Review

Review: Kokoon Sleep Headphones are a solid concept, but not for everyone

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The Kokoon are headphones designed to help you get a better night's rest, by blocking out distractions and guiding you through helpful exercises via your iPhone that could ease you into sleep.

It happens to everyone — one lousy night of sleep turns into several, leading you to feel run down, stressed out, and unfocused. Rather than relying on prescriptions or over-the-counter sleep aids — all of which can have undesirable side effects — Kokoon proposes another solution: meditation and mindfulness.

By combining a pair of over-the-ear headphones with a sleep guidance app, Kokoon is designed to teach you all the techniques to help you get a more restful night of sleep.

Learning to sleep with Kokoon

Before we get into how the app works, we'll need to address the design of Kokoon. They are over-the-ear headphones designed to be worn while meditating, winding down for bed, and even throughout sleeping.

Whether or not you find Kokoon comfortable will heavily depend on what sort of sleeper you are. If you're a back sleeper — congratulations, Kokoon will be extremely comfortable to use. The plush ear cups are pretty generous and don't apply a lot of pressure when you're lying there.

They're also comfortable to use while meditating, which Kokoon also suggests you use them for.

Kokoon headphones have a slim side profile, making them a bit more comfortable to sleep on

If you're a side or front sleeper, you're going to have to do a little more work. While they're not painful to sleep on, these headphones can be pretty uncomfortable when you're getting used to them. We found a few ways to make this a little more bearable.

First: if you've got an exceptionally fluffy pillow in your house, you'll want to use that as the pillow under your head. (Note from the reviewer: This was an odd choice for me, as I prefer significantly more firm pillows, but I found that this made side-sleeping bearable while I got used to the headphones.) The softer the pillow, the better, as this will ensure that you are negating a lot of the pressure Kokoon puts on your ear.

Kokoon recommends a down or shredded memory foam pillow, but we could use a fluffy poly-fill pillow, which is significantly cheaper.

The EEG sensors in the cup move freely and do not hurt while you lay on them
The EEG sensors in the cup move freely and do not hurt while you lay on them

Second: Make sure your ear is inside the ear cup as best as possible. Kokoon requires this for the built-in EEG tracking, but we found that placing our ears entirely inside the ear cup made the headphones more comfortable, too.

Third: Make sure there's as little hair between the ear cup and your ear as possible. If you've got longer hair, your hair may fall between your ear and the ear cup when you are putting on the headphones.

This can lead to eventual "hot spots" of pressure after laying on your side for a while. Tying your hair back while you put the headphones on can help avoid this.

And, like all things, you'll need to give yourself some time to adjust. We suggest heading to bed a little early on the first few nights you want to use Kokoon or trying them out during a nap when you can afford to miss some sleep.

If you can't comfortably sleep with them all night, you may want to stick with it until you can.

Even if you find that you can't sleep with them on, that doesn't negate their usefulness. We saw benefits in using Kokoon's included wind-down sleep exercises and deep breathing exercises before going to bed, even if we wound up taking them off before we slept.

The Kokoon app

A large part of what you're paying for is Kokoon's app, which comes with a plethora of soundscapes, sleep music, noise generators, and relaxation exercises. Additionally, the app is where you can check your sleep tracker.

As far as interfaces go, the Kokoon app is very legible. Navigating the app is easy: three tabs at the bottom allow you to switch between your audio, sleep history, and the settings for your profile and device.

My Audio

In the "My Audio" tab, you'll be able to choose from dozens of different audio tracks to sleep to.

This is a small sampling of audio available within the Kokoon app
This is a small sampling of audio available within the Kokoon app

The audio includes

  • Guided relaxation exercises that can help you learn how to get to sleep faster or relax after a stressful day
  • Natural soundscapes, including rainstorms, campfires, ocean waves, rivers and streams, and calm outdoor spaces like meadows
  • Two different binaural beats for those who find rhythmic tones soothing
  • Noise generators for pink, white, and brown noise
  • Calming music that features pianos, singing bowls, soothing synths, and bamboo flutes

If you're the type of person who sleeps better when it rains, we highly suggest that you check out the audio tracks "rainfall" and "beach waves." If you need a fan to sleep, we recommend our personal favorite — the brown noise generator.

A note: Yes, it would be possible to use existing headphones you already have and purchase a subscription to a comparable app like Calm. However, should someone not own a pair of headphones they're comfortable using while sleeping or meditating, Kokoon could wind up being cheaper in the long run. An annual subscription to Calm is $70, or $15 if billed monthly, while Kokoon's app is free as long as you own a pair of Kokoon headphones.

Sleep Tracking

Kokoon touts that you can use these headphones to track your sleep habits while wearing them, which we found extremely hit or miss. (Note from the reviewer: The metal EEG contacts never made consistent contact with my ears, so it probably wasn't able to get a good reading.)

Our early review data, along with Kokoons example data (third image)
Our early review data, along with Kokoons example data (third image)

That being said, there are no shortages of sleep trackers on the market, from Apple's own Apple Watch to various offerings from FitBit, so if you're solely looking for a sleep tracker, we're not quite sure this is it.

Again, the Kokoon headphones' value is pairing them with the app, be it for utilizing noise generators, meditation exercises, or calming nature sounds.

Sound quality & usability

Of course, at their core, the Kokoons are headphones, and as such, should still be evaluated on their sound quality — which is quite good. They have a much fuller sound than we expected, with crisp highs, clear mids, and full lows.

On top of sounding great, they're also significantly more comfortable than most over-ear headphones we've used in the past, and we find ourselves reaching for them for everyday tasks, like watching videos or listening to podcasts.

The plush ear cups and stuffed headband make these very comfortable for all-day wear
The plush ear cups and stuffed headband make these very comfortable for all-day wear

The headphones offer a decent amount of passive noise cancelation, as well as active noise cancelation, though it wasn't stellar. It works well for muting minor background noise, such as distant, talkative neighbors or the sound of a dishwasher running a few rooms away, but doesn't cancel out foreground noise as well as some others that we've tried.

A secondary upside was that our reviewers who complained of pain when using ANC headphones didn't have any problems with these.

While using Kokoon, we found we could get about nine hours of usage before we needed to recharge them, which is less than the eleven hours the designers advertise. To charge them, you'll need to use the included microUSB cable. Again, we'd like to see devices move to USB-C rather than stick with microUSB.

Overall

If you're the type of person who enjoys sleeping with sound on and doesn't want to disturb your partner, these are excellent headphones — especially if you're a back sleeper. There is a learning curve to using them, and you should definitely take their steep price into account before purchasing, but overall they pair a nice design with a solid concept.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Pros

  • Extremely comfortable to wear for every day tasks
  • Comfortable if worn while laying on back
  • Great sound quality
  • Nice selection of soundscapes to choose from

Cons

  • May not be comfortable for side-sleepers
  • Sleep tracking seems to be hit-or-miss
  • ANC may not be as robust as some would like
  • Steep price may not justify the purchase

Where to buy

You can purchase a pair of Kokoon headphones from Amazon, where they currently retail for $314 with free shipping and returns for those subscribed to Amazon Prime.

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