Inconsistent battery performance and some design flaws lead to Bose discontinuing their first iteration of the Bose Sleepbuds a few years ago. Which was disappointing. It’s an incredible concept – having some buds designed and in complete dedication to getting quality sleep, as opposed to music -playing in-ear phones that also threw in a bunch of sleep-focused ambient sounds every now and then.
Luckily, then, that Bose never gave up on the idea. Hence, the Bose Sleepbuds II, which were released last year and have since become one of the most necessary fusions of technology and sleeping aids on the market.
These wing-tipped earbuds are only made for sleeping, which make them quite unique when we’re talking about the world’s biggest audio brands.
The Bose Sleepbuds II come with a smaller format than I think I’ve ever seen in some earbuds before. This is so they stay snugly inside the ear and don’t move around at night, which was a problem with the original version. Tried and tested. These comfortable buds are the type of barely-there presence you’d need at night, and given I do toss and turn around quite a bit, I’m confident in stating that Bose have nailed the fit. Importantly, they don’t stick out and cause irritation when you’re sleeping on your side.
Even the circular case is tiny. Like most earbud cases nowadays, the top just slides open with a smooth motion and the buds can be fit into two little slots, after which the charging begins (more on that below). An LED indicator lets you know how much juice the case still has, and it should be able to hold enough for at least three full charges before needing to be topped up via a USB-C connection again.
In the box you’ve got three differently sized tips to ensure that the Sleepbuds II give you the best fit possible for your individual ear-shape. Of course, those with irregular ear shapes that don’t fit into the three limiting labels of small, medium, and large might have a bit of a problem, but the buds are so well-designed that I think most people wouldn’t have an issue. It’s important to find the right fit not just because of noise masking, but because not having the right tip in can be a bit irritating against the ear given you are ideally going to be wearing these for the entire duration of your shut-eye, which should be eight hours.
You’ll need the Bose Sleep App in order to use these, there’s just no way around it. These aren’t the type of earbuds you can use with Spotify or any other music (and podcast) streaming app. Instead, the Bose Sleepbuds II make use to the Bose Sleep App’s extensive library of highly specific and beautifully crafted sounds that fit into one of three categories – sound masking, naturescapes, and tranquilities. All of these are free, by the way.
The content is highly considered and there really should be at least several pieces that work well with an individual’s needs when it comes to sleep. Health is, after all, largely dependant on the individual and the endless amount of variables that make a person different from anyone else. Make no mistake about it, this is health technology, as opposed to just audio technology.
Noise masking is superb but doesn’t block out the higher pitches sounds that go “fridge started making that weird noise in the kitchen again” at night. I’ve tested these out from an apartment in Manly next to a fairly busy road, so can tell you that street noise is reduced to near-nothing once you pop the buds in.
That being said, if you need to remain alert for whatever reason, perhaps leave one of the buds out.
All pieces of content included in the Bose Sleep App are capped at specific decibel levels to protect against hearing loss while you’re going through the various stages of sleep. This is a crucial difference that sets these buds apart from your typical music earphones.
As for what category in the app performs the best. It’s obviously going to differ for most people. Tranquilities are reminiscent of the kind of soft textured music one would hear in a Tree of Life store, while Naturescapes are unsurprisingly all about gentle waterfalls and pillowy winds.
Mindfulness is of the utmost importance when you’re trying to bring yourself out of your mind so your body can rest, and many of these pieces of content help incredibly well with that. Who doesn’t want to fall asleep to the escalating crackles of a fire as opposed to questionable old-home moans and the low rumble of a Dyson fan?
Perhaps best of all is the other features that help ease the mind in and out of sleep. You can set the buds to play for a specific amount of time, or simply go all night and welcome you on the other side. You can also set an alarm which gently rocks you awake so as not to disturb you (or anyone else in the bed) with an aggressive jolt out of REM. Anyone who knows sleep knows that waking up too fast can lead to that unwanted groggy feeling in the morning. When I rely on the Bose Sleepbuds II, I invariably wake up softly and with perfect pacing.
Tracks are not streamed from the app to the Sleepbuds, they’re actually stored natively on them. This is quite cool because it reduces battery drain, but it was also the biggest headache in the first generation sleepbuds. This is because the transfer of a single track could take hours, and only one could be downloaded to the Sleepbuds at a time. On top of that, the buds had to be out of the case while this process took place, sucking the life out of the battery.
While that quirk remains, the download process is exponentially faster, taking under a minute. This is a huge improvement that has addressed my biggest bug bear with the OG Sleepbuds.
Where the original promised 16 hours of battery life, the Bose Sleepbuds II contend with just 10. That’s more than enough for one night’s sleep, and it’s a necessary downgrade in order to install a new battery technology that’s built around nickel-metal hydride batteries. These are much more reliable the original’s silver zinc batteries, which would often lead to the original buds shutting down randomly during the night.
The thing to note with the battery is that the Sleepbuds II will always download the piece of content to play natively rather than stream directly from the app. This process takes a minute or two, but it is far easier on battery life.
Verdict & Value
Bose have done a lot to ensure that the Sleepbuds actually stay true to function this time around. And I daresay that it’s the best sleeping aid on the market right now, at least one that makes use of technology.
Sure, you can track your sleep with a brand like Withings and do it quite well, detecting potential issues and identifying patterns that need correcting. The Bose Sleepbuds II take a more hands-on approach and can prove quite the essential when long-haul travel picks up again.
$380 is quite a lot to ask for something like this though, so I would consider carefully whether you need them or not before making the investment.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Highlights: Bose Sleep App is very comprehensive; content is vast and appeals to a broad demographic with individual needs; great for mindfulness; soft design and great fit; won’t fall out at night; only takes a minute to download content.
Lowlights: Very expensive for something with a very niche use case.