Is It Bad to Sleep With Headphones On? Full Guide

This article will discuss whether wearing headphones while sleeping is harmful and what alternatives there are for using calming sounds before bed.

Headphones are a common way to block outside noise because most people have trouble sleeping in noisy environments. White noise and other calming sounds, such as piano music, can also help people unwind before going to sleep by bringing down their heart rates and relieving stress.

Although using headphones to relax before bed is perfectly acceptable, sleeping with them on has several negative health effects. To find out how sleeping with headphones affects your health, keep reading. In addition, we’ll discuss some different approaches to using relaxing music before bed and share our top picks for headphones that are safe and comfortable for sleep.

Why People Choose to Sleep With Headphones

If you’re trying to improve your sleep hygiene, there are several reasons why you may want to wear headphones while you sleep, including:

  • Blocking out noise.
  • Relaxation.
  • Stress relief.
  • establishing the proper mental attitude.

According to Dr. Pavlovich Ruff, those who frequently experience ringing in the ears (tinnitus) are most frequently interested in sleeping with headphones because they want the ringing to stop so they can get a full night’s sleep without interruption. There are a few things that can cause this ringing, including:

  • side effects of prescription drugs.
  • Excessive caffeine.
  • Aspirin in large doses.
  • Hearing loss.
  • injury to the body or ear trauma brought on by loud noises like fireworks.
  • excessive exposure to noise at work or during leisure activities without using hearing protection
  • physical strain, such as lifting weights.

“Emotional stress can cause ringing in your ears, too,” says Dr. Pavlovich Ruff. “For stress relief, this is why a lot of people might want to drift off to sleep while listening to something calming or relaxing.”

What Are the Advantages of Sleeping With Headphones On?

As previously mentioned, listening to music while trying to fall asleep has many psychological advantages. Generally speaking, it makes you feel calm and at ease so you can get a good night’s sleep.

Shuts Out Loud, Irritating, Or Excessive Noise

Unfortunately, there are times when your home is unbearably noisy.

You may reside in a city where you are frequently subjected to the sounds of traffic or even nighttime construction. It’s possible that you live with loud housemates or close by people who enjoy staying up late partying or jamming with their bands. If your spouse snores loudly, it’s also possible that you actually live in a quiet suburb.

You can drown out sounds like these that keep you from falling asleep by investing in a good pair of headphones.

Lets You Relax to Your Favorite Music and Media

People can fall asleep faster by listening to soothing sounds, which has been proven. According to research, those who listen to calming music 45 minutes before bedtime get to sleep more easily, stay asleep longer, and wake up less frequently. Additionally, it can be beneficial to listen to podcasts, audiobooks, ASMR videos, and other entertaining media.

Music with 60 to 80 beats per minute, according to some sleep scientists, is the best type of music to fall asleep to. In a relaxed state, this simulates your heart rate.

A song to promote sleep was written in 2011 by the English band Marconi Union in collaboration with the British Academy of Sound Therapy. Starting at 60 bpm and ending at 50 bpm is how it operates. The song, titled “Weightless”, has been dubbed the most relaxing song ever.

Boosts Your Psychological, Mental, and Emotional Well-being

Numerous scientific studies back up the effectiveness of music therapy as a treatment for mental health issues.

For instance, according to this study, listening to music has a positive impact on the autonomic nervous system, which controls bodily functions, making it easier to recover from stressful situations.

Additionally, it has been demonstrated to lessen the symptoms of PTSD and to enhance the quality of sleep in depressed patients who also suffer from insomnia.

Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that is linked to the satisfying feelings of receiving a reward. Music stimulates the production of dopamine. Consequently, it can feel rewarding to listen to music.

Sleep With Headphones

What Are the Disadvantages of Sleeping With Headphones On?

Always keep in mind that sleeping with headphones can be dangerous. If you don’t wear them properly or if you use them too much, headphones can cause the following problems, which range from mild to severe:

Wax Buildup

Because the seal prevents proper air circulation inside the ears, earphones can result in hard wax buildup. Hardened wax, if ignored, can eventually result in permanent damage and even temporary hearing loss.

Visit an ENT specialist right away if you experience any pain or discomfort. To have impacted or excessive ear wax removed, you might need medical assistance.

Otitis Externa

Otitis externa, also referred to as swimmer’s ear, is an infection that hurts when the ear is overly wet.

The skin of the ear canal may deteriorate after wearing headphones for an extended period of time. The ear’s ability to seal off fluids like water is compromised when this occurs. Additionally, too much moisture prevents the ear from producing ear wax, which acts as a natural defense against microorganisms that might thrive inside the ear canal.

