12
Jul

The Bose sleepbuds work! And also don’t.

“Hello, you’ve reached First-World Complaints, this is Zoë speaking, how may I help you?”

My wonderful ears grant me many, many pleasures: the sound of my baby’s laughter, crunchy toast being buttered, Vampire Weekend’s new album, a fresh mug of coffee being poured… but I fear they are taking their job far too seriously. They think they work for the CIA, and must never dip below Aggressively Vigilant. On the plus side, I do feel like I might save the family if a burglar ever gives it a crack.

Just like my inability to jump on trampolines, I blame the children. It pretty much kicked in the day my firstborn arrived, as did my anxiety and complete loss of rhythm on the dance floor, and it seems to get more powerful with each new child/year that goes by, yknow, like the stench of a Camembert that’s rolled under the back seat.

On any given night my extremely over sensitive ears will run the auditory gauntlet of:

1. My husband’s snoring breathing. It was just occasional snoring , but then I coerced him into sinus surgery to “help” him, and now his basic inhalation and exhalation volume is set to AUDITORIUM thanks to all the new airway space created. So that’s cool. No regrets there. (Fun fact: The thing that stopped his snoring – til he stopped practising – and which stopped his daily use of Ventolin and prednisolone for his asthma, was the Buteyko method. It works. And as the person sharing a bed with him, I can vouch for it.)

2. My five-year old calling out for a drink… or that he is cold… or coming into our bed, or my one year-old crying because she is a one-year old and they do that, especially when they are teething, or sick, or their brain is doubling in size and capability, so, always.

3. Possums fucking around in the tree right outside. We’ve got the goddamn Possopranos out there: it is violent, it is relentless, and I swear I heard the word gabbagool the other night.

4. High-density urban living… i.e.: neighbors daring to have a life and drinking and chatting outside or parties, traffic helicopters flying overhead at 6am, 5am garbos etc etc whatever. That’s life, I get it, let’s all bloody move to Bangalow.

Hotel rooms, of course, are a firm turd out of five for getting a good night’s sleep. Lifts going up and down, the air con vent, party cats, late-night TV viewing next door, housekeeping vacuuming the hallways at 12am (WHY), doors clanging etc. (I am now one of those assholes who checks in and asks for a quiet room away from the restaurant and bar and lift, please.) If anyone can recommend a genuinely quiet hotel room in Sydney, which is where I travel to the most for work: please do. I am six years into my search and still no dice.

Of course, all of this over the top sooking and night waking means I’m a bit of ear plug connoisseur. I reckon if you shine a torch over my Google search bar, you will see the faint words: best ear plugs light sleeper, which I type in relentlessly.

The ones I found to work best I bought in the UK and until my sister-in-law’s dog made off with one of them, I swore by them. Then I found them here in Australia, and discovered they are actually swimming earplugs, and under no circumstances should they be worn overnight for sleeping.

I‘ve tried expensive custom fit ones, and every size and variety of foam plug Amazon reviewers rave about. Yes, before you ask, I tried the Earfoams, and no, they weren’t for me. A friend raves about the Antinois brand, but I generally just revert to 3M or Mack, make sure I insert them properly, and hope for the best.

And that is still kind of the case, even though I bought the Bose Sleepbuds for almost $400 hoping they would be my saviour, mostly with regards to the human sharing a bed with me, and his various, adorable breathing (how dare he) and honking habits. I bought them after a weekend away with my husband, where his snoring was so AGGRESSIVE that I ended up sleeping with my airpods in, and nature music turned up to the point of ear drum perforation.

I’m not gonna go to deep on what these things are/do, the Internet has that covered; they are noise-masking in-ear earbuds, that deliver sounds via Bluetooth from the Bose app in your phone. It’s like a white noise machine, in your ear. You can not use them for calls or music: they only work with the Bose app and the library of noise-masking sounds within. That’s a lotta cash for a very limited job, but Bose aren’t dummies, they know the sleep deprived will pay anything for some zzzs.

This is the case/charger. You get 16 hours of bud charge (cool name for a band?) from a full charge.

