If you’ve ever tried sleeping through the night next to a snoring partner or under neighbors who pick the worst time to vacuum their floors, you know how helpful it is to have a comfortable and effective pair of earplugs. And you’re not just dreaming it: research confirms environmental disturbances are a threat to our sleep quality, and thus our quality of life.
The experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute have tested thousands of products that help promote sleep. From soothing sleep apps to eye masks to sound machines, our pros are constantly testing new products to find the best picks for you. Sometimes you need to try multiple helpers or combine a few sleep-better strategies to find what works for you. We selected the best earplugs for sleeping based on a myriad of criteria: they either fall in line with a sleep doctor’s recommendation, they’ve received numerous glowing reviews by verified customers, or they’re a too-good-to-pass-up value.
Brandon Peters-Mathews, M.D., a board-certified sleep physician at Virginia Mason Medical Center and creator of the Insomnia Solved program, says finding the right pair of earplugs for sleeping is as simple as identifying the reason why you need them: Does your bed partner snore? Is there other environmental noise? Are you simply a light sleeper? He says these questions should help guide your purchase.
If comfort and cost are a concern, opt for soft foam earplugs, recommends Dr. Peters-Mathews. He says these inexpensive models are typically used to diminish occupational noise exposure, but they work wonders for nighttime use since they’re small enough to fit into a range of ear canal sizes without protruding into your pillow, and they’re safe for extended use. But since comfort is subjective, you might have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince — or in this case, try on a lot of earplugs to find the ones that work best for you.
How to find the best earplugs for you
It’s safe to wear earplugs to sleep, but you want to avoid earplugs that work too effectively. Earplug varieties vary in noise reduction rating (NRR), with the highest on the market blocking out 33 dB (for reference, noise can have permanent damage on your hearing at 85 dB). “If there were an emergency such as a fire alarm, you would want to be able to wake to respond,” says Dr. Peters-Mathews. You’ll also want your earplugs to have a lower NRR if, say, you need to anticipate a hungry newborn’s cry in the middle of the night or hear your alarm in the morning.
While NRR labels are required by law on all hearing protectors sold in the U.S., everyone processes sound differently. You might wake up at the mere sound of a dog barking, while it could take a fog horn to stir your partner. To better gauge how your earplugs are performing, try the Sound Level Meter by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The free iTunes app, designed by sound engineers and hearing loss experts, accurately measures the amount of noise your earplugs are absorbing.
To test your responsiveness, Dr. Peters-Mathews recommends listening to the sound of your alarm clock while wearing your earplugs before you actually fall asleep. While sleeping with earplugs is certainly a helpful way to ward off disturbances and reduce overall stress, consult your primary care physician if insomnia persists, and discontinue use if you experience soreness, says Dr. Peters-Mathews.
Here are the top-rated earplugs for sleeping on Amazon that have given thousands of consumers the sweet, sweet relief of a good night’s sleep: