The sleep data isn’t enlightening but the Kokoon Nightbuds are the most comfortable way to enjoy your own audio in bed
- Can stream your own audio
- More comfortable than wireless earbuds
- Effective in-app content
- Need charging daily
- Content library could be larger
- Occasional data sync issues
The Kokoon Nightbuds are the second pair of crowd-funded headphones from Kokoon, a company whose singular, self-professed desire is to help its customers get a better night’s sleep.
They use much of the same technology as the over-ear, active noise cancelling Relax Headphones, although this time around it’s squeezed into a pair of wireless earphones. The design is far better suited to the bedroom, and being able to stream your own content gives them a big advantage over sleep aids such as the Bose SleepBuds II, which limit you to listening to in-app audio files.
The Nightbuds aren’t without issues of their own, however. Side sleepers who use flat pillows may find them a little uncomfortable, the sleep data they provide is relatively limited and syncing issues occasionally prevent data appearing in the app.
Kokoon Nightbuds review: What you need to know
The Kokoon Nightbuds are wireless headphones with a twist. They’re able to stream audio content from sources such as Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube via Bluetooth but also provide access to a range of audio resources via the MyKokoon companion app. These resources include tools to combat anxiety, cultivate a positive mindset and dampen sound in your environment in addition to those intended to help you drift off.
But it’s their ability to monitor your sleep that sets them apart from standard Bluetooth headphones. Optical heart-rate sensors and accelerometers built into the earbuds measure changes in blood flow and are used to calculate your beats per minute and heart-rate variability – two key indicators of sleep quality.
The results are then displayed in the companion app, which provides basic insights into your sleeping patterns that can be used to further inform your usage of the Nightbuds’ library of content.
Kokoon Nightbuds review: Price and competition
An upfront spend of £161 (discounted from £230) gets you the headphones along with access to the MyKokoon app for two years. Once that period has elapsed you continue your membership for £4.99/mth, let the subscription lapse and use the Nightbuds without the app or renew on a “membership loyalty deal”, which includes a discount and an updated pair of Nightbuds.
Your other purchasing option is to pay £136 (reduced from £170) for the headphones and an annual membership, which can be cancelled at any time. Both alternatives are pretty pricey, but those with severe sleeping issues would gladly pay significantly more to guarantee a better night’s kip. Of course, the Nightbuds can’t guarantee that, but Kokoon does offer a 30-day trial so if you’re not getting the desired results you can return them.
At the full upfront price, the Nightbuds are in direct competition with the Bose SleepBuds II. As noted above, Kokoon’s buds allow you to stream content from sources outside of their app, making them more versatile than the offering from Bose. The Bose do have a couple of things in their favour, however: namely, they’re true wireless earbuds so forgo any cabling and can be topped up via a portable charging case.
There aren’t many other established companies producing sleep headphones, but there are a couple of other options available to you if you’re struggling to snooze. Kokoon’s Relax Headphones are an over-ear alternative that benefit from impressive passive and active noise cancellation, while the QuietOn 3 earplugs double down on ANC by removing the ability to play audio entirely. The QuietOn 3 have the same list price as the Nightbuds, while the Relax are more expensive at £309.
If you’re looking for something less dear, the SleepPhones v7 can be picked up for just £80. They’re headphones built into a fabric headband, so are an appealing choice if you don’t get on with earbuds or over-ear headphones. They don’t have any of the sleep-monitoring tech or accompanying audio resources that the Nightbuds do, though.
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Kokoon Nightbuds review: Design and comfort
Kokoon is an innovative company and the design of the Nightbuds reflects that. The two earbuds are connected to a central unit via a flexible cable, with the unit shaped in such a way that it sits neatly against the back of your head. By moving the key electronic components to this central unit, Kokoon has been able to produce tiny earbuds that are less than 6mm thick.
The design of the Nightbuds serves another practical purpose: the cord connecting the buds loops over your ears to prevent them falling out or working themselves loose at night. It was impossible for me to test how effective this was while sleeping, but I was unable to dislodge them while tossing and turning when awake. You’ll still be able to pluck them out of your ears manually, however, as I sometimes woke up to find them on the floor, in the bed or on the bedside table.
Five pairs of silicone eartips are included to help you achieve a comfortable fit, and the Nightbuds felt great in my ears when wearing them at my desk. They’re unobtrusive, lightweight and the selection of tips is such that anyone should be able to find a size that suits them.
In bed, however, I needed to adjust my sleeping setup slightly to achieve the same level of comfort. I’m a side sleeper who uses a single, flat pillow and found that the buds created a bit of pressure on my inner ears when trying to get to sleep. I switched out the medium tips for the smallest pair and this improved things but had to switch to a thicker, more cushioned pillow to be able to sleep comfortably and consistently with the Nightbuds in my ears.
Kokoon Nightbuds review: Battery life and controls
The Nightbuds have a stated battery life of upwards of ten hours and this tallied with my experience of them: one full night’s sleep generally left me with around 30% battery remaining. The included carrying case has no charging capabilities, so you need to top the buds up from the mains every day to ensure you’ll be able to use them again that evening.
They charge from empty very quickly, which is just as well as there were a couple of times I picked them up shortly before bedtime to discover they didn’t have the juice to make it through the night.
Charging takes place via a USB-C port located on the underside of the central unit, which also incorporates three small multifunction buttons on its crest. One is used for powering the headphones on and off, pairing, playing and pausing audio and accepting, rejecting or ending phone calls. The other two are volume buttons that can be double-clicked to skip forward or backwards a track if you’ve got media playing.
