Is It Bad To Sleep With Headphones On?

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Many of us like to sleep with our headphones on. Dozing off seems much easier and nicer. In many cases, you might also be struggling with problems sleeping, and music can help you relax in that case. All in all, sleeping with your headphones on sounds like a very nice thing. But is it truly safe?

Prolonged use of headphones will likely lead to earwax buildup. Higher earwax buildup, in turn, will cause other complications. Consequently, it’s not a healthy thing to do. Apart from that, there are other risks as well such as permanent ear damage, safety risks, and so on.

It’s critical to understand the ramifications of overnight headphone usage. The sign that you’re here is a good one. You’re open to understanding the risks and benefits involved in prolonged headphone usage. In this piece, we’re going to help you understand things better. Let’s dive into it, starting right from why would you want to sleep with your headphones on.

Why Would You Want to Sleep with Headphones?

Young woman listening to music on her earphones while sleeping
Sleeping with earphones on can be very relaxing and sleep inducing for some.

There are plenty of reasons why you would prefer headphones on. Different people choose to sleep with their headphones on for different reasons. The most commonplace reasons include:


Sleeping with headphones is an amazingly relaxing thing. Relaxation is very important for good sleep, especially for those who struggle with sleeping or have insomnia.

Mood improvement

Sometimes we go to the bed not feeling our best. Whenever you’re down in the dumps, it’s general knowledge that the right brand of music will help you get out of it. The same thing happens when you sleep with your favorite music on while in a bad mood. What’s more, it could be refreshing or even exciting to wake up the following morning!

Sleep quality

Sleeping with music improves the quality of your sleep. It makes the whole thing a much more pleasant experience.

Duration of sleep

Keeping headphones on helps you sleep for longer as you’ll be sleeping peacefully in your consistent musical state away from distractions and morning sounds. It should be noted that although it’s great for people who experience difficulty in sleeping enough, it can also be a problem if you have to get up early.

Faster and more reliable

Listening to music while trying to fall asleep is more reliable and faster than without. For better results, you should listen to music starting with 60 beats per minute (BPM) and ending with 50 BPM, and one that is at least 7-10 minutes long. This mimics the heart’s rhythm. You can easily find sleep playlists full of songs attuned to the heart’s beating rate on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube Music, or online in general.

Remarkably better than using the phone

Some people like to consume media before they go to sleep. They simply cannot fall asleep otherwise. The more common way to consume media is using your smartphones for half an hour to several hours. Listening to relaxing music is comparatively a much better option than using a smartphone for hours.

Avoiding noises and distractions

Sleeping with headphones allows you to avoid noises and distractions. But remember, you shouldn’t make your music very loud just to drown heavier noises. It can result in permanent ear damage.

Sleeping with Headphones: Risks and Benefits

Ear Hygiene
Prolonged use of headphones will likely lead to earwax buildup.

Let’s first cover the risks involved in sleeping with your headphones on.

  • Keeping your headphones on for hours leads to increased earwax buildup.
  • If the music is too loud for 8 hours straight then it can cause permanent damage to your ear internally. Turn it down. This can even lead to loss of hearing.
  • You’ll likely become oblivious to any safety hazards that are auditory in nature. For example, glass shattering, loud noises, someone calling for help, and so on.
  • Necrosis means the permanent death of tissues. Though not particularly rampant, necrosis can happen in your ears when you wear headphones too often in a way that it leads to infection or trauma.
  • The ear canal has a layer that keeps moisture out. It can wear out. It happens with swimmers. Consequently, the common term for this affliction is “swimmer’s ear” (technically called otitis externa). Wearing headphones for prolonged durations can cause this layer to wear out as well. Pain, redness, itching, swelling, etc. are signs that it’s happening. It can lead to a host of problems when the ear canal’s efficiency in keeping moisture out is diminished or worn completely out.
  • Last but not the least, you also run the risk of accidentally getting strangulated by the headphone cords. It might sound comical but it has happened more often than you’d imagine. People who like to turn sides more often are at a higher risk. It quickly becomes a health hazard as the cord wraps itself around your neck and eventually tightens.

