You have done hours and hours of research trying to find out how to get a good, restful sleep. You have gotten the right mattress, a mattress topper, a sleep tracker and even a monitor that analyses the environment in your bedroom.
All that helps until you realize that you haven’t solved the problem of your snoring partner. Or, the thin as paper walls of your apartment that allows for hearing the details of every one of your neighbors activities. Or, the fact that you live right next to a motorway and under a flight path by the airport.
To solve the noise problem you have to take matters into your ears. With earplugs, of course!
The best earplugs for sleeping are the ones that cheaply and easily block those noises for some peace and quiet.
They are a simple, yet, effective tool in your sleep arsenal.
There are a few things to consider before you decide to plug up your ears. Your ears are a sensitive part of your anatomy and do need to be treated with care.
Armed with some information you will be able to find the right earplugs for you. Ones that work, are comfortable and, most importantly, safe.
What to consider when using earplugs
The most dangerous potential effect of wearing earplugs is an infection. It isn’t common, however, it is something that needs to be considered.
Earplugs can be a nice home for bacteria if they are not properly cared for. Particularly those made out of foam that are porous enough to provide a perfect breeding ground for bacteria.
Putting infected earplugs right into your sensitive ears could send you to your doctor with a painful ear infection.
Make sure you are cleaning your earplugs after each use or using disposable, one-use earplugs.
You should clean earplugs with warm soapy water and allow to thoroughly dry before inserting them back into your ears. If you are using foam earplugs then soak them in hydrogen peroxide for a few minutes and rinse them under cold water. Again, allow to thoroughly dry before reinserting them.
Compacted ear wax
If you wear earplugs for a long period of time, it may affect your ears ability to drain wax. When that happens it is possible that the impacted wax will contribute to some uncomfortable side effects.
Impacted ear wax can make you hear ringing or flutters in your ear. Even worse, it could lead to infections or hearing loss.
Make sure that you are cleaning your ears more regularly than you normally would if you decide to use earplugs on a frequent basis.
Blocking important sounds
The best earplugs can sometimes work too well. You may not hear the noises that you need to hear.
A crying baby, for instance, might go unnoticed.
A smoke alarm is usually high pitched enough that you will hear it. Most plugs allow high pitched sounds through. If you are sleeping deeply and wearing very good sound blocking earplugs, there is a possibility that you won’t wake up from the alarm. But this can be solved with some of the alarm clocks we recommend that shake your bed in the morning!
Do’s and Don’ts of earplug use
Do: Remove them slowly. If they are well-fitting earplugs, there can be a vacuum effect. Pulling them out too quickly could result in damage to your ear drum.
Don’t: Push them too far into your ear. Push them in as far as is comfortable. Don’t forget that if you are sleeping on your side, they will be pushed even further in. If they get in too far they could rupture the eardrum. If they hurt when you insert them, pull them out.
Do: Make sure your ears are dry before you insert them. You could wind up with an infection if water is not allowed to escape your ears.
Don’t: Wear them too much. Only use them when you really need to. Try to avoid nightly use for long periods of time. You increase injury and infection when you overuse earplugs. Not to mention you could rely on them and have trouble sleeping if you can’t wear them for any reason.
Don’t: Forget to take them out when you wake up. You may be tempted to pass your day blissfully unaware of anybody talking to you. You may find yourself in trouble by not staying aware of your surroundings.
Don’t: Borrow anybody else’s earplugs. Do I really need to explain why you shouldn’t do this?
What to look for when buying earplugs for sleeping
The most important thing to look for is the noise reduction rating.
The highest rating available is 39. That means that noises under 39 decibels will be blocked. For reference, a whisper is around 15 decibels depending on how far away the person whispering is. A normal conversation at a comfortable distance from you is around 60.
A Hoover is around 80 when you are the one doing the cleaning. The further you are from it the lower it will sound. In other words, if it is coming from a neighboring room with the door closed, you may not hear it with earplugs in. At least not loudly enough for it to keep you awake.
They should be comfortable.
The only way to find out which are the most comfortable is to try a few. Luckily, most are inexpensive enough to test out a variety to find the ones that you feel the most comfortable with.
They should also be durable if they are meant to be worn multiple times.
If they can’t hold up to being re-molded to fit your ears or handle frequent cleaning, then it is time to replace them with a different brand.
They should not only be comfortable, but also easy to insert and pull out.
If they are difficult to get a good fit, then they won’t be very good at blocking noise. Thus, useless. If they are difficult to remove, then they become a chore to use and will likely be left sitting on your night table collecting dust rather than in your ear providing you with a peaceful night of sleep.
Different types of earplugs
Wax earplugs have been made the same way for hundreds of years. Maybe even longer.