Pain, redness, swelling, and itching in the ear are symptoms. Additionally, pus or fluid may discharge. Some patients also experience diminished hearing, which improves after the infection is treated.

Otitis externa can lead to significant issues if left untreated. If you think you might have otitis externa, you should always see a doctor.

Necrosis, Or the Death of Tissue Cells

When tissue cells pass away permanently, it is called necrosis.

There is a chance, even though it is unlikely to occur. Overuse of headphones can result in trauma or infections that can cause necrosis.

Hearing loss may occur in some or all cases as a result. In the worst-case scenarios, it may also necessitate amputating the ear entirely or part of it.

Strangulation by Headphone Cords

Although it is unlikely, sleeping with headphones on while awake is still a possibility. The more likely this is if you’re a restless sleeper who prefers to wear wired headphones to bed.

You run the risk of cutting off your oxygen supply if the strangulation is severe, and you might even fall asleep while unconscious. It’s best to use wireless headphones to completely eliminate this risk.

Hearing Loss from Listening to Music

If you wear headphones to bed, you run the risk of accidentally turning up the volume. Long-term ear damage from loud music exposure is possible.

85 to 110 decibels is the typical headphone’s maximum volume. According to the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration, listening to sound for eight hours straight at a volume of 85 decibels or higher is too loud.

If the listener doesn’t wear hearing protection, it is comparable to the volume of lawnmowers and leaf blowers and can result in hearing loss.

It is best to keep the volume at 60% when using headphones. Anything louder than that could cause hearing issues down the road.

How to Sleep With Headphones – the Easiest Ways

There are a few things you can do to improve the quality of your sleep if you plan to wear headphones to bed.

Get a Pillow That Makes Headphone Listening Easy

It can be uncomfortable to sleep for the full eight hours while wearing headphones, as anyone who has experienced knows.

There aren’t many pillows that were made to support heavy equipment like headphones. They might press up against the earcups, which would then push up against your ears and hurt them.

Additionally, the extra strain on the headphones’ electronics may harm them.

Fortunately, there are some specialized pillows that can greatly improve both listening and sleeping.

The Original Pillow With a Hole

This pillow was initially created for people who require ear pain relief following ear surgery or who experience ear discomfort.

The Original Pillow With a Hole, as its name suggests, has a 4-inch x 4-inch hole in the center to give one of the earcups just the right amount of room to fit through.

Because it releases pressure from the earcup that is pressing against the pillow, it is a great pillow for side sleepers.

Additionally, a zip allows you to add or remove stuffing as desired to adjust the firmness or softness.

Simply make sure to pull the headphone cable through the opening to avoid unintentional strangulation.

Travel Pillow

The best companions for those who are constantly on the move are travel pillows.

Since its creation in 1928, this U-shaped pillow has become the traveling companion of frequent flyers.

There are two ways to use it to relieve pressure on the headphones. The first is when you’re lying down or sitting up, and the second is when you’re on your side.

It goes without saying that you lose control of your neck when you sleep while flying or driving. Your head starts to shake as a result, and the weight of the headphones only makes things worse.

Your chin and jawline have a place to rest on thanks to the snug fit of travel pillows around your neck. Pressure while sleeping won’t be an issue because it won’t come into contact with your headphones.

Utilizing a travel pillow as a pillow for side sleeping is another way to relieve pressure on your headphones. Travel pillows, like pillows with holes in them, have craters in the middle where your headphones can fit.

This is an excellent and original way to doze off while sporting headphones.

Get Headphones That Make Sleeping Easier

Many producers are responding now that they are aware of the demand for headphones made for sleeping.

Since these headphones typically don’t protrude from the ear and have a low profile, you won’t typically feel anything pressing against your ear when you turn to the side.

In this category, there are a few different kinds of headphones.

Headband Headphones

These have a pair of incredibly thin, padded speakers inserted inside what appears to be a typical sports headband made of fabric and wrapping around the head. Remember to always take the speakers out of the fabric before washing it.

Popular brands include:

  • SleepPhones – These thin headband headphones can be connected to a 3.5-mm jack. There is also a wireless Bluetooth version available that allows for unrestricted movement.
  • CozyPhones – These have a contoured design, which enables the headband to fit your head shape. They can also be used as an eye mask to block out light. Both adults and children can use CozyPhones.
  • Jarvania – Check out Jarvania if you’re looking for sleep headphones that you can also use while working out. They have an integrated microphone so you can take calls hands-free while working out.

Low-profile Earphones

Low-profile earphones frequently have soft silicone tips that conform to the shape of your ears so that you hardly notice them being in use. These were created especially for those who want to wear headphones to sleep.

