Sleeping With Headphones or Earbuds: How to, Benefits & Risks?

In some cases, such as a snoring partner, or noisy neighbors, sleeping with headphones or earbuds might be the only way to get the quality of sleep necessary to function. But the question I often get asked is, what’s the most comfortable way to sleep with headphones or earbuds, and are there any risk factors?

Well, the answer is yes, and no. When performed safely, it’s absolutely fine to sleep with earbuds all night long. However, if you have the wrong-sized earbuds for your ears, you’re misusing them, or you are sleeping with electronic headphones, then risks can arise.

Music has been identified as a great way of helping you sleep and reducing anxiety and stress in people who have insomnia. However, for some people, music can also cause a distraction, leading to other sleep disorders.

During this guide, I will discuss all the benefits and risks of sleeping with headphones and earbuds and how to do it correctly, minimizing the risk of harmful effects or health problems.

Sleeping With Headphones or Earbuds – Is it Safe?

Sleeping With Headphones or Earbuds - Is it Safe

Over the past few years, wireless earphones have become increasingly popular, leading to a rise in people using headphones as sleep aid. After all, it’s much more convenient than falling asleep with a wire attached to your phone.

However, this has also led to a rise in questions about whether or not it’s safe to sleep with headphones.

This is a relatively new issue, which means it hasn’t been happening long enough for researchers to say whether or not it’s causing us any health risks.

What is proven, though, is that sleeping with a certain level of noise can damage the nerve fibers within the ear, leading to loss of hearing and ear infections. This tells us that sleeping with headphones at a loud volume should be strictly avoided.

Another thing that needs to be considered is that you’re sleeping with correctly fitting earbuds and using them as intended. What I mean by this is that putting something foreign too far inside the ear can lead to infection, perforation, and a condition called progressive otitis.

What Are The Risks of Sleeping With Headphones?

If you sleep with earbuds in regularly, there are specific health problems that can start to arise, such as the following:

1. Tinnitus


Overuse of headphones or listening to loud music regularly can damage the cells in the cochlea leading to what’s known as tinnitus. A consistent ringing sound in the ears can be pretty severe and life-altering in some cases.

2. Ear Infections

Ear Infections

When wearing earbuds, the air access to the ear canal is blocked, which means there is more chance of the build-up of bacteria, leading to ear infections. It’s essential to regularly clean or change your earbuds and not to share them with anyone else.

3. Loss of Hearing

Loss of Hearing

Listening to loud music regularly can damage the cells inside the ear, which over time, can lead to permanent hearing damage or total hearing loss.

4. Build Up of Earwax

If you use earbuds on a nightly basis, it gives earwax a chance to build up and sometimes can become blocked, causing pain, infections, and hearing difficulties.

5. Headaches


Sleeping with constant noise in your ears, and blocking the ears, can eventually result in frequent headaches.

6. Earache


Earache can be a common problem when sleeping with earbuds in.

7. Loss of Balance/Dizziness

Loss of BalanceDizziness

Any problems with the ear can significantly affect your balance, which can cause you to start feeling dizzy or even slightly drunk, a condition known as vertigo or labyrinthitis.

How to Prevent Risk When Sleeping With Headphones?

How to Prevent Risk When Sleeping With Headphones

If you find sleeping with your headphones in is the only way you can get a good, refreshing night’s sleep, then there are a few steps you can take which can prevent damage to your ears and hearing.

  1. Swap your headphones for noise-canceling ones.
  2. Find headphones that comfortably fit your ears.
  3. Keep the volume to a minimum.
  4. Clean your headphone buds regularly.
  5. Don’t share your earphones with other people.
  6. Try to avoid using your earphones throughout the day.

Sleeping With Earbuds

Sleeping With Earbuds

In general, the risks of sleeping with earbuds are minimal. However, care still needs to be taken to ensure they’re being used correctly, primarily when used frequently. 

Sometimes, especially if you sleep in a disruptive environment, sleeping with earbuds to listen to relaxing sounds is the only possible way to fall asleep. This is usually the case when someone has a partner who snores loudly or talks in their sleep, or the subject of noisy neighbors or living by a busy street.

Using earbuds to fall asleep is often needed when traveling on planes or trains overnight to block out the surrounding sounds.

In this case, earbuds are a god-save because they can drastically reduce noise in the environment, making falling asleep possible in loud environments.

Sleeping With Earbuds – The Science

Sleeping With Earbuds - The Science

Extensive research doesn’t say anything about sleeping with earbuds being a significant risk to your health or hearing. They have been proven to be a helpful sleep aid by improving a person’s sleep quality in circumstances where they may usually struggle to sleep.

For people struggling to sleep due to disruption, ear plugs are much more highly recommended than sleeping pills, which can adversely affect your health.

Using Earbuds Safely

Using Earbuds Safely

Although earbuds are said to be the safest way to improve your sleep, it is still important that you use the correct type and do so accurately.

There are different types of earbuds that you can buy, depending on which ones you find the most comfortable and which ones work the best for you.

Ensure that the earplug is placed comfortably inside the ear without causing discomfort while significantly reducing surrounding noise.

A Final Analysis

As you can see, sleeping with headphones in can be quite a lot more high-risk than sleeping with earbuds. If you’re sleeping with your AirPods in to try and take your mind off other noises that might be keeping you awake, it’s advised that you switch to earbuds to lessen the risk of damaging your hearing or ears.

Although earbuds are not noted as high-risk, this doesn’t mean they are without risk altogether. Using them correctly is detrimental to your ear health.

For example, the frequency of use of your earbuds may play a part. At the moment, no research says how often using earbuds for sleep is recommended, so the best thing I can suggest is that if you feel you’re able to sleep in your environment without them. Leave them out, and give your ears a break from the earbuds wherever possible.

Secondly, it’s important to remember that regularly placing any foreign object in your ears can cause problems, such as the build-up of earwax and infections, so hygiene is detrimental. Keep your ears clean and the tips of your earbuds, and avoid sharing your headphones with other people.

If you start to experience ear pain or loss of hearing or think you may have an ear infection, you must seek advice from your doctor soon. An ear infection that is left untreated can cause further problems, including complete, permanent loss of hearing.

Sleeping with an aid, like earbuds, can significantly improve your sleep quality, dramatically impacting your overall health.


Sarah Wagner

I'm Sarah Wagner, and I founded Sweet Island Dreams in 2022. It's a blog dedicated to helping people mental vacation virtually anytime they want. By providing information about the best sleep of your life, I help people drift away to paradise without ever having to leave their bed!