The Sleepbuds are good, but also not. They could be better. I was holding out for V2, which is generally the time to buy new shit, cos all the bugs have been ironed out by then, but there was no V2 on horizon, so I dived in. They really need to make a V2.

PROS

They work.
But not in the most useful way since I can still hear snoring, banging and loud music. Maybe that’s too much to ask from a small piece of plastic or foam, it’s highly likely. We have been gifted the blessing of hearing, and we should be grateful. That said, I find that if you blast the ‘downstream’ sound, it can mask pretty well. But man, it’s intense. I feel like there is a waterfall IN my head. It’s disconcerting and gives me weirdass dreams. I couldn’t do that all night if my partner was a total honker. It’s too full on, and I think it’s unnatural to have that kind of level of noise, even a gentle nature noise or a soft ambient pink noise, funneled directly into your ears.

I do it when my husband’s snoring is dialed up to 10, or when a neighbor is having a party, or when my husband is trying to give me a sleep in and the kids are being VERY LOUD. I use a lesser noise choice and a lesser volume to mask street noise etc.

My buds have saved me in hotels when the people upstairs wake at 5am and stomp around before they leave for their 7am flight, and it’s allowed me to sleep through parties, and it means on holidays where we are all in one room together sleeping, I don’t turn me into a murderous witch.

They’re comfortable.
I’m a side sleeper and they are totally fine. Comfortable. And they stay in.


These are the buds, they are cute, fit well (there are three sizes of cover with each set) and comfy.

 

They’re update-able.
You can (finally) download more noise masking sounds. (There was only 10 for ages.)

CONS

They do not mask snoring.
Ooof, they try, but they don’t. If I am already asleep with them in, these may keep me from waking from my husband’s snoring, but if I awake because he belted off to dreamland first and started snoring? No.

They don’t seal the ear like a foam plug.
So, yknow, noise is gonna come in.

They’re fiddly as hell.
As an Apple fan, and daily user of airpods, I’ve had the enormous privilege of an instant Bluetooth connection, and efficient retrieval and removal of the earbuds from the charging case. Bose are several decades behind Apple here. It’s not uncommon for it to take me 5-6 goes to carefully align the buds into their charging unit, and there have been many, many nights when I take the buds out and insert into ears, (which is when the connection is meant to fire) and the app cannot find and connect to them. At 2am, in the darkness, this is really fucking annoying.

The app as the controller.
It’s a pest having to fire up your phone and app to use these. Hey, sleepyhead, here is some INTENSE BLUE LIGHT just to soothe you back to sleep. I sleep with my phone on flight mode on the other side of the room, and the whole procedure is fiddly, riddled with bugs, and feels very clunky. Do better, Bose. Please. You are onto something here.

Volume adjustment
Same family of complaint as above: you have to go into your phone and the app to adjust volume. THIS IS SO DOPEY. Make it work with the volume buttons on the side of the phone, you heathens. We’re tryin’ to sleep and you keep making us light up our dang phone!

Low sound quality
As in, for this kind of money, I don’t want to be able to detect the loop on a nature sound. I suspect my brain’s over activity is part of the reason I am a light sleeper, so if it can find a loop or rhythm in a ‘white noise’ or nature noise, my god it will, and with furious pace, and then it will obsess over it like a tongue with a loose tooth. Several of the sounds I could easily detect where the noise started and stopped. Boo. Hiss. (Repeat.)

You will know they’re there.
By that I mean: I don’t really notice foam plugs, they can stay in all night. But I am aware of these guys being in there, as comfy as they are. They don’t fall out, they’re just… not my ears. And I know that my ears don’t usually have sounds pouring into them. So if you’re a hyper-sensitive weirdo like me, you may feel this is all a bit foreign and it may annoy you during the night, causing more night-waking than if you didn’t have them in… if that makes even a licka sense.

