By Adam Kerr
We all have our own quirky yet practical ways of getting a restful shut-eye at night; be it turning on classical music in the background, putting on earplugs or listening to the latest ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) YouTube video. For me, I set the AC to a comfortable 23 degrees, pull down my blackout blinds and sleep to pin-drop silence.
So when Bose sent a pair of their latest noise-masking Sleepbuds to the NYLON Singapore office, I wondered if they’d actually help me sleep better, seeing how I need absolute silence to sleep.
They come equipped with 10 pre-loaded “sleeptracks” that were designed to match the frequencies of common noises like snoring and traffic — this distinct bit of technology, called “noise-masking”, then elevates its function over the usual noise-cancelling devices. Another point to note: you can’t actually listen to your own music, but we’ll get to that later.
I tried it for a week, and concluded that there are more downsides than upsides; but yes, I did sleep better.
They’re ready for use straight out of the box, but it does require some simple Bluetooth pairing with their Bose Sleep app (available on Google Play and the Apple App Store).
Slide up the nifty brushed aluminium charging case and you’ll find the Sleepbuds (and a nagging thought about your life’s choices, seeing how incredibly small and light they are despite the hefty pricetag).
While they’re only about 1.4g each, measuring just over 1 x 1cm, these Sleepbuds pack a punch, which also explains the price: a rechargeable silver-zinc battery, a mini transducer and a micro-circuit board with flash memory to store all those “sleeptracks”.
They come with Bose’s new soft and noise-isolating StayHear+ Sleep tips, as well as three sizes to make sure you find the perfect fit and a lil’ pouch to use when you’re travelling. It lasts up to 16 hours out of the case, so you don’t have to worry about it running out of battery mid-sleep.
How It Works
I really liked the clean UI/UX of the Bose Sleep app: everything I needed and expected was right there, like a step-by-step tutorial on getting the right fit for your ears and a battery level indicator. That’s great hardware-software synergy right there.
There are a total of 10 “sleeptracks”, some of which were made to help you relax and others to help you drift into deep slumber. You can choose the sound of crashing ocean waves (Swell), white noise from a TV (Warm Static), the comforting burning of wood (Campfire) or even the whirring of an airplane engine (Altitude) if that’s your thing.
But after trying a couple of them over the week, I found that the sound of rain (Shower) was the most comforting for me.
You can choose how loud you want the track to be, but after a certain point, the app will notify you that you may not be able to hear other surrounding sounds at all.
As a chronic snoozer, I chose not to take that risk and kept it at the default volume. I also really appreciate how the app lets you to set an alarm (or 10, if you really need) with its built-in alarm sounds that won’t jolt you from your sleep. For a whole week, waking up felt like a scene built around Edvard Grieg’s “Peer Gynt Suite No. 1”.
I’ve tried listening to music using my own earphones to sleep many times before, but I always wake up in the morning panicking because they either end up stuck between my bed and my headboard, or down on the “forever-lost” section of the floor (apparently I move a lot when I sleep?).
But it seems that my kicking and tossing around is no match for the Bose Sleepbuds, because they stayed on like a supportive best friend at the gym every night.
They also fit to a T, to the point that I forgot that I was wearing them when I woke up on the first day (yes, it really is that comfortable).
When fitted properly, it almost feels like you’re not wearing the Sleepbuds at all. These soft and ridiculously comfortable earbuds have done what it was designed to do: mask disruptive sounds (I live on the second floor and by the main road, so late-night traffic can be really annoying sometimes) while providing a comforting track to get sleep (I find a lot of comfort knowing that it’s raining outside LOL). It has a long battery life and a beautiful, minimal design, just like the fuss-free Bose Sleep app you’re meant to pair it with.
However, at $379, it might seem a bit steep to help you sleep. But think about it, so is losing sleep every night, isn’t it? Like most great tech gadgets, think of it as an investment. Otherwise, there are loads of alternatives out there that might be a little friendlier on your wallet.
Not being able to listen to my own music was a real bummer though. These Sleepbuds could’ve potentially become a hybrid sort of product that could be used both day and night if there was that option.
But Bose has clearly stated that these were specifically designed for better sleep. A quote from Bose systems engineer Daniel Lee helps put things into perspective: “Noise-masking is a science. It’s more than ambient sound or white noise. You can’t achieve it by simply turning up the volume on calming songs. And depending on the situation, it’s more effective than active noise cancelling… At night, you’re trying to shut down completely, and the world is naturally more quiet — and when it’s quiet, even the slightest sound seems loud. Bedside machines can’t cover it, earplugs can’t block it, and earbuds meant for sitting, standing, or moving can’t be worn for hours laying down — especially on your side.”
So you see, this one caters to quite a niche market — the more health-conscious or sleep-deprived individuals who are concerned about good sleep. A lot of research has been put into creating these Sleepbuds, thanks to a team of experts in noise management, acoustics, psychoacoustics, electronic miniaturization, wireless in-ear headphones and neurology. Comparing it to our usual earbuds? Oranges and bananas, I guess.
Another opportunity I felt like they then missed out on: sleep tracking. While I did feel like I slept better, I wasn’t able to monitor my own sleep using the Bose Sleep app. So if you’re a stickler on getting proper REM sleep and actually tracking it, know that you’ll have to use another app for that.
Either way, we have to give it to Bose for creating a remarkable and comfortable product that does what it says it will. It may not chase away nightmares, but try it in stores and see if it could be the life-changing product you never knew you needed.
Bose Sleepbuds, $379. Available at authorised Bose dealers.