Better Sleep

7 Best Alternatives to Earplugs for Sleeping

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You’ve been using earplugs for quite some time now to block out the noises that prevent you from sleeping. The problem is, they don’t seem to work for you. That’s why you’re now looking for alternatives to earplugs for sleeping.

Though you’re still bothered by the external noises around you. There’s the endless screaming of your next-door neighbor’s toddlers, along with the noise from the street. The frustrated drummer upstairs doesn’t help either. 

Or maybe your ears have developed an irritation for those foam earplugs. So instead of getting that good night’s sleep, you spend your nights scratching your ears.

The result? You feel sleep-deprived, which has led to lessened productivity and overall quality of life.

I know the feeling. Before creating Mindful Searching, I also had difficulty sleeping and used earplugs to take me to dreamland. 

Soft foam earplugs did help me for some time. However, my ears would occasionally itch, or the earplugs would come out in the night, so I had to look for alternatives to earplugs for sleeping.

I scoured the internet and asked family and friends who also have the same sleep issues. Now, I’m sharing my list with you. Some of the items I’ve tried myself, some are recommendations from family and friends.

You’ll likely need to combine some of the items on this list for extremely noisy surroundings.

I divided my list into two – temporary and long-term alternatives:

Temporary alternatives

1. Noise-canceling headphones

Initially created for pilots on long flights, noise-canceling headphones minimize undesirable noises with the help of tiny microphones embedded in them. These listen to environmental noise, then convert them to out-of-phase sound waves. 

Their best advantages of this sleep headphones are their portability and affordability. You can take these sleeping headphones anytime and anywhere you intend to rest. However, I won’t recommend these headphones for side sleepers as they can be quite uncomfortable and even painful when they compress the side of your head.

This video provides a thorough explanation of how these headphones work:

2. Earmuffs with noise cancellation

These earmuffs function like noise-canceling headphones. The only difference is in the material of the cushion. Headphones are typically made of leather. Earmuff cushions, on the other hand, are made of any of the following:

  • suede
  • fleece
  • wool
  • fake fur
  • shearling
  • cable knit

So, they’re softer on the ears. Plus, the materials mentioned above absorb sweat so that you won’t wake up with wet ears. Take note, however, that these headphone bands only work for moderate noise.

Here’s a tip when considering buying these ear phones. Check out their noise reduction rating. Then compare. Choose according to which one’s the best for you.

3. White noise machines

Drown out the unwanted noises in your room with a white noise machine. Simply put, it’s a device that generates soothing sounds that can send you to dreamland.

Now, a white noise app is not limited to white noises like the steady whirring of an electric fan or an air conditioner’s humming sound.

There are different types of noise machines you can choose from:

  • Pink – Think of pink noise as a sound between white and brown. Like white noise, they have a steady, humming sound but with additional bass rumble. However, they’re not as deep-sounding as brown noise.
  • White – This type of noise encompasses all sound frequencies. The equal distribution of frequencies creates a steady, humming sound.
  • Brown – Brown noise sounds deeper than white noise, but the human ear cannot discern the difference.
  • Black – Black noise is the opposite of white noise; complete silence.

A sound machine’s primary advantage over other temporary alternatives to earplugs for sleeping? You get a good night’s sleep without putting anything in or over your ears.

I’ve used a white noise machine for several years now and it has greatly helped to wash out noise that comes and goes, such as from cars on the street. The Lectrofan Sound Machine is my favorite out of the handful that I’ve tried over the years.

4. Soundproof curtains

Having a few sets of soundproof curtains can be a good idea if you want to reduce external noises. These heavy drapes can minimize external noise.

Here’s a tip when choosing acoustic curtains – go for heavier and thicker ones as they dampen sounds better.

When I lived on a busy street with constant car noise, I also found that hanging up a layer of towels between the blinds and windows worked very well and was very cheap. This also cut down on the light coming through at night, helping me to fall asleep faster.

I took inspiration from DIY Perks on youtube:

 5. Moldable earplugs

As the name implies, these earplugs conform to the shape of your ear. They’re made from either silicone or wax. They’re reusable, easy to use, and light on your wallet too.

Additionally, they won’t stick out of your ears. If you’re a side sleeper, this may be the most affordable sleep aid for you.

I bought a set of Mack’s Pillow Soft Silicone Earplugs while i was traveling and forgot to bring my go to earplugs. They took a bit of getting used to, but didn’t have the issue of sticking out of my ears and putting pressure on them from the pillow. They took some getting used to, but seemed like a good solution.

Long-term alternatives

6. Soundproofing 

If you’re a light sleeper and you live next to a busy street where traffic goes 24/7, soundproofing your room may be a good idea. It may cost you more time, money, and effort, but with proper care and maintenance, it can provide long-term solutions.

When I soundproofed my room, the first thing I did was create a plan. What can I do to reduce the noise? Do I need to rearrange my furniture? Buy some items that would help me achieve what I wanted?

As we all know, doors and windows are the primary entryways of noise. 

I bought a door sweep to fill the gap between the door and the floor. Then, I had my windows replaced with glazed windows. I also hung heavy curtains for added soundproofing. 

Quite costly, yes, but the benefits I get from them are priceless. They’re pretty good at “muting” external noise like the barks of my neighbor’s two golden retrievers and traffic noise.

Then, I rearranged and refurbished some of my furniture. I placed my bed two feet away from the wall. I also went for fabric upholstery for my sofa and a couple of weighted blankets.

As for my wooden floors that squeaked every time someone stepped on them, I had them repaired by a handyman near us.

7. Acoustic fencing

I have a friend who complained of sleep deprivation due to the loud noises coming from their party-loving neighbor. 

On weekends, loud music blared until the wee hours of the morning. Guests’ cars came and went. At times, there would be shouting and roaring laughter that pierced through his headphones.

He talked nicely to his neighbor, on several occasions, to no avail. Instead of getting into trouble with his neighbor (who was a kind and friendly musician), he did his research and found acoustic fences. He had them installed. Since then, he has been sleeping like a baby.

Why is acoustic fencing a good long-term alternative to earplugs for sleeping? 

To find out why acoustic fencing is a good long-term alternative to earplugs, let’s first understand what it is and the the materials they are made of. 

Acoustic fencing is fencing that is specifically designed to be a physical barrier against noise. You might recognize acoustic fencing along highways, but it can be used around your home as well.

It’s usually created using any of these three materials:

  • wood
  • metal
  • concrete

All three do not only reduce external noises – they can also be aesthetically pleasing to the eyes. And if they’re done well, you might not even need headphones at night.

The best part? Acoustic fencing can reduce external noises by up to 30 decibels.


So there you have it – our very own list of alternatives to earplugs for sleeping. Feel free to use it when considering buying your alternative of choice. You can also check out online reviews for more ideas on which option to buy.

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Marc is the creator of Mindful Searching, a content site dedicated to providing actionable, unbiased tips to reduce anxiety, stress, and improve cognitive performance. He's struggled with social anxiety for many years. Over the last 5 years, Marc has been researching and testing lifestyle changes, products, and techniques to build a happier, healthier, anxiety-free life.