OVERALL

I do not at all regret buying them, esp when I travel for work, and know a noisy night awaits. I pack them every time I go away, and they’re always charged and ready to go at home. But, I think of them as a smash-glass-in-case-of-emergency tool, not a useful, every night solution like foam ear plugs. And, they don’t block out snoring. In my experience, only a spare room truly does, and as we have two kids and a three bedroom house, that’s not really the answer.

Also, if my husband is away, I can’t use them, cos I worry I wouldn’t hear the kids or the fire alarm. So in that sense, they are, um, too effective.

What a brilliant customer case study I am for Bose: “They don’t work! They work too well!”

Anyway. I wrote this not cos I have a tech gadget blog or time to write product reviews, I wrote it for the many other light sleepers or people with snorey spouses who are looking for a yay/nay on these things. Even though of course the whole thing is hugely personal and subjective. I myself read a breathtaking amount of reviews on these things before buying them, like, waaaaay more reviews than on something I’ve paid a lot more money on, (a mattress for example) because I wanted very honest, very specific advice, and also, I’m used to spending $7 on ear plugs, not $380.

In summation: They’re useful, and they have helped me. I feel confident going to bed knowing they’re in my artillery.
If you can afford them, and your sleep is suffering because of noise, I recommend them.

Fondest,
Tikki Tikki Tembo, Recommendo.

PS If you use ear plugs that are game-changey, please, for the love of light sleepers, tell us below!

Responses to this drivel: 43 Comments
Responses to this drivel ( 43 )
  • Monica

    From one frequent traveller to another…and a notoriously light sleeper. I’m in Sydney weekly for work. For most of this year I have been staying at the Sofitel at Darling Harbour. Harbour view rooms on higher floors are super quiet!!! Plus it’s a pretty hotel and the staff are wonderful. 

  • Ash

    Hey Zoe, 
    I’m a critical care nurse and frequently work night shift.. that means I become nocturnal. I have to try and sleep during the day when there’s annoying pests who want to mow their lawn or play with their kids or slam doors just because. 
    Whilst you think people could just sleep all day if they have been up all night. It’s not that easy. Circadian rhythm and light are my biggest issues. 

    As for ear plugs.. I’m a sucker for foam. If you wedge them in hard enough they really do block everything out. I’ve slept through my alarm for a whole hour! And I can hear it all. 
    However, you could totally end up with a pressure sore inside you ear given how far you wedge. Not cool. 

    In addition to this, I don’t know if light is also an issue for you, but there’s an eye mask called the “lovenightshift luxury eye mask”. I can wear it in broad day light and not see a peep of light. It’s soft, thick and comfortable.  I’m also a side sleeper and I don’t notice it. It simply adds to the ear buds and should hopefully improve your overall sleep. 

    Although I am not useful on the earbud front.. I hope the eye mask comes in just as useful. 

    Good luck on your quest, it’s all too real! 

    Ps face hero is life x 

  • Elsie Ruijgrok

    Hey Zoe, 

    You could try out the wireless earphones from beats by Dre? I went into apple looking for wireless earphones, wanting to try Bose BUT I have a Bose speaker and I ALWAYS struggle to connect it with my phone. 
    Beats by Dre however are so far faultless in their connectivity. 

    Not sure how they would be to sleep in — but you could always get the 14 day money back trial from Apple and give them a go? 

    I wear them at gym and when I have music playing I can’t hear anything else — not sure how it would be with white noise etc though 

    I’ll be keen to try them out on a plane trip sometime! 

  • Kate

    This isn’t a noise issue. This is a mental health issue. Your brain is in hyper vigilance mode all the time since you had children. You need some CBT to get it back into aware but not alarmed mode. It can happen after kids and the parenting neural pathways are on constant alert. Remind yourself everyone is safe when you go to bed and see a sleep therapist.  Sending good sleep energy. 

    • K

      Can I second this? Not as a diagnosis, but just as a thought of sthg else to try? I’ve just come out of 10 years of sleep issues that started with my first child and I didn’t realise were caused by my brain being hyper vigilant. I also use foam earplugs (I’ve had better noise blocking luck trimming large earplugs into a certain shape with nail scissors to fit my ears better), eye mask, pillow over my head still but getting my brain to switch off from hyper vigilant mode has been life changing. For my whole family, not just me. Everyone is happier with a mum who isn’t so tired. Good luck.

