Desperate for a good night’s sleep? Here’s our pick of the best sleeping earplugs to send you drifting off to dreamland
Sleep deprivation can feel like a nightmare. When the slightest noise keeps you awake – a snoring partner, rumbling traffic, the bin lid flapping outside – the prospect of getting your necessary eight hours seems hopelessly remote. Starting the day tired and bleary eyed has knock-on effects, too: without adequate sleep, there’s a chance your mood, energy and overall mental and physical health will suffer.
Instead of folding your pillow over your head, investing in a decent pair of earplugs can really help tackle your sleeping setbacks. The best earplugs banish prominent sounds to the background, making it easier to settle in for a cosy kip. Scroll onwards for our guide to the best silicone, wax and foam earplugs, including earplugs for side sleepers and those with sensitive skin. Sweet dreams!
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How to choose the best sleeping earplugs for you
How do sleeping earplugs work?
Earplugs prevent sound vibrations from travelling down to the eardrum by blocking the ear canal and lowering the decibel level (dB) that’s absorbed. To put decibels into context, a whisper is 30dB, a normal conversation is 55dB, and snoring is 60-90dB. When you’re buying earplugs, look for their Single Number Rating (SNR). The higher the rating, the more protection the earplugs provide, so if they have an SNR of 33dB then the noise of a snorer is effectively cut in half.
No earplugs are totally soundproof, although most will block out the low pitched frequencies – like traffic noise and snoring – that tend to annoy us the most. High pitched sounds are less common at night, but for safety’s sake all earplugs are designed to allow through the important high frequencies like fire alarms and a baby’s cries.
Is it safe to sleep wearing earplugs?
Our ears are pretty sensitive, so it’s important to know not to damage them. Earplugs are nowhere near long enough to risk touching your eardrum, but using earplugs frequently can still push ear wax deep into the ear canal and cause a buildup, which may lead to infection. Similarly, there can be bacteria on an earplug itself, particularly with more porous materials like foam. Regularly washing reusable earplugs with warm soapy water will help to keep them clean.
Can I reuse my earplugs?
Most earplugs are made from foam, silicone or wax. Foam earplugs are the cheapest and most readily available, but as the material is porous and bacteria-friendly they should be for one-time use only. Wax and silicone earplugs have similar qualities: they’re moulded into the shape of your ear so usually fit more securely than foam, plus they can be reused until no longer pliant.
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The best sleeping earplugs you can buy in 2023
1. Boots Soft Foam Earplugs: Best earplugs on a budget
Price when reviewed: £7 (20 pairs) | Check price at BootsFamiliar to anyone who hoards their flight amenity kits, these low-grade soft foam earplugs from Boots are easy to use: simply roll into a narrow cylinder shape, insert into your ear canal and wait for the foam to expand. Strangely, Boots doesn’t specify the SNR rating for its earplugs, but most foam earplugs block around 30dB of sound.
Although extremely comfortable, the downside we’ve found with soft foam earplugs is that they’re prone to falling out during the night (especially if you toss and turn), so it’s sensible to stock up on a few pairs at once. Boots also has sturdier foam earplugs in a 20 pack that may feel a little stiff but are likely to stay in place for longer. Both foam versions are classed as disposable so don’t reuse them for more than a couple of nights.
Key specs – Material: Foam; Noise attenuation: 30dB; Sizes: One; Reusable: No; Storage: Cardboard box
2. Deep Sleeps Soft Silicone: Best earplugs for side sleepers
Price when reviewed: £9.99 (6 pairs) | Check price at AmazonSide sleepers need earplugs that are comfortable and won’t fall out easily. These Deep Sleeps silicone earplugs may take a little getting used to, but customers are adamant about their effectiveness. Once you’ve warmed the soft silicone into a ball, press it gently over your ear canal until it forms a seal – then flatten the earplug so it sits flush. The result is a soundproof barrier that you can barely feel through the night, even if you’re a restless sleeper.
It’s a good idea to wash the Deep Sleeps earplugs with warm soapy water each morning and move onto a new pair once the silicone gets crumbly, which usually takes about a week – though you can make them last longer by spitting each earplug in two.
Key specs – Material: Silicone; Noise attenuation: 27dB; Size: One; Reusable: Yes; Storage: Plastic travel case
3. Pluggerz Sleep Earplugs: Best reusable earplugs
Price when reviewed: £8.99 | Check price at SuperdrugAlmost £9 for one pair of earplugs may feel a bit steep but, when washed regularly, the Pluggerz Sleep earplugs can be reused over a hundred times. Made from a soft, flexible silicone, the three flanges allow them to stay in place all night, while the unique filter running through the centre apparently removes background noise without completely sealing off the ear, so alarms and babies can still be heard
Our one concern is the comfort of the little silicone stem at the earplug’s outer end, which is placed there for easier removal: although Pluggerz are designed for side sleepers we would err on the side of caution and have a pair of foam ones around too, just in case.
Key specs – Material: Silicone; Noise attenuation: 27dB; Size: One; Reusable: Yes; Storage: Plastic carry case
4. Quies Natural Wax Earplugs: Best earplugs for sensitive skin
Price when reviewed: £8.49 (12 pairs) | Check price at AmazonQuies earplugs are made from natural wax, so they won’t dry out your ears. This is a major plus-point if you have sensitive or particularly dry skin. In fact they’re both hypoallergenic and biodegradable, which makes them environmentally friendly, too.
Each pack of Quies contains twelve pairs of soft, malleable wax balls wrapped in cotton wool. Once you’ve removed the cotton, roll the wax until warmed up, then form it into a cone shape, like a shallow pyramid, and place it at the opening of your ear so the flattened part creates a seal. Wax earplugs tend to be quite sticky, which may feel a bit odd at first, but many users claim they’re the best at preventing unwanted noise. Make sure to replace these as soon as the wax gets dirt or fluff attached to it – so probably every couple of nights.
Key specs – Material: Natural wax; Noise attenuation: 27dB; Size: One; Reusable: No; Storage: Plastic box