The benefits of sleeping with headphones the right way are many. For example, all the points mentioned in the previous section apply here. It improves your sleep quality, mood, and helps you sleep faster while staying away from all types of distractions.

Sleeping with headphones can be especially effective for people with insomnia. A research paper in the International Journal of Nursing Studies found that there are clear advantages of music intervention in adults with primary insomnia.

Primary insomnia is a decreased ability to fall asleep and/or stay asleep, with resulting daytime effects of sleep deprivation, such as fatigue, dozing off, and irritability,

Heidi Moawad, MD, Psychiatric Times

Do Headphones Block Snoring?

Not all headphones block out snoring. You’re looking at a noise-canceling over-the-ear headphone if blocking snoring noises is a priority for you.

There are also certain “sleep headphones” that you can use. They can block out snoring noises as well as other distractions while you sleep.

We have a list of headphones at the bottom that you should check out.

How to Sleep with Headphones

Young man, relaxed in bed, listening to music using headphones
If your nightly habit is to fall asleep listening to podcasts or audiobooks choose a pair of headphones that fit on comfortably.

There are a couple of things you should understand before you start hunting for headphones. Most people start sleeping with their headphones on without understanding the finer details. That doesn’t need to happen anymore – it’s precisely why we are here.

The fit is important

You need to choose a pair of headphones that are super comfortable in their fit. It’s partly about the design and material of the headphones, and partly about your head shape. Not all headphones will fit everyone comfortably.

How do you measure fit? By judging their comfort.

Wearing headphones for a few hours can give you ear pain in some cases, whereas, under other circumstances, you would be able to sleep and wake up without feeling anything. It depends completely on the factors listed above.

Sadly, headphone fit and comfort aren’t standardized qualities. It’s more about experimentation than researching. You have to try quite a few headphones before you can decide which style, fit, material, size, shape, etc. fits the bill.

Use your headphones as well as those from your friends and family if you can to better understand the type that will gel with your head shape. If you can’t find anything, here are two things you can do: choose an alternative or choose one of the headphones we have found out to be most globally comfortable.

The choice is up to you!

Once you have headphones that fit comfortably and feel snug without producing any ear pain – you can easily sleep with your headphones on.

Using better pillows

Some pillows are better for headphones than others. Pillows typically press up against the earcups of the headphones, consequently causing you ear pain for eight hours straight. On the other hand, they can also damage the headphone.

That’s why you need better pillows:

BLISSBURY Ear Pillow with Ear Hole for Sleeping with Sore Ear Pain | Ear Piercing Pillow | Adjustable Memory Foam Pillow with Holes for chondrodermatitis CNH | Piercing Pillow for Side Sleepers

BLISSBURY Ear Pillow with Ear Hole for Sleeping

  • Hole pillows: These pillows were originally created for people who have just had ear surgery. It works miracles for side sleepers as one of your earcups will find plenty of space in the hole instead of pressing up against the pillow surface.
  • Travel pillows: Originally created for travelers, these pillows can be used if you’re sleeping in any seating position, usually during long travels. You can also utilize the hole in the travel pillow to sleep on normally with your earcups fitting into the hole. Note that these aren’t usually very soft to be used this way.

Alternatives to Sleeping with Headphones

So you want to give up on sleeping with headphones?

Here are a few alternatives.

  • Books: Reading a book is historically one of the best ways of putting yourself to sleep.
  • Music in general helps. You can play it on external media instead. A peer-reviewed research article in PLOS One found that when age and stress both increase and music is not introduced, sleep quality deteriorates.
    • You can use phones – but the battery will get definitely get low unless you set timers.
    • You can use stereo speakers or sound systems in your home. Home theaters also work.
    • A nifty way out would be to buy a portable Bluetooth speaker and keep it around your side of the bed.
  • You can also use headband headphones or pillow speakers.

Best Headphones for Sleep

Here are the best headphones that will help in your sleep:

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