      • Anita

        THIS! So much this.  You *think* it’s the sound, but it’s very potentially anxiety and a brain that doesn’t shut off.  It’s normal to be a light sleeper and to be disturbed during the night, but it seems the issue is that you’re so hyper alert that you can go back to sleep again or that’s where the “thinking” starts.  I was so sleep deprived with my newborn, and even when she was sleeping through – I was a mess. It wasn’t the sleepF it wasn’t the sounds – it was my little messed up brain!  Hope this helps xxx

    • zoe foster blake

      I don’t discount this at all. I was always a light sleeper but the kids, well, they really took it to tha next level.

  • Peter

    Sydney hotels… you might want to hit up Sarah Wilson. She’s the most qualified person I know of for quiet places. Granted, she lives in Bondi, but she might know.

    In terms of hearing, have you tried Lions Hearing Clinic? Specialist plugs can be designed for various frequencies.

  • Cathy Neave

    Hi Zoe
    I feel your pain!! Ive tried so many earplugs but they don’t work for me.This may not work for you but I bought Sony noise-cancelling  headphones and they cut out noise from parties and anything that is further away than your bed. When the noise-canceling function is on, it’s delicious! But they are also very expensive and cumbersome because they go over your head ( but with a soft pillow I manage to fall sleep).
    Also the 4 seasons hotel is usually quiet ( and the staff apologise if there is noise which is a nice touch.

  • Kym

    Hi Zoe 
    My husband is a snorer and the best earplugs I’ve found are from Decathalon. They are a moulded type that work a treat for me, come in a pack of two and are super cheap. Good luck 💤💤💤💤

  • Kate

    I’ve got custom sleeping earplugs (from a hearing specialist ) – life changing. They take a mould of your inner ear for a perfect fit –  comfy, block out the noise that’s distracting (including snoring husband) and still let you hear your alarm (or any other big dangerous sounds 😜).

  • CD

    Hey Zoe,

    My partner, while he doesn’t snore, is an exceptionally loud sleep breather and I’m the world’s lightest sleeper. We put on a white noise app every night and it’s changed my life. It took a while to get used to it but now the sound sends me to sleep and when it comes from his phone it means all the noise comes from the same direction and drowns it out, but also means I don’t notice any changes in sound, like a loud car on the road outside.

  • Katie

    I actually bought a pair as well! Unfortunately I’m a teeth grinder. I woke up regularly throughout the night if I would start grinding my teeth (I suppose cutting off external noises accentuate internal noises?) I had to return them. 

    I know you mentioned you had swim plugs that worked well. I’m an audiologist and would totally recommend custom noise plugs/sleep plugs. They’re similar to swim plugs and would have a similar effect. 

    Good luck and happy sleeping!! 

  • Sarah

    Flare audio ear plugs are the BEST! They are foam with a metal core (lots of nice colours to pick from) so they also cut out low-frequency noises like snoring and the bus that goes down my road like a dream. 

  • Al

    Al
    I use Mack silicone ones and constantly find my hair getting stuck in the silicone when o try to take them out in the morning and then because I never seem to put them back the same way constantly squishing them in my ear until they fit. Having said that they are the best I have found up until now.
    Have no bright ideas but I reckon the comments about custom ear plugs from hearing specialist might be on the money so I am going to check that out! 🙂 Good luck! And don’t read Matthew Walker’s sleep book 😛 (and all the terrible things entailed with poor deep sleep 😐)

  • Casey

    I suffer from the same dilemma – not fun! I also never look like a particularly pretty sleeper with my ear plugs and face mask… i have also found that the swimming plugs work the best! I have worried that they sit too deep in your ears, is that why you suggest against them? They’re the only thing that works for me! Also I’ve always loved staying at the Primus on George St – always quiet for me. The Hilton in the CBD is a big no go – could hear the trains underneath all night long. 