Popular brands include:

  • Moonbow Bedphones are flat-on-the-ear on-ear headphones with ¼-inch-thick earcups. You can adjust the headphones for the most comfortable fit by using the rubber-coated memory wire, which adapts to the shape of your outer ears.
  • The QuietOn Sleep Earphones have active noise cancellation to block out low-frequency noises like snoring and city traffic. In order to accommodate different ear sizes, ear tips also come in small and medium sizes.
  • Purchase a pair of Moondrop Kanas Pro earbuds if you want to keep them in while you sleep. The over-the-ear memory cable on the Moondrop Kanas Pro can be altered to fit comfortably over your outer ears. Additionally, it includes soft, lightweight ear tips in a range of sizes so you can pick the one that fits your ears best.

True Wireless Headphones

Wireless headphones—can they be worn while you sleep? True wireless earbuds make it more comfortable, though.

They don’t have cables that you could tangle yourself up in and fit snugly in the ear. Some models also have active noise-canceling, allowing you to drown out noises that prevent you from sleeping.

True wireless headphones may appear to be ideal for sleeping, but they have a serious drawback.

The small batteries in these headphones are crammed into the teeny space inside the earbuds due to their diminutive size. You are compelled to give up battery life as a result.

Most decent pairs will allow you to listen continuously for a maximum of three hours. The battery life of some of the more expensive ones can be increased by five or six hours.

If all you need is music to get to sleep, then that shouldn’t be a problem. However, truly wireless headphones might not be the best option for you if you need music to fall asleep.

Sleep in a Different Position

Although it may seem obvious, few people are willing to give this a try because they are accustomed to sleeping in the manner in which they have done for the majority of their lives.

However, if you insist on using headphones while you sleep and don’t want to spend money on new ones, you might want to experiment with changing how you lie down.

The best way to wear headphones in bed is to sleep on your back because you aren’t putting pressure on your ears.

If you sleep on your side, you might want to get a specialized pillow.

Is It Bad to Sleep With Noise-Canceling Headphones?

Active and passive noise cancellation are the two different kinds. Passive noise cancellation is typically included with regular headphones. Active noise-canceling (ANC) headphones, however, excel at reducing background noise.

Physical barriers such as foam and silicon are used in regular headphones to block out noise. While ANC headphones have additional features that electronically block out unwanted noise.

Some people might prefer noise-canceling headphones because of how well they block noise. However, using noise-canceling headphones, particularly while sleeping, raises some safety issues. These include tinnitus as perceived and pressure in the ears following prolonged use of headphones. However, the majority of these ANC headphones effects are one-off incidents. Very few users experience them.

Other sleep-specific concerns on using ANC headphones also include:

Not Hearing Important Alarms, Sirens, Or Calls for Help

If you wear headphones to sleep, you could miss crucial sounds that will help you wake up. These can include burglar alarms, smoke or fire alarms, family member cries for assistance, etc.

Hard to Find a Comfortable Position

The majority of noise-canceling headphones have clunky over-ear designs. In order for the noise cancellation to be effective, a tight seal must be created over the ears. On the negative side, the headphones aren’t exactly ideal for sleeping. Rollers might lose their headphones in their sleep, while side sleepers risk developing a stiff neck.

Some companies make an effort to solve these issues by creating headphones that are more conducive to sleep. But they frequently don’t provide as much comfort as headbands or headphones with sleep masks.

Noise-canceling headphones can still be a good option if your only intention is to use them to unwind while traveling or get some much-needed rest while seated.

High Cost and High Risk

Because the noise cancellation technology is more advanced, noise-canceling headphones cost more. Therefore, choosing a pair of these could seriously cut into your budget.

Additionally, these headphones are not intended for use while you sleep. On the outside of the ear cup, the majority of them have touch-sensitive control panels. Therefore, even the smallest movements could cause volume changes that harm hearing.

Hot Ears

High-density foam or silicone is used to seal the ears on headphones that block out noise. This, as previously stated, makes sure the noise cancellation operates at its best. However, this seal can also cause your ears to feel stuffy and warm, which can prevent you from getting a restful night’s sleep.

Designing permeable ear cups is a priority for most manufacturers. However, most are still not as breathable as sleep-related headphones.

Sleep headphones not only have breathable materials, but also washable parts. In order to prevent sweat or dirt buildup that could harm ear health, this helps to keep them clean.

Additionally, the majority of noise-canceling headphones lack parts that can be washed. Thus, excessive sweating while you sleep may hasten the aging of your ear padding. As a result, over time the ear pads become more fragile and uncomfortable to wear. After a few months of use, you might be required to replace the ear padding on your headphones.