The buttons are easily accessed by reaching round to the back of your head and have a pleasing click to them that ensures you’ll know when presses have been registered.
Kokoon Nightbuds review: MyKokoon audio content
Kokoon’s companion app has been revamped since I reviewed the Relax Headphones in 2020 but still provides a decent range of audio aids designed to improve your wellbeing. The content library is divided into four sections: “Going to sleep”, “Feeling anxious”, “Disrupted sleep” and “Brighter mornings”.
Once you’ve selected a specific category, you’re provided with a list of available content that falls under it, along with the option to filter by content type. There are four content types to choose from: “Coaching”, “Meditations”, “Music” and “Storyscape”, though not all categories contain content of all four types.
Coaching provides practical information about the physiology and psychology of sleep and how using the Nightbuds can improve it. The five sessions are unlikely to be something you return to, but they’re worth listening to once.
Meditations will be familiar territory for those that have used apps such as Calm, and I found them useful for reflection and relaxation but not for getting to sleep – the Music and Storyscape content worked better for that. The two I found most effective were “The Boathouse” storyscape, which features lapping water, tweeting birds and an ASMR-inducing narrator, and “Constellations”, an ethereal composition with elements reminiscent of singing bowls.
If listening to a singular audio aid isn’t quite cutting it, you can add a second layer of sound to any given file (and external content, for that matter). That second layer comes in various forms, ranging from white, pink and brown noise to the self-explanatory “Thunderstorm” and “Beach waves”. I found combining sounds particularly soothing; you’ve not truly experienced the Shipping Forecast storyscape until it’s being read over a London storm.
That’s not the extent of the customisation options available, either. You can have the Nightbuds gradually fade out when they detect you’ve fallen asleep or introduce coloured noise to mask external disturbances. The fade-out can be delayed by up to 20 minutes and works for non-Kokoon content as long as you have the app open in the background.
Overall, I was reasonably impressed by the quality of the content available in the MyKokoon app. The selection of resources could be broader but this isn’t a deal breaker as you’ll likely find one or two that speak to you and stick with them. And if not, you’re free to listen to whatever external content you feel is going to help you reach the Land of Nod.
Sound quality is nowhere near the level of a pair of Bluetooth headphones costing as much as the Nightbuds do, but that’s to be expected. The focus is on clear and defined articulation of voices and, in that regard, they do a good job. There’s very little in the way of bass response but most people won’t be listening to a banging drum and bass playlist just before bed.
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Kokoon Nightbuds review: Sleep tracking and data
Regardless of what you’re listening to, the Kokoon Nightbuds will collect data about your heart rate in the background via the built-in sensors. This data is then used to provide information on your sleep within the MyKokoon app, as long as you had the app open overnight and were using the buds for more than 30 minutes.
Sleep data is displayed for the previous night and includes the time you went to bed, how long it took you to fall asleep, and how much light, deep and REM sleep you got. The latter information is presented in pie chart form, which is very easy to interpret.
Once you’ve spent a few nights using the Nightbuds, you’ll be able to access a graph documenting your sleep pattern over the course of a week. This shows how well you’ve stuck to your sleep schedule, which you set up by adding your bedtime and wake up time, along with figures for how long it took you to get to sleep and how long you slept for each night.
You’re also given a sleep efficiency score – the percentage of time you spent asleep relative to time spent in bed – an average nightly sleep amount and “Insights”. The latter are based on your sleep data and come in the form of statements such as “consistently using your headphones reduces the duration of interruptions to your sleep by about 35 minutes”. I didn’t find these all that helpful as they were either rather vague or simply seemed intended to encourage you to keep using the headphones.
The data itself is interesting if you want a general idea of your sleeping patterns but I came across a few issues that limited its usefulness. On a few occasions, I removed the Nightbuds in a semi-conscious state in the middle of the night before falling asleep again. This meant that that night’s results were not reflective of my actual slumber and skewed the weekly data report as a result.
Similarly, there were a couple of times where I slept for, say, five hours, woke up and remained awake for a while and then fell asleep again. In these instances, only the data from the second snooze was synchronised to the system. This isn’t an issue with the app itself but does mean average figures will sometimes need to be taken with a pinch of salt.
More problematic was data that would occasionally not synchronise to the app at all, despite the completion of a full night’s sleep with the Nightbuds on and MyKokoon app open. During my initial testing period, I always seemed to encounter syncing issues on the fourth night; even though I’d done nothing different to the night before, my data wouldn’t register in the app. I reached out to Kokoon about the issue and was told it was a glitch that had subsequently been resolved.
Sure enough, during a further week of testing, the Nightbuds did sync data for all seven days. There was one hiccup along the way – data for Thursday didn’t sync correctly until the following day – but it showed up eventually.
Kokoon Nightbuds review: Verdict
Despite the more egregious syncing issues having seemingly been ironed out, I wouldn’t recommend buying the Kokoon Nightbuds for their sleep-monitoring capabilities alone. The data is interesting but relatively basic and I didn’t feel the insights were particularly helpful.
That said, the Nightbuds are the most comfortable headphones I’ve worn in bed that allow you to stream whatever content you wish over Bluetooth. They take a bit of getting used to but are easier to fall asleep with than any wireless earbuds I’ve tested, and the in-app content is effective in aiding relaxation, masking external sound and easing you to sleep.
Whether those things are worth the hefty outlay will ultimately come down to how hard you find sleep to come by and how desperate you are to fall asleep while listening to your favourite music, podcast or audiobook.