A mixture of paraffin and wax covered in cotton, they are soft, easy to use and are easy on the skin.
They are impervious to water and stay clean longer than foam earplugs. Since they are made of wax, they are easy to clean and usually last a while before needing to be discarded.
There are many different types of foams being used in earplugs, but, the most common is polyurethane. The same type of material found in memory foam mattresses.
This type of foam has the same properties of memory foam, namely, it bounces back so it makes a tight seal within the ear.
The disadvantage to using foam is that they don’t last very long. Some can only be used once as it is porous enough to allow bacteria to grow.
That isn’t the case with every foam earplug, however. Some are formulated to be very smooth and are not porous. The foam earplugs I will talk about further down in the article are great because they are able to be worn multiple times.
Silicone earplugs are much like wax.
They are little balls of pliable material similar to rubber that must be softened in the hands. They can then be placed in the ear making a tight seal.
What makes them a bit different than their wax counterparts is that they bounce back a bit and mold to the inside of the ear better.
They are also reusable and last much longer than wax.
A common disadvantage to silicone earplugs is that they tend to be sticky leading to complaints that hair gets stuck on them.
Not all of them have that property, and I only reviewed some that are non sticky.
These are the kind that you see construction workers wear. They have a flange attached that help you insert and remove them. For that reason i declined to review any of this type as they aren’t well-suited to sleeping.
Here’s a roundup of the best earplugs for sleeping
Design Go Luggage Z Zone Noise Cancelling Earplugs
Finding the right fit for earplugs is easy when you have the Z Zone earplugs. They have 4 different sized adjusters for different sized ears.
The better an earplug fits, the better job it does.
These don’t just block the sounds, they are designed to actually cancel certain pitches of sounds.
They don’t block sound completely, but what they do is suppress loud noises. Putting them in the background so that they aren’t noticed as much.
They are ideal for when you live in a high noise area like by a motorway or near a construction site.
These are made with silicon, so, they are easy to wash. Just use some warm soapy water. It shouldn’t take more than 30 seconds to do this.
One caveat is that if you have large ear canals these have a tendency to fall out when you are sleeping. They are adjustable, but they fit best with small to medium sized ear canals. Also, unfortunately, the manufacturer doesn’t give the sound rating for decibels.
The handy travel case makes it a great option for traveling.
3M E-A-R Classic Earplugs
The most popular earplug on the market and easily identifiable with their distinctive yellow color are the EAR classic earplugs by 3M.
One of the reasons they are so popular is that they are very comfortable. They are easy to mold to your ear and they don’t pop out easily.
The foam is water resistant and anti-allergenic. They are meant for single use and throw away, but, since they are water resistant you may get away with multiple uses since they can potentially be washed.
The low price makes it impractical, though to consider this. They are cheap enough to wear once and replace when the pack runs out.
They’re soft which doesn’t put much pressure on the ear which can often lead to headaches with prolonged use. Once you get used to them you don’t even know they are there.
They are also non-flammable, which seems like a good quality. Until you realize that if there is a flame close enough to your head that there is a risk of your earplugs lighting up, I don’t think it matters too much how inflammable they are!
At a rating of 29, they are not the quietest earplugs on the market. But the comfort, ease of use and tight seal make it worth it if you are not in a high noise area. They protect well against a snoring partner or noisy neighbors.
Inserting them is easy, but, there is a little trick to ensuring that they mold to perfectly fit your ear. You must compress them in your fingers to insert them into your ear.
The trick here is to lightly press the end after inserting in your ear and holding it there for a few seconds. It takes a moment for the foam to recover and pop revert back to its original size. Once it does, you will have an ergonomic fit that molds specifically to your ear.
The extra few seconds taken to get the right fit in your ear will not only more effectively block sounds, but prevent them from falling out during the night.
For the price, and ease of use, these plugs are an excellent choice.
Howard Leight Laser Lite Individually Wrapped Ear Plugs
You won’t worry about losing these earplugs if they fall out!
The bright colors are unmistakable. The contoured shape makes it a snap to put them in.
You won’t likely be losing them anyway as the bell shape and self adjusting polyurethane foam will mold to any ear making it a personalized, snug fit. Unless your ear canals are unusually large, these will fit about any ear.
They are disposable and meant to be thrown away after each use. It seems like that they can be used a few times before they begin to lose their shape and effectiveness. They also block dirt build up. If your ears aren’t very waxy they could last a few nights before tossing.
With a rating of 33 for noise reduction, it will block out most background noise.
Snore Calm ELITE Foam Ear Plugs
When you sleep next to a seriously loud snorer or you share a flat with a bunch of party animals, you need some extreme protection.
That’s why many people choose the Snore Calm Elite ear plugs. They are rated at an incredible 37 decibels and block out many loud noises.
