How to Sleep With Headphones?

Get Good Sleep While Protecting Your Ears

How to Sleep With Headphones

Are you a side sleeper? If yes, then we know how difficult it can be to sleep on either side with your headphones. It’s annoying and uncomfortable. While we won’t say that it’s easy to sleep on either side with earbuds, it is not impossible. However, in the case of over-the-ear or on-the-ear headphones, you barely have a choice. So, how to sleep with headphones?

We know this question has been on your mind for quite some time now. Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. In this post, we’ll discuss how to sleep with headphones comfortably. We won’t let your new headphones go waste. Read further to know more.

Is It Safe to Sleep With Headphones?

A Lady Sleeping With Headphones.
A Lady Sleeping With Headphones While Traveling in a Car; Image Source: Ketut Subiyanto

Whether it is safe to sleep with headphones or not will primarily depend on how you are doing it and if you’re using one of the best headphones for sleeping. You need to consider the following factors to sleep with headphones comfortably, without hurting your ears:

  • Type of headphones (on-ear, around-the-ear, bone conduction, sleep headphones, etc.)
  • The material used to cover the ear cups or the ear cup padding
  • Connectivity option – wired or wireless headphones
  • Volume levels
  • Your sleep position
  • Type of music you’re playing on your headphone

Nevertheless, it’s also important to remember that sleeping with headphones or normal earbuds every day is not a good idea. Let’s look at the pros and cons of falling asleep with headphones after which you can decide whether you should sleep with headphones.

Why Sleeping With Headphones or Earbuds Is a Good Idea

Sleeping With Headphones or Earbuds Is Relaxing

Sleeping With Headphones Is Relaxing
Sleeping With Headphones Is Relaxing

Yes, that’s true, provided you’re listening to relaxing music. Research shows that music is a non-pharmacological, low-risk and low–cost tool to improve sleep on a subjective and objective level.

Relaxing music reduces your heart rate and allows you to fall asleep faster. It can also help patients suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety.

A study conducted by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health concluded that music therapy can be useful in reducing symptoms and improving functioning in individuals suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Another study reveals that programs with active, music-based instructions can help in reducing depression in individuals suffering from PTSD.

Not only this but relaxing, slow music can release dopamine om your brain. Lo-Fi music can be an excellent choice to get a good night’s sleep.

Sleeping With Headphones or Earbuds Can Help You Eliminate Distractions

Sleeping with headphones or Earbuds Can Help you eliminate Distraction

Wearing headphones or earbuds while sleeping can help you get rid of unnecessary distractions around you, especially if you are using noise canceling headphones or earbuds. If you wonder what to do when neighbors play loud music or when your partner is snoring away to glory, consider wearing noise cancellation earbuds or headphones while sleeping.

Sleeping With Headphones or Earbuds Can Stimulate Serotonin Production

The chemical “Serotonin” is the magic wand in your brain that stimulates the “good” or “happy” feeling.

Listening to music while sleeping is one of the best ways to feel good and wake up happy. Moreover, when you are in such a pleasant mood, getting sleep becomes easier.

study conducted on rats revealed that auditory stimulation by exposure to calming music increases serotonin and dopamine activities in the brain and enhances motor control. 

Sleeping With Headphones or Earbuds Can Provide Relaxation With White Noise

White Noise
White Noise

White noise is a collection of all the frequencies that are audible to the human ear. The frequencies are played in random order at the same amplitude.

Listening to white noise while sleeping can help a great deal in getting deep sleep quickly or eliminating other pesky daytime thoughts. These days, you can easily find a white noise machine on the market. A white noise machine can help you transform your room into a sleep paradise. Alternatively, you can also play white noise on your headphones or earbuds using your phone.

Research by the Journal of Caring Sciences shows that the use of white noise is recommended as a method for masking environmental noises, improving sleep, and maintaining sleep in the coronary care unit.

Why Sleeping With Headphones or Earbuds May Not Be a Good Idea

Sleeping With Headphones or Earbuds Can Lead to Otitis Externa

Otitis Externa
Otitis Externa

Otitis Externa is the inflammation of the human ear canal. In some cases, the skin surrounding the ear canal begins to wear out and fluid gets accumulated in the ear. The ear canal is a sensitive part of the human ear and it connects the outer ear to the eardrum.

Most cases of Otitis Externa are related to swimming. Therefore, the condition is also known as “Swimmer’s Ear.” Nevertheless, prolonged use of headphones or pressure exerted by the headphones or earbuds on your ears while you are sleeping can also lead to the inflammation of the ear canal, resulting in Otitis Externa. 

Sleeping Earbuds Can Form Ear Wax

Ear Wax Formation
Ear Wax Formation

Earbuds that are inserted deep inside the ears can reduce air circulation in the ear and lead to the accumulation of wax inside the ears. Therefore, staying asleep with earbuds can lead to wax accumulation in the ear canal area.

