Some people prefer to sleep to white noise. Others find nature sounds like rain or ocean waves to be more soothing while others sleep better to soft music.
While you can always play these sounds from a speaker on your bedside, most people prefer using a pair of headphones or earphones. Headphones are also more practical if your partner prefers to sleep in absolute silence.
But can sleeping with headphones cause any health issues?
Also, and this is a dilemma many people have faced, how do you sleep comfortably on your side while wearing a pair of headphones?
I’ll start with the first question.
The biggest health concern with using headphones is if you are listening to loud music for extended periods. It can lead to noise-induced hearing loss.
But most people who sleep with headphones are looking to enjoy soft soothing sounds, not loud banging music.
So the risk of hearing damage is virtually non-existent.
But there’s a risk of earwax build-up for people who use in-ear earphones. The earpieces prevent wax from falling out of the ears, causing a build-up.
This can lead to irritation, ear pain, reduced hearing and itching.
Headphones (mostly the in-ear ones) can also cause or aggravate Otitis Externa, an inflammation of the ear canal. Symptoms include pain, irritation or itchiness and reduced hearing.
Staying safe when sleeping with headphones
I recommend buying over-ear headphones instead of those that you insert inside your ear. They are not only less likely to cause an infection or lead to wax build-up, they are also better for your hearing since they are further away from the eardrum.
It’s also essential that you get good quality headphones. It’s better to spend a bit more on a good pair from a trusted brand.
Low quality headphones with poor sound quality can cause hearing problems especially when you crank up the volume to try and hear better.
Look for highly-rated headphones with minimal sound distortion, external noise filtering or cancellation and excellent sound quality.
Finally, don’t wear the headphones for too long. Unless you have sleeping headphones, which are designed for safe and comfortable hours-long use, don’t leave your headphones on till morning.
When you get sufficiently sleepy, take them off. If you need to have them on through the night (e.g. if you need to block your partner’s snoring), buy specially-designed sleeping headphones.
Also don’t forget to keep your headphones clean. Occasionally wipe them with some rubbing alcohol to keep germs away and reduce the risk of an ear infection.
Sleeping comfortably with headphones
Most headphones are uncomfortable to sleep with. That’s why most people opt for in-ear headphones which don’t feel as bulky and cumbersome as those that fit over the ear.
But both types of headphones are still pretty uncomfortable when worn for extended periods.
For one, you cannot comfortably sleep on your side. With over-ear headphones, this is practically impossible.
Secondly, they can cause your ears to get uncomfortably warm and sweaty. This is especially the case with lower quality headphones that lack breathable materials.
After some time, in-ear headphones can also feel uncomfortable and a bit painful inside your ear.
The best way to avoid these problems is to invest in a good pair of sleeping headphones.
Unlike normal headphones, sleeping headphones are specifically designed for use while sleeping. They are usually embedded in an eye mask or headband for added comfort and versatility.
Some of the features that make them more comfortable and safer to sleep with include;
- A thinner and flatter design. This allows you to sleep on your side without any discomfort.
- Soft-touch materials to prevent any pressure or pain on your ears even after extended use. Additionally, most sleeping headphones use cool breathable materials to keep your ears from getting sweaty.
- Over-ear design. Most sleeping headphones are over-ear, which makes them more comfortable and reduces the risk of wax build up and infection.
- In addition, sleeping headphones are usually wireless. This ensures you don’t have to deal with tedious cables. And even for wired sleep headphones, the cables are usually long enough that you don’t have to hold the phone close to you.