  • Carly

    Hi Zoë, agree with above comment – you are absolutely in hyper aware mode after having children.  That’s not unusual, life changes so much for women after having children.  Also I highly recommend custom ear plugs from an audiologist/hearing specialist.  They are expensive (less than the Bose sleep buds) but so worth it.  I would not recommend any noise into your ears throughout the night, that’s not healthy.  Good luck!  Carly 

  • Sleep Lover

    I bought the Flare Sleep Pro a while back and the idea of them are great except they’ve taken a long while to soften.

    I’ve found traditional workman’s soft ear plugs to be the best couple with a fair bit of deep breathing and lavender oil. 

    • J1

      How long do they take to soften as I have them and find them impossible to get into my ears. Have tried all the sizes. 

  • Lauren

    These aren’t earplugs but I’m plugging magnesium oil! I massage/wipe a drop or two on the soles of my feet before bed and I swear you cannot rouse me. I’m a light sleeper too, live on a main road constantly hearing road noise and drunk revellers and husband is a noisy breather/snorer too and when I remember to put magnesium oil on I don’t wake through the night AT ALL!  It may not do the full job for you but it could make a big difference I swear by this!!

  • Meg

    Zoe I bought these also for the sake of my sanity and health due to sleep deprivation and dodgy shoulder from nightly kips on the couch. MY HUSBAND SNORES LIKE A HUGE, RAVENOUS BEAST FROM THE DEPTHS OF HELL. These buds, although limited in choice of drift away tunes, have changed my life (maybe a little exaggeration there). I sleep so soundly now my husband complains about MY snoring ( pay back to husband hope he suffers in his jocks). I agree on the fact that they are bloody fiddly but I pump up the volume on SWELL and that’s me until the inbuilt alarm rudely wakes me up at 6am. I think I’m actually in love with my buds 🙂

  • Annie Coulthard

    Otifleks beeswax earplugs – end of story. They are hideously overpackaged but block everything out

  • Rachel

    My husband makes a really annoying ‘p p p’ sound and snores and it drove me MAD….until I found wax earplugs. They are the best and block out all noise completely and mould to your ear. The brand I get in the UK is Quies, not sure if they sell them in Australia.  They changed my sleep (until I had a baby!)

  • Laura

    I am also a notoriously light sleeper and have tried everything. Custom ear plugs are my favourite solution. Moulded to fit my ear perfectly. I chose a glow in the dark option so I could find them after the light goes out but I’m sure there are plenty of other options. I got mine at Neurosensory in East Melbourne. Good luck! 

  • Jane

    I’m also a hopelessly light sleeper and finicky with earplugs. Surgipack Hush-A-Foam and Mansfield foam earplugs work for me. They’re comfortable and I can’t hear ambient noise, but I can hear my alarm in the morning. 

  • Amelia

    I use ear plugs that my husband has at work for construction. Don’t know the brand but could be worth a visit to a tradie shop? They work so well, fit comfortably and don’t fall out! 

  • Michele

    I use ear putty from the chemist.  Mould it around and shove in as far as it will go… my husband’s snoring is emotionally debilitating and the ear putty works 90% of the time.  The other 10% I go to the spare bed…

  • Trish

    Hi Zoe
    I use the Bose sleep buds and love them! My husband is also a breather but I’ve found the shower noise is wonderful. But I was having the same problem as you trying to get the app to find them. Also the little magnet came off. So I took them back and they gave me a new pair with another 2 years warranty which is great. But best of all – they told me about the setting you can use so that you can just use them without your phone. Check it out in settings. It’s great. Cheers. Trish. 

  • Kate

    I snore like a trooper at the best of times, but now 30weeks pregnant my husband ran out a few weeks ago and bought these. The only issue he has found is a bunch of side sleepers gave issues where the ear presses on the buds and you can’t hear anything come out of them anymore. He bought a very plush travel pillow, which he puts on top of a flatter pillow and lays on his side with his ear on the pillow ‘hole’. Easy solution! But for the price, this issue should really be rectified.

