You know the feeling – you really need a good night’s sleep after a busy day, but your mind keeps racing and for some reason you just can’t calm down and tune out. This is something that has happened to me often over the past few months, and I’m not the only one; Sleep problems have been common during the pandemic, even among people who don’t have the virus.
One thing that often helps me drift is ambient ocean noise from the Rainy Mood app on my phone (with seagull effects turned off), but playing it on my phone’s speaker might be disturbing my husband, and sleeping with headphones is just uncomfortable. .
There are alternatives, like AcousticSheep’s SleepPhones, which are basically tiny speakers built into a soft headband, but wearing anything around your head at night takes some getting used to, and when you’re already stressed out, that’s the last thing you need. I’ve discovered an alternative, however – something that’s easy to use, impossible to smell at night, and costs less than my lunch.
The device in question is the SoundLAB Pillow Speaker – an unassuming little cream-coloured plastic triangle, reminiscent of PCs from the early 1990s. It cost me £4.21 on Amazon, and it’s available in the US. United for $9.99. It arrived wrapped in a plastic bag with no box and no marks on it. Don’t let its ugliness fool you, though – it’s actually a great little kit (and you won’t notice it when it’s under your pillow).
Cheap and cheerful
First, it’s worth noting that the SoundLAB connects to your phone, radio, or other audio device of choice using a 3.5mm headphone jack, which can be a problem if you have a handset. more modern than my Fairphone 3. Fortunately, the speaker has a 65cm cable, which was more than enough to go from my bedside table to my pillow without risking my phone falling on the floor.
You might be wondering why I wouldn’t just use a mini Bluetooth speaker instead and avoid the hassle. The answer is that lithium batteries don’t like to get too hot and could get dangerously hot hidden under a few inches of hollow fiber. In the worst case, an overheated battery cell can rupture and create a chain effect called thermal runaway that ultimately leads to an explosion.
It’s the cause of all the e-bike fires you’ve seen in the news lately, and it’s not something I want to go under my head. It may not happen, but I’m not willing to take the risk.
The under-the-pillow speakers are all pretty ugly, and the SoundLAB’s textured plastic doesn’t do it any favors aesthetically, but it’s actually a smart design choice. Unlike some other devices I’ve tried (and will be reviewing soon as part of Sleep Awareness Week), it didn’t slip or shift overnight.
Its odd flat shape means it’s impossible to feel it, but when you lower your head you can hear whatever’s playing on your phone (whether it’s a cute Calm soundscape narrated by Harry Styles , a podcast, or your favorite downtempo music), and the sound is emitted from grilles on the sides rather than the top, which avoids muffling the high frequencies.
It’s not the best under-pillow speaker I’ve tested in recent weeks – that award goes to the superbly named Roberts Radio Pillow Talk – but the SoundLAB is a third of the price, and for my purposes it’s perfectly good. . If you want to listen to audiobooks, you might prefer the more detailed sound of the Roberts model, but for everything else the SoundLAB is easy to recommend.
Now, when my mind refuses to calm down, I can just plug it in, fire up Rainy Mood, and enjoy the soothing sounds of a simulated ocean without risk of disturbing my husband. The fact that he’s not making fun of me for wearing a ridiculous headband is also a bonus.
This article is part of TechRadar Sleep Week 2022 (from Sunday March 13th to Saturday March 19th), a week of celebration of all that sleeps. We’ll bring you proven techniques and tips to help you sleep better, and we’ve rounded up all the top-rated tech to transform your sleep.