According to an article posted by the Whittier Hospital Medical Center, wearing earbuds or headphones can hamper the self-cleaning mechanism of the ears and lead to wax buildup. And, excessive ear wax accumulation can lead to hearing issues.

Sleeping Earbuds Can Lead to Necrosis in the Ear Canal

If you’re sleeping with earbuds that do not fit well, they can lead to necrosis. Ill-fitted earbuds rub against the surface of your ear canal or exert pressure on the surface of your canal leading to the death of tissue (necrosis).

Sleeping With Headphones or Earbuds Daily Can Lead to Hearing Loss

Earbuds or headphones at high volume can cause hearing impairment just like the annoying noise of chainsaws and motorbikes can. Chainsaws and motorbikes create about 100 dB of sound (enough to damage an adult’s hearing ability after half an hour). Similarly, earbuds or headphones at 80% of their volume can damage your hearing ability.

According to the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), listening to a sound that’s 85 decibels and up over an eight-hour period is too loud.

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) occurs when sensitive structures in the ears are damaged by a loud sound. Nevertheless, the condition is totally preventable if you are following the 60:60 rule.

According to this rule, you should listen to music, watch movies, or play games at not more than 60% of the maximum volume supported by your headphones or earbuds. Secondly, you should limit the duration of the usage of your headphones or earbuds to 60 minutes per day.

Short on Time? Here’s a Quick Video on How to Sleep With Headphones!

Type of Sleep Headphones on the Market 

Per our research, these are the two types of earphones/headphones that work wonders for sleeping:

1. Headband Headphones

Yes, you read that right. We were also delighted to find the headband headphones. They are the most comfortable headphones for sleeping. All you need to do is simply wear them around your head like a headband and enjoy music without any discomfort. Since the speakers are inserted in the headband, they won’t fall even if you are moving in your sleep. We tested the headband-type Nivava S8 Sleep Headphones and simply loved them. They are comfortable for sleeping, made of high-quality materials and easily affordable. The sound quality provided by the tiny, hidden speakers is exceptional.

2. Invisible Earbuds

Earbuds can be a good choice for sleeping as they are wireless and stay inside your ears (provided you get the right fitting ear tips). They are known as “invisible earbuds” as they are very tiny and hardly visible when you are sleeping. Out of all the invisible earbuds we tested, we found the Motorola Verve Buds 300 to be the best. They are comfortable, compact, sleek and come with a stylish design. Not only this but the sound quality delivered by the earbuds is also excellent. 

How to Sleep With Headphones and Earbuds

Now that you know sleeping with headphones or earbuds is not a bad idea provided you are doing it properly, let’s look at 7 things you should do to ensure you sleep comfortably while wearing your headphones.

 1. Select the Right Headphones

First and foremost, ensure you buy the right headphones. Based on our personal experiences, we feel that over-the-ear and on-ear headphones are not suitable for sleeping, especially if you are a side sleeper. We recommend you buy in-ear headphones, headband headphones or earbuds for sleeping.

As opposed to regular headphones, the best headphones designed for sleeping or the most sleep friendly headphones are headband headphones.

2. Ensure the Headphones Fit Accurately

Per our suggestion, if you are planning to buy headphones or earbuds for sleeping, you must ensure they fit properly, else they’ll keep falling out while you are sleeping.

Most in-ear headphones and earbuds come with ear tips of different sizes to accommodate your ear size. Also, ensure the earbuds do not exert too much pressure on your ears. If you have tried ear tips of different sizes and are struggling to find the right fit, you can purchase a set of replacement earbud tips separately to get a good fit.

Foam tips can be a great alternative to silicone tips that keep slipping from your ear. Since they are made of foam, they don’t slip out easily and stay inside your ear when you are changing sides or simply moving in your sleep. 

3. Sleep on Your Back

Sleeping on one side with your earphones or headphones can be a daunting experience. Therefore, if you want to sleep with your earphones/headphones, it’s best to sleep on your back. Even though it’s not possible to maintain the same posture throughout while you are sleeping, if you are looking for a comfortable experience, sleeping on the back can be a great idea.

4. Be Careful With the Wires

If you are using in-ear headphones or wired headphones, it’s of the utmost importance to ensure the wires don’t get entangled around your neck while you are sleeping. We’ve heard of many accidents where people have died because of the wires getting entangled around their necks while they are fast asleep, choking them. So, be careful with the wires. If possible, use wireless earbuds and headphones for sleeping.

5. Play Music That Is Soothing to Your Ears

If you want a comfortable experience while sleeping with your headphones, pick the music carefully. As already discussed above, soft music or Lo-Fi music can be a good choice to put yourself to sleep. Loud music can do the exact opposite. Avoid listening to loud or high-frequency music as it can hamper your sleep and keep you awake all night.

You can also try autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) to put yourself to sleep. These days, you can easily find the best ASMR headphones on the market.

6. Use a Travel Pillow

If you like to sleep with headphones or earbuds when you’re traveling or if you are a slide sleeper, a travel pillow can provide you with great comfort.