  • Joy

    Hey Zoe, have you tried sleeping with white noise? Download a white noise app and crank up the volume. This usually does the trick for me as I too am a very light sleeper. Only downside is you may not be able to hear your kidlets when they call out to you 🤣. Good luck! X

  • Cass

    I swear by Alpine Party Plugs, and they also make a sleep bud that are softer in your ears for side sleepers.
    I became slightly obsessed about protecting my hearing a few months ago after listening to a podcast about how quickly hearing damage can occur. 
    Last month while I’m Berlin my sister took me to Berghain, a nightclub that allegedly has the loudest and most intense sound system in the world. We picked up the Alpine Party Plugs before we got there and my sister reluctantly wore them. We were there for 6 hours, at one point the bass was so intense it made me feel like I was having heart palpitations!
    Once we got outside we took them out and neither of us had any ringing in our ears at all. For how loud it was I couldn’t believe that we had no ringing at all.
    For the relatively cheap price of them I’d recommend them to anyone to at least try! They are infinitely better than foam plugs!

  • Atrisha

    I find that earplugs from the website ‘Earjobs’work quite well. I too get fixated on sound especially when I’m already tired and a bit cranky. I frequently work strange hours and am constantly changing my sleep schedule. The work great, I believe they also have ones now that will mould to the shape of your ear.

  • Steph

    Hi Zoe,
    I used to both live on an 8 lane divided highway and work night shift, so ear plugs were my life!
    Happy Ears were the game changer for me. They’re Swedish, but can be found online. I’m a slide sleeper and they’re the comfiest I’ve found. I now cannot sleep without them. Even when I’m on call overnight for phone advice, they block out traffic but not my phone ringing or alarm! 

  • Liz

    Thanks for this post Zoe! I too tried the Bose ear buds but couldn’t handle another noise to add to the mix. The only ones that work to block my husband lawn mower tribute and kids midnight trips to the bathroom are the silicone ones from the chemist, jammed in. Unfortunately they dry my ears out and get manky quickly. I’ll now be trying everything listed here – there’s hope yet!

  • Lauren

    Get hearos extreme protection ear plugs. They’re blue. And it’s how you put them in that counts. Twist them, and squish, then put in your ear (so they can actually go into the ear not just sit outside). 

  • Katie

    I love them….but! After a few says my ears hurt and we have to have some time apart for a couple of days to give my ear holes a rest and make up! They mask the crappy noise of living in an apartment, other people showers and toddlers that quickly surpassed the walking stage and went head in to running and jumping stage ( so cute but so bloody loud at 6 am on Sunday!) overall I’d rate them an 8/10. Can still hear Mr snoring beside me but wouldn’t trade him for ear buds!! X 

  • Emma

    Hey Zoe,
    I have pretty similar feedback on these bad boys and have cursed trying to get them working in middle of the night. My tip is to set them up and running every night before I go to bed that way if I wake up and need them I just pop them straight in without the fluffing around.

    Cheers from a fellow light sleeper with princess and the pea level sensitve ears.

  • E

    Happy Ears! Love their silicone earplugs for sleeping. 

  • Justine

    Flare Isolate Titanium earplugs have saved me from baby and snoring husband 

  • Bridget

    I second Sofitel Darling Harbour.

  • Nikki Martin

    Hi.  I have the Bose sleepbuds too.  Totally agree with everything you say but they have helped me sleep.  I’d wake up to any noise, the kids are rowers so we have some crazy early mornings.   And would even wake up when my husband got out of bed at any time.  The Bose buds have given him freedom he says, he can move and I don’t wake up! I find that they rub a bit when I’m on my side and that noise annoys me.  I need some new noises, I go for warm static.  The phone is a pain but I think the extra bit of sleep is so worth it.   Just wanted to agree with you.

  • VDiddy

    I too sleep with earplugs due to oversensitive hearing and a noisy family, with all their breathing. I actually only use one one so I will still wake up if someone screams etc. I love the Orophax earplugs, I find if they’re in right they block out ALOT of noise!

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