Bose Noise-masking Sleepbuds

For the past few years, I’ve struggled to sleep throughout the night. I’ve explored a few alternatives to improve my sleep quality : improving my diet, increasing exercise, and reducing “screen time” before bed.

While my sleep quality has improved, I find that the most common disruptor remains – noise. Whether it’s a restless pet, a creak in the hardwood floor when someone walks down the hall, or snoring, I struggle to recover from these kinds of interruptions. I’ve tried various mindfulness apps (including Headspace) with mixed results.

Enter Bose Sleepbuds – tiny earbuds that claim to mask noise one encounters while sleeping. I learned of these over the holidays, and based on my positive experience with the Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones, I enthusiastically ordered a pair. After using them for about a month, I’ve developed a few impressions that I’d like to share.

Hardware & Software

The sleepbuds come with a case, charging cord for said case, silicone tips in various sizes, and a pouch to carry all of this. If you’ve used Apple AirPods, you’ll find the charging experience to be familiar. If you’ve used earbuds from other audio manufacturers, the silicone tips will also seem familiar. The hardware has a premium fit & finish, and usage is fairly straightforward.

The software experience is less straightforward. The sleepbuds are powered by Bluetooth Low Energy, and as such require an app for control. I used the Bose Sleep app for iOS to perform initial pairing & setup of the sleepbuds, as well as ongoing interaction like sound selection & alarm configuration.

Usage Notes

  • Wearing something in your ear while sleeping takes some getting used to.
  • There is a nice selection of sounds to choose from. While I expected to prefer one of the many water-themed sounds, I now use “Warm Static”.
  • The sleepbuds do not play music – they only play these sounds. So if you continue to use your iPhone after beginning sleepbud playback, your iPhone will play other sounds through the incumbent audio route (e.g., the phone’s speakers).
  • I set the sleepbuds to “Play All Night”. In practice, this requires daily charging.
  • The app tends not to find the sleepbuds if they’ve been out of the case for an extended period. It’s as if they “advertise” for a limited time. On a couple of occasions, I had to return them to the charging case, then re-remove them. In still other cases, I had to force-quit the app to connect and begin successful playback.
  • The magnetic charging contact on each earbud is a bit finicky. If you don’t set them just right, they won’t charge. Visually confirm that the charging light begins pulsing, or you might be disappointed on next use.

A Bluetooth Aside

I was curious to learn more about the Bluetooth implementation, so I opened up a BLE debugger to see what I could find. Upon inspection, the left sleepbud exposes the GATT Device Information Service, as well as two unnamed services. Both the left & right sleepbuds expose a service named “FE21”.

Conclusion

While I find that the Bose Sleepbuds help me remain asleep, there are still a few quirks with actual usage that temper my enthusiasm for the product. Ultimately the premium price ($249 USD) is incongruent with the actual user experience. For these reasons, I can’t recommend them for everyone.

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