For travelers, a travel pillow can be a blessing when sleeping with headphones or earbuds while sitting. When traveling in a car or on a plane, your neck movement is not in your control. As a result, your head can away in any direction. Moreover, your headphones add weight that can further impact the movement of your neck.

A travel pillow envelops your neck (without touching your headphones) and protects it against movements that can lead to neck injury.

Side sleepers can also use a travel pillow to sleep comfortably with headphones, especially if you constantly wear headphones while sleeping.

You can sleep on one side with headphones in a way that the ear cup is placed inside the travel pillow’s crater. Traditional headphones and traditional pillows are not a great fit for one another.

Can Wearing Headphones Choke You in Your Sleep?

Yes, wired headphones can choke you in your sleep if the wires get wrapped around your neck. Therefore, we highly recommend wearing headphones without wires while sleeping. A wireless or Bluetooth-enabled device can be a good choice for sleeping.

Can Sleeping With Headphones Cause Ear Infections?

Wearing headphones or earbuds that carry bacteria, dirt and grime while sleeping can lead to ear infections. Therefore, if you’re planning to wear headphones or earbuds for longer durations while sleeping, ensure they’re clean. Here’s how to clean headphones the right way.

Apart from ear infections, ill-fitted earbuds can lead to pressure necrosis of the skin in the ear canals.

Does Sleeping With Headphones Break Them?

Yes, you can end up breaking your headphones while sleeping (depending on how durable your headphones are). You can damage your headphones’ wire, connector, headband or ear cups. To avoid this, you can:

  • Use earbuds or headband headphones instead of regular headphones.
  • Sleep on your back.
  • Wear headphones and wrap your head with a towel.

Is It Safe to Fall Asleep With Noise Cancelling Headphones or Noise Cancelling Earbuds?

It is safe to sleep with noise canceling headphones and earbuds. They do not pose any safety risk to your ears. In fact, they can be a great choice for getting relief from noisy neighbors, traffic sounds, or a snoring partner. However, they may not be a good choice from an alertness point of view.

For instance, if there is a fire emergency in your home, you may not hear the fire alarms.

Is It Safe to Sleep With Bluetooth Headphones?

We get many queries daily asking whether Bluetooth headphones are safe or not. However, based on our research, till date there is no proof suggesting that Bluetooth headphones can be harmful to use while sleeping.

Bluetooth headphones and devices produce and emit much lesser amounts of radiation as compared to other Bluetooth-enabled devices, such as smartphones.

Of course, we definitely do not recommend sleeping with Bluetooth headphones daily.

Is It Safe to Sleep With Headphones While Charging Them?

Well, it’s not safe to sleep with headphones while charging them. Imagine, you’re sleeping for 7-8 hours, and the whole time, your headphones are connected to the power source through the charger. Doesn’t it sound scary?

We recommend charging the headphones completely before sleeping. Power fluctuations and overcharging can lead to short circuits and electrocution, even though the chances of both happening are pretty slim.

Don’t Want to Sleep With Headphones or Earbuds? Explore These Alternatives!

By now, if you’ve decided that you don’t want to sleep with headphones or earbuds but still want to enjoy music and sleep sounds in the bed, we’ve got some great alternatives for you. These include:

Pillow Speakers or Speaker Pillows

A Pillow Speaker
A Pillow Speaker

Pillow speakers are pillows with built-in speakers. The best pillow speakers and speaker pillows can be a great choice for those who love listening to music before sleeping or when sleeping but do not find headphones and earbuds comfortable.

You do not need to buy a separate music device to connect these speakers. They can be easily connected to your phone or any other music device via both wired and wireless connectivity options.

A Portable Bluetooth Speaker or Stereo System

A Portable Bluetooth Speaker or Stereo system
A Portable Bluetooth Speaker

The second option is pretty straightforward and obvious. You can use a portable speaker or your room’s stereo system to play music of your choice.

Most stereo systems come with a remote control. Therefore, you don’t need to leave your bed to play, pause or skip a music track.

White Noise Machines

A White Noise Machine
A White Noise Machine

A white noise machine, also called a sound machine, can aid a good-quality sleep. In addition to white noise, these devices also produce ambient noise and other natural sounds, such as crashing waves in the ocean and the dawn chorus of chirping birds.

However, avoid using these machines for putting your babies to sleep. They may exceed the recommended volume limits for babies. Loud volume can damage your baby’s ears.

Phone’s Speaker

Lastly, if you don’t want to get into the hassles of buying a white noise machine or pillow speaker, or playing music on a stereo system, use your phone’s speaker to play soft music or soothing sounds.

Final Words

We started with the question “how to sleep with headphones” and ended up discussing a lot more about sleeping with headphones.

All in all, it’s difficult to tell if sleeping with headphones or earbuds is a good idea or not. As you have already seen above, there are pros and cons of wearing headphones while sleeping. Therefore, we urge you to consider both while deciding whether you should sleep with headphones or earbuds.

We hope you found the guide useful. If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to post them in the comments section below. We look forward to hearing from you.

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