Yawn! Welcome to Sleep Week, a seven-day stretch where we source you the best intel on a good night's rest as well as the best buys in the Zzz-catching business.
I love to sleep. If I don’t have anything to be up for, I can easily knock out for 12 hours and wake up in a state of blissful calm. Sadly though, the reality of being a twentysomething in a house-share full of people means that both lying in and going to sleep early are rare experiences.
While I might love nothing more than tucking myself into bed at 10pm, other people in my life enjoy watching TV on full volume until past midnight, banging doors when they go for a 2am wee and generally being louder than anything I have ever heard (I'm fine).
So in a bid to keep my sanity and get in as many sleeping hours as possible, I decided that a good pair of earplugs is the only logical step forward. Setting my sights on finding the best earplugs in the business, I wanted to achieve one clear goal: hibernation-level sleep.
For this reason (and also the planet), I eliminated those single-use, foamy earplugs that are known for their less than adequate noise-cancelling abilities. Instead, my big sleep experiment would focus on designs that can be reused night after night for a soundless (and more sustainable) slumber.
If you, too, are searching for earplugs that will rid you of the annoyances…I mean noise...in your life, read on for my review of five types of earplugs over five nights of sleep.
Due to Ikea's lasting legacy, I had high hopes for these earplugs the minute I knew they were Swedish-designed. Made from recycled ocean plastics, these eco-friendly earplugs come in discovery packs with a range of sizes so users can easily find one to suit their ear shape. Trying out both small and medium, I found the design to be sleek and inconspicuous, making them incredibly easy to wear in bed for side-sleepers like me. I could still hear outside disturbances like trains while falling asleep but the earplugs stayed securely in my ears all night and allowed me to sleep through once I did nod off. They also didn't feel too painful when removing them in the morning, which is a major win for people like me with sensitive ear canals (a sentence I never thought I'd say).
Best for: the environment
Okay, these guys were surprisingly comfortable. My ears are pretty small so I'm often very aware of the pressure when I wear in-ear music earbuds and almost feel like I'm forcing something into my ear canal. With these soft-spiralled bad boys, it was plain sailing. Designed in Germany and made from 100% natural silicone, these earplugs were almost undetectable in my ears as soon as I put them in. Fitting perfectly on the tip of my finger, they felt like the most ergonomic of the designs, which I also appreciated. While I could still hear my partner using his electric toothbrush before bed, the lightness of the earplugs (in comparison to the more cumbersome designs) made me instantly relaxed, which allowed me to drift off into uninterrupted sleep.
Best for: comfort
As getting to sleep is the main thing I struggle with, the idea of actively noise-cancelling earplugs was a dream come true. Unlike when you are blasting music with noise-cancelling headphones, the effect of noise-cancelling here doesn't equal complete quiet. Instead, these Finnish-made earbuds aim to dull surrounding disturbances with the help of technology designed to quiet low-frequency sounds. Coming with a range of foam tip sizes, the earbuds are smaller than expected and require very little charging (28-hour battery life and no Bluetooth required). Kicking in after 20 seconds, I found the noise-cancelling nicely subtle, giving you just a slight underwater feel. While it didn't silence banging doors, I could barely hear the main road outside my window so these would be great for those living near transport links. The sleek case design means they are perfect for travelling, too.
Best for: city dwellers
At first glance, the design of Loop's Quiet earplugs reminded me of a ring pull on a can of soup but they turned out to be a dark horse. Made from soft-touch silicone, these earplugs felt the most robust of all the designs I tried, which while a tad more heavy to wear, is perhaps why they worked so effectively. Claiming to block up to 27 dB of noise, I tested these on a night when I knew my housemates would be getting back late and, lo and behold, I slept through the night. The ring tab might be slightly harder for side-sleepers but the size options allowed me to find my ideal snug fit and block out a lot of the surrounding sounds, making them a failsafe option for noisy nights.
Best for: noisy neighbours
Although I crave the deepest of sleep, it's understandable that not everybody feels the same way. For those who want to try earplugs for a smoother night of sleep while still being aware of their surroundings, these earplugs from Flare might just do the trick. Fitting on the tip of your finger for easy application, these hollow earplugs are designed for those with hyper-sensitive hearing, meaning they take away the harshness of certain sounds without muffling them completely. While I personally need something more intense (who puts on the washing machine right before bed? My boyfriend), these earplugs are comfortable and calming and could work great for those wanting to destress or those who need to listen out for little ones.
Best for: parents