmate who snores like a leaf blower, it feels like there’s something always keeping us awake—which is why you’ll never catch us without a pair of earplugs for sleeping on hand.
Earplugs work their magic by reducing the decibel levels of ambient noise. This not only helps you fall asleep faster but also ensures that your precious hours of rest are undisturbed by unwanted disturbances (cough cough—that snoring partner). That said, not all earplugs are created equal. Below, we chatted with Ruth Reisman, AuD, CCC-A, founder of Urban Hearing, and Amy Sarow, AuD, CCC-A, lead audiologist at Soundly, for tips on choosing the right pair and which ones they recommend for anyone looking for a night of undisturbed, blissful sleep.
In This Article
- Best for blocking out the most noise: Flare, Sleeep Pro, $48
- Best for reducing some noise: Loop Earplugs, Quiet, $25
- Best for side sleepers: Eargasm, Squishies, $14
- Best disposable: Mack’s, Slim Fit Soft Foam Ear Plugs, $15
- Best for travel: 3M, Classic Earplugs, $18
- Best breathable: Phonak, Serenity Choice Sleep, $29
- Best alternative to earplugs: Dormi, Wireless Bluetooth Headband Headphones, $50
What to look for in earplugs for sleeping
When it comes to sleep earplugs, comfort is of utmost priority. You’ll want earplugs that fit snugly in your ear to effectively snuff out sounds, but not so tightly that they’re uncomfortable to wear overnight.
Dr. Reisman and Dr. Sarow both point to foam as a soft material that is not only comfortable enough for overnight wear, but also expands and adjusts to fit a variety of ear canal sizes. They’re relatively low-cost, too. That said, most foam earplugs have a short lifespan of usefulness. Per OSHA guidelines, you’ll want to replace them, with daily use, every one or two days, as the material’s porous structure can breed bacteria.
Silicone earplugs tend to last longer than foam, but, according to Dr. Reisman, they can be less comfortable than their counterparts. However, choosing ones made from soft silicone or silicone putty can mitigate the issue. Silicone putty also has the added benefit of offering wearers an ideal fit as it has a similar malleability to wax (another material recommended by Dr. Sarow), allowing you to mold it into a shape that fits your ear canal. However, its stickier consistency can attract dust and dirt.
While comfort is subjective, the sleep earplugs we recommend on this list can serve as a starting point. The featured picks have been vetted by Dr. Reisman and Dr. Sarow who can attest to their wearability for sleep. Just know that there are no over-the-counter earplugs that are best for everybody, and you may want to try several for yourself to find your perfect pair.
To further narrow down your choices, also consider an earplugs’ noise reduction rating (NRR), which indicates in decibels, or dB, how much noise you can expect a given pair to block out. The higher the rating, the more the noise reduction. “Usually, you want about a 25-decibel reduction, but that might be more or less depending on the person’s situation,” says Dr. Sarow.
While earplugs with a higher NRR might seem like the best option, more doesn’t necessarily mean better. “Someone might want to pick earplugs with a lower noise reduction, especially if they have hearing loss or it’s hindering their sense of awareness,” says Dr. Reisman. You might also want earplugs with a lower NRR if, for example, you want to stay alert to a baby’s cries or in case of an emergency.
Other factors to consider
Note that earplugs aren’t for everyone. According to Dr. Sarow, people with bacterial ear infections or perforated eardrums might want to avoid using sleeping earplugs. Dr. Reisman adds that people who have wax impaction or are prone to excess wax buildup will want to steer clear, too. “Wearing earplugs might end up clogging the ear and you may potentially have to see a hearing healthcare professional to have [the wax] removed,” she says.
And whether or not you plan to use earplugs, you may want to try other strategies to minimize nocturnal noises. “Outside of earplugs, maybe think about white noise to mask distractions,” says Dr. Sarow.
Shop the best earplugs for sleeping
Best for blocking out the most noise: Flare, Sleeep Pro — $48.00
Originally $60, now $48
With an NRR of 32 dB, the Flare Sleeep Pro promises to drown out the most noise (snoring bedmates included) on this list—and Dr. Sarow attests to the noise-reducing capabilities of these earplugs. “They do a good job of attenuating sound,” she says, adding: “They’re comfortable in the ear because of the soft foam tip.”
Those soft tips are made from memory foam to create a squishy barrier between your ears and the sounds of the outside world. Plus, unlike many foam earplugs, this option is washable and reusable, making it ideal for those who want the comfort of the material but want to cut down on waste. They come with two tip sizes—standard and large—so you can find the right fit for your ear.
Type: memory foam
NRR: 32 dB
Size: standard and large
Quantity: one pair
- Highest noise reduction rating on the list
- Made from washable and reusable memory foam
- Only two different sizes of interchangeable ear tips
Best for reducing some noise: Loop Earplugs, Quiet — $25.00
If you’re looking for light noise reduction that doesn’t limit your auditory awareness, Loop’s Quiet Earplugs fit the bill. They’re similar to Loop’s Engage Earplugs, only this version blocks out 14 dB of sound as opposed to 10 dB. The earplugs are made from soft silicone, and they’re designed to sit flush against the ear, which prevents them from pressing into your pillow and causing you discomfort. This model also comes with four different sizes of interchangeable ear tips (“That way you’re able to change the size to make it appropriate for you,” says Dr. Sarow) and a useful case for storage. Comfort and sound reduction aside, Loop’s earplugs look pretty stylish and come in several colors, including mint, violet, and blue.
NRR: 14 dB
Quantity: one pair
- Sits flush against the ear
- Four different sizes of interchangeable ear tips
Best for side sleepers: Eargasm, Squishies — $14.00
Side sleepers need earplugs that won’t press into their pillow or fall out mid-sleep—and if you’re one of them, Dr. Sorrow recommends the Eargasm Squishies. Made from moldable silicone, “they come in little balls and you just roll them and shape them and then press it into the ear,” she says, adding, “they fit very smoothly and flatly against the ear.”
When inserted correctly, the sticky material creates a seal that can silence up to 22 dB of sound, but because it’s on the stickier side, it can be a magnet for dust, dirt, and lint. The Squishes come in a set of eight pairs and with a case to store them between uses. Plus, you can mold them to fit your ears and they can even be broken into smaller pieces for smaller ear canals.
Type: moldable silicone
NRR: 22 dB
Size: one size
Quantity: 8 pairs
- Molds to fit most ear canals
- Creates a seal to effectively reduce sound
- Its stickier consistency can attract dust, dirt, and lint
Best disposable: Mack’s, Slim Fit Soft Foam Ear Plugs — $15.00
Mack’s Slim Fit Soft Foam Ear Plugs are another recommendation from Dr. Sarow, who attests that they “fit a lot of ears pretty well.” They’re made with low-pressure polyurethane foam and feature a tapered design that is makes for easy insertion before they slowly expand within your ear canal to muffle out 31 decibels of noise. They’re also 20 percent smaller than the brand’s standard-sized earplugs for people with sensitive ears or smaller ear canals. And for $15, you’ll receive 50 pairs in a jar. Just know that a pair is only made for a few uses until it’s time to dispose of them.
Type: polyurethane foam
NRR: 31 dB
Size: one size
Quantity: 50 pairs
- Fits a wide variety of ear shapes
- Must be disposed of after several uses
Best for travel: 3M, Classic Ear Plugs — $18.00
If you travel frequently or have to sleep away from home, you might want to consider this 50-pack of Classic Ear Plugs from 3M, which according to Dr. Reisman, “has a good reputation for creating a reliable earpiece.” Each pair is individually wrapped so you can pack them away in a bag, backpack, or suitcase, and you can use them a few times before they need to be replaced. Once inserted into the ear, the polyvinyl foam expands to fill the space of your ear canal and will ease sounds up to 29 dB. The manufacturer also indicates that the material is moisture-resistant and it also comes in two other versions for people with smaller or larger ear canals to help them find their ideal fit.
Type: polyvinyl foam
NRR: 29 dB
Size: one size
Quantity: 50 pairs
- Travel-friendly packaging
- Also sold in smaller and larger versions
- Individually wrapped in plastic
Best breathable: Phonak, Serenity Choice Sleep — $29.00
The Phonak Serenity Choice Sleep earplugs come with the approval of Dr. Reisman, who personally recommends this pick to clients looking for an over-the-counter alternative to custom-made earplugs. The pair is made from hypoallergenic thermoplastic elastomer (or TPE) and the ear tips are equipped with breathable mesh to provide ventilation, and thus, prevent a buildup of excess moisture in the ear.
While these earplugs are designed to be breathable, they lower sounds by an average of 16 dB—enough to take the edge off the harshest noises without tuning out everything happening around you. A bonus: Each pair comes with a convenient carrying case and three different-sized ear tips.
NRR: 16 dB
Quantity: one pair
- Prevents buildup of excess moisture
- Three different sizes of interchangeable ear tips
Best alternative to earplugs: Dormi, Wireless Bluetooth Headband Headphones — $50.00
Not everyone can—or wants to—wear earplugs to sleep, and Dr. Reisman recommends the Dormi Wireless Bluetooth Headband Headphones as an alternative. It allows you to stream your own audio (like music or soothing sounds from one of the many free sleep apps online) via Bluetooth, and it has a battery life of up to 10 hours. It can even double as an eye mask!
The headband itself is made from a stretchy and hypoallergenic polyester-spandex blend that is machine washable, and, according to Dr. Reisman, it’s one of the most comfortable sleep headphones she has used because “it stays in place well.” Plus, it’s available in two colors and sizes to accommodate various head sizes.
Just keep in mind that if you wear overnight hair-protective or styling items, the headband can be more of a nuisance than a helpful bedtime solution.
Size: standard (22-24.5 inches) and Reduced Size (20-22.5 inches)
- Streams audio of your choice
- Offers up to 10 hours of playtime
- Also works as an eye mask
- Not ideal for people who use hair-protective items at night
Also nice to have…
Yogasleep, Original White Noise Sound Machine — $48.00
To further mask unwanted sounds, Dr. Reisman and Dr. Sarow both point to white noise machines. Contributing writer Emily Popp recommends the Yogasleep White Noise Machine. “I can often hear my neighbors below me watching TV during the day, so I’ll turn the sound machine on while I’m working and it will instantly drown it out,” says Popp, who has tried the machine herself. Equipped with just two volume-adjustable sounds—fan and white air—it’s best for those who want something simple and straightforward to do the job.
Read the full review on the Yogasleep White Noise Machine here.
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