I only realised later in life that I'm a chronic insomniac. I knew that not everyone took ages to get to sleep (as I usually do), but I had assumed that everyone woke up frequently in the night. Things got worse once I had a baby (now 2), because gone were all those lie-ins which allowed me to catch up on sleep of a weekend. Add into the mix a husband who snores and it was exhaustion central! My little one was also going through a calling-out-in-the-night phase. Not crying but the sort of thing I knew I needed to ignore in order to allow her to re-settle. Most normal sleepers wouldn't even hear it, but I found myself lying rigid in bed, wondering whether to pat her or shush her etc!
I've tried sleeping with regular earbuds in the past and they HURT! Plus, I don't think it can be physically good for a human being to wear something inside their ear for so long. I've tried sleeping with the sound of rain coming out of a bedside speaker - but it does nothing to drown out the snoring or toddler chatter! So, I started Googling headphones for sleep and came across the SleepPhones which I reckoned were worth a try.
OFFICIAL PRODUCT DESCRIPTION AND CLAIM: 'Fall asleep faster - drug free; block out snoring without painful earplugs; relax with music, stress free. Relieve stress and listen to music with wonderfully soft SleepPhones, the world's most comfortable headphones for sleeping. A family physician developed these innovative high-quality headphones to help patients fall asleep naturally, without drugs.'
WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE: Essentially, SleepPhones look like a soft, fleecy headband, inside which are cunningly hidden (and very flat) headphones. There are three colours to choose from: Midnight Black, Quiet Grey, and Soft Lavender and also three size choices: Extra Small, One-size-fits-most, and Extra Large.
Their website gives the following size guide
EXTRA SMALL - 51-54cm, suitable for petite women with short hair
ONE SIZE FITS MOST - 55-59cm, suitable for nearly everyone
EXTRA LARGE - 60-63cm, suitable for large and tall men with hair.
The head bands are made from a patented design for 'soft, superior fit all night long and the material is eco-friendly, non--pilling wicking fleece. You're able to remove the headphones in order to wash the headband and you can also buy spare headbands separately.
You can also purchase a SleepPhones System which includes a music for sleep CD or sleep sounds CD. Personally, given how available downloadable music is now, I don't think it's worth the extra cost though.
HOW THEY WORK: Simply plug the lead (which emerges from a gap in the front of the headband) into an iPod, CD player or MP3 player - the rest is up to you! Whether you want to fall asleep to heavy rock, a babbling brook or Talk Sport, that's your call!
ARE THEY COMFORTABLE? Undoubtedly, yes. The can be worn so that the lead is either coming out of the front (from your forehead) or the back (near your neck), so there's no hard and fast rule to which way round you need to wear the band. You can have it pushed back higher on your head or, as I choose to do, allow it to slip over your eyes like an eyemask (two sleep aids for the price of one!). They totally and utterly tick this box. If you're struggling with other forms of headphones because they dig in or make your ears itch etc, then the SleepPhone is about as uninvasive as you can get. You can happily sleep on your side without any discomfort because the concealed headphone is also like a flat disc. Even if you do feel it, you can move it slightly and still hear your music. Despite the lovely fleecy feel of the SleepPhone headband, it's not hot either and doesn't make you sweat. I also love the fact you can slip It over your eyes.
DO THEY HELP YOU SLEEP? Personally, I've found that they have worked. However, not all the credit can go to the SleepPhones - they are merely a comfortable conduit for whatever it is that you feel may help you sleep. I have an iPod and downloaded an app called QUICKSLEEP ages ago, which I'd listen to through external speakers. It's an amazing app - you can mix different soothing sounds (like rain, wind, a cat's purr, the sea - the choice is huge) or listen to individual sounds. It also has different sound waves and I've combined a Delta Wave (the sleep wave) with rain pattering. I do think the fact that I can now hear this close to my ear, with no discomfort has helped me get to sleep quicker. It's enabled me to tune out other light background noises and quiet my thoughts - plus, the sounds themselves are soothing. The fact that the SleepPhones are so unobtrusive has meant that I can keep the noise going all night. I do still wake up, but I've found that I am sleepier when I wake and drift off quicker again.
DO THEY BLOCK OUT SNORING? No. Do not kid yourself, if you're buying these headphones with the sole aim of blocking out the sound of a snoring partner, incredibly loud neighbours, emergency vehicles passing by outside or a talkative toddler in the next room, they won't do it. I can still hear my husband snore - if it was restricted to a very low snore, it would probably be okay, but snorers tend to vary their volume! That said, and I will be fair to this product, I never have anything I'm listening to up very loud (as that wouldn't help me sleep). If you're happy to have music up at full-whack, then I suspect that it would cover the noise of snoring a lot more significantly. But, if you're thinking of purchasing these for the purpose of covering noise, you need to ask yourself how loud you're prepared to listen to music. Nothing that sits outside the ear via a headband is going to cut out noise in the same way an in-ear bud will. The manufacturers recommend listening to ocean waves, white noise or stream to cancel out snoring and I haven't tried this, but there may be something to it, inasmuch as the tones are similar and will cancel out the snoring. Again, though, I'd hazard that you'd need to be playing the sound fairly loud.
OTHER USES: Of course, the SleepPhones are great just for general listening. If you're lucky enough not to be an insomnica with a snoring partner, you might just want to fall asleep to your favourite tunes, and these will allow you to do so comfortably.
I would also say that I think these are a fantastic device for people who want to listen to a hypnosis tape or record info for an exam and play it back whilst they sleep (apparently the brain processes this stuff far better when we're alseep - it goes straight into the subconscious). I also think that hypnotic suggestion is far more powerful when spoken directly into both ears. So if you want a comfortable way to quit smoking or lose weight, the SleepPhones could be ideal.
ANY DOWN-SIDES? Apart from not being totally convinced that they'll adequately cut out the sound of snoring, the SleepPhones can slip during the night. Not hugely, but you may find the earphone isn't positioned exactly over your ear. I don't find this a huge problem - for most people, once they're asleep, the need for the headphones is gone, so it doesn't matter where they are. I actually like that there's a bit of wriggle-room as I can adjust them so that the sound is exactly where I want it to be.
CONCLUSION: At the end of the day, whatever 'side-claims' SleepPhones make, their USP is that they're comfortable headphones to wear of a night. Their secondary claims - to cut out the sound of snoring or help with insomnia - aren't unique to their product. If someone can comfortably wear in-ear buds, they'll achieve the same result. However, what they do enable you to do, if you can't take the pain of regular headphones, is listen to a sleep aid (or snore-coverer!) in a non-invasive, comfortable way. I actually think they're fantastic and probably the most snuggly, cuddly earphones on the market!