Can Noise-Canceling Headphones Block Snoring?

The short answer is: yes.

When it comes to reducing background noises like snoring, ANC headphones are much better.

Low-frequency sounds are easily detected by noise-cancelling headphones. Airplane engines, air conditioners, and yes, even snoring, are examples of such noises.

Even without playing any music, some ANC headphones can block out sounds like snoring. To use the noise-canceling feature, simply turn it on. This means that you can easily assist your ears in getting some well-deserved rest each night.

In spite of the safety issues raised above, these factors make noise-canceling headphones a desirable option for sleeping.

Alternatives to Headphones at Night

People who wear headphones at night usually want to unwind and get some sleep. Below, we list some reliable alternatives to help you sleep at night. There is a list of non-musical alternatives for those who are open to trying different ways to unwind at the end of the day, as well as a list of musical alternatives for those who find sound to be the most helpful for falling asleep.

Musical Alternatives to Headphones:

  • Earplugs—Foam earplugs are a cheap alternative to headphones and can be purchased for as little as $10 for a box of 100 pairs. They should be compressed between your fingers and inserted into your ear canal to be used. Once in position, they will expand to form a seal that muffles sound. Remember that prolonged use of earplugs, like that of headphones, can cause minor issues.
  • Noise Cancelling Headphones—Flat noise-cancelling headphones are now readily available and can be worn in any sleeping position. These headphones, which have an over-ear design to help sleepers avoid health risks, differ from conventional earbuds.
  • Using a Smartphone—On your smartphone at night, try playing the same relaxing music or sounds that you do. There are pre-selected playlists for sleep that are available on subscription apps like Spotify and Apple Music, but there are also free apps that provide sleep sounds, white noise, and soothing music. Among the preferred choices are Coffitivity, myNoise, and Sleep Fan.
  • Bluetooth Speaker—A wireless bluetooth speaker might be a good investment if the speaker on your phone is too quiet. Most have a range of at least 50 feet and are less than $100. The benefit of a bluetooth device is that it functions anywhere, whether you’re at home, in a hotel room, or out in nature while camping.

Non-Musical Alternatives to Headphones:

  • Meditate—Through the promotion of general awareness and a focus on the breath, meditation can help soothe restless bodies and minds. An app for meditation on your smartphone that requires a monthly subscription can assist you in getting started if you’ve never meditated before. One of the most well-liked apps is called Headspace; it offers topic-specific guided courses and meditations for problems like restlessness, work-related stress, and anxiety.
  • White Noise Machine—Random noises that create a calming, ambient effect while obstructing outside noise are referred to as white noise. Consider buying a white noise machine if you’ve been using white noise through headphones to help you sleep. These devices are frequently less than $50 and are widely offered at well-known retail establishments like Amazon, Target, and Walmart.
  • Mindful Exercise—High-intensity exercises, such as HIIT, weightlifting, and running, make it difficult to fall asleep, but gentle exercise that lowers the heart rate, encourages control over breathing, and fosters relaxation can tell the body when it’s time to sleep. Instead of listening to music through headphones before bed, think about doing a gentle 30-minute stretch or slow yoga.
  • Natural Supplements—There are natural supplements that have been scientifically shown to help you fall asleep more quickly if you need a little extra assistance to get deep sleep. For instance, your body naturally produces the hormone melatonin, which alerts your brain that it is time to go to sleep. The safe alternatives also include magnesium, valerian root, and lavender oil.
  • Lifestyle Changes—If you find yourself relying on music to help you sleep, think about gradually changing your routine to help you do so regardless of where you are, what you have nearby, or what is playing in the background. Effective routines to start implementing include scheduling time for yourself to wind down, switching off electronics, reading, and lowering the thermostat an hour before bed.


Our lives are not complete without sound and music. Since the first instruments were crafted from bird bone, our ancestors have been creating and enjoying music. Even today, 40,000 years later, we continue to learn new and improved ways that music can enhance our lives.

It doesn’t just make you sleep better for one night if you put on a good pair of headphones and listen to your favorite music. Long-term stress reduction is aided by this, and you can eventually become a healthier, happier person.

Are you considering getting your first pair of headphones to aid in your sleep but are unsure where to begin? Please feel free to look over our detailed guide on how to choose the best sleep headphones as well as the top models available right now.

What do you think about the choices we have offered? Have you figured out how to wear headphones and sleep soundly? Do you have any additional advice for our readers on how to get the most out of sleeping with headphones? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

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