The soft polyurethane foam is comfortable and snug fitting. Some ear plugs are good at blocking sound but don’t provide much in the way of comfort. Which defeats the whole purpose. If an earplug has you sleeping poorly due to discomfort, or, has you waking up with a headache, they are not worth using.
These will effectively block sound and provide incredible comfort. Side sleepers will have no issue with the profile as they don’t protrude out from the ear much.
The only negative is that the foam is a bit smooth and may fall out of the ear if you have larger ear canals.
These are on the pricey side, but can be worn multiple times.
Of course, if you value your sleep then the price won’t be much of a reason to not buy such a good way to block out sounds.
OHROPAX Wax Ear Plugs
These wax earplugs are some of the best fitting earplugs around. The wax is easily pliable after working around the palm of your hands for a few moments.
The soft wax forms a tight seal over your ear canal blocking out sounds as well as water. Without using much pressure to mold to your ear means less pressure on your ear. Less pressure equals more comfort.
Fitting flush in your ear, they lend themselves nicely to side sleeping. Wax earplugs will stay put at night, as well.
They also are able to be worn multiple times. Especially if you wash them with warm soapy water and your hands and fingers are clean when you insert them.
Unfortunately the manufacturer hasn’t given what the noise reduction rating is for these. However, they are very good at blocking the sounds of snoring or neighbors dogs barking or similar decibel sounds.
Deep Sleeps Soft Silicone Earplugs
An alternative to wax earplugs are these soft silicone earplugs by Deep Sleep. I have a special liking of these but that may be because they have an owl for a logo…
They are fully moldable much like wax, but last a much longer time.
Just as you would do with wax, you must rub these around in the palm of your hands to soften them up enough to put over your ear canal. Once they are soft, form them over your ear and hold it there for 10 seconds. Unlike wax, the silicone will bounce back somewhat making for a more form fitting seal.
Also like wax, they rest flush against your ear and won’t be a distraction to side sleepers.
Being made with silicone, they are very easy to wash and will last for a while before they lose their pliability.
Unlike many silicone earplugs, these ones by Deep Sleeps are not sticky. They are quite smooth so your hair will not get stuck on these causing a distraction.
HERTZ Earplugs DIY Custom Moulded Silicone Earplugs
These earplugs are unique.
They are silicone and come in small cans like a putty. They truly are DIY as you have to take a bit of the putty out of the can and rub it around to get it pliable.
Then you must insert it into your ear with your mouth slightly open. Biting on something works great here. After a few minutes, the silicone will be a perfect mold of the inside of your ear. You now have a personalized ear plug that will always retain the exact shape of your ear.
They might seem labor intensive to make them. But, the superior fit and comfort make it worth it.
As an added bonus you can also use them in conjunction with your headphones for listening to music without the buds falling out of your ear. Not only will the buds stay in place, but the perfect seal allows for much better sound quality.
I digress, though. You’re here to improve your sleep!
FAQ about earplugs for sleeping
Q: What can I do if my earplugs are uncomfortable?
A: If you are new to wearing earplugs then it may just be a case of getting used to them. Read the directions to see if you prepared them for use before you inserted them. Some earplugs need to be rubbed around to loosen them enough to form to your ear. In any case, give it a few nights before you decide to try different ones.
Q: Can I have a conversation while wearing earplugs?
A: Yes. A typical conversation is around 60 decibels. If you have earplugs that block sounds up to 39 decibels (the max for earplugs) then you will be able to hear the other person speaking.
Q: What kind of earplugs work best?
A: This is a matter of individual preference. Whatever is the most comfortable for you is probably going to work best. In most cases an earplug that molds to the shape of your ear will work best as it will make a tight fit and block more noises. Silicone and wax are great for that.
Q: What if my earplugs are causing me pain or make my ears ring?
A: You may have an infection or damage to your ear. Earplugs should never be painful. They can be uncomfortable if you aren’t wearing ones that are right for you, but, pain or ringing in your ears is not normal. Stop using them immediately and if the pain and ringing persist, see your doctor as soon as you can.
Final thoughts on earplugs
It’s not often that a solution to a problem can be so inexpensive.
In many cases, especially when you are fatigued, the most expensive measure is tried first. Sometimes to no effect.
It could be just a matter of putting some earplugs in to block out noise that you might not even realize is disturbing your sleep.
Though not exhaustive, this list of the best earplugs for sleep will certainly help to point you in the right direction in finding your ideal sleep solution.
If at first you don’t think that earplugs have helped, you may just need to find the right one. Try a few different ones and see if there is one out there that suits your needs.
Do you have any questions or thoughts about earplugs? Let me know in the comment section below. Maybe your experience could help other sleep sufferers find the rest they need.