Skip to content


Close this search box.

Is it bad to sleep with headphones on?


Sleeping with headphones on can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it can provide a soothing environment, especially for those living in noisy surroundings or those who find comfort in listening to calming sounds or music. On the other hand, it can pose potential health risks if not done correctly. This article will delve into the pros and cons of sleeping with headphones on, the potential health risks, and the best types of headphones for sleep.

The Benefits of Sleeping with Headphones On

One of the primary reasons people sleep with headphones on is to create a personal sound environment that promotes relaxation and sleep. Music, white noise, or other soothing sounds can help reduce stress and anxiety, making it easier to fall asleep. Moreover, for those who share their living spaces, headphones can be a considerate way to enjoy audio content without disturbing others.

The Risks of Sleeping with Headphones On

Despite the benefits, there are potential risks associated with sleeping with headphones on. These include ear infections, hearing impairment, and even necrosis (tissue death due to lack of blood flow). High volume levels can be particularly harmful to your hearing health. Furthermore, noise-canceling headphones could potentially prevent you from hearing important alarms or emergency warnings.

Choosing the Right Headphones for Sleep

When it comes to choosing headphones for sleep, comfort is key. Traditional over-ear headphones or earbuds may not be suitable due to their size and shape, which can cause discomfort when lying on a pillow. Instead, consider specialized sleep headphones, which often come in the form of a comfortable headband with flat speakers. These are designed to be comfortable even when sleeping on your side. Additionally, wireless models can prevent any issues with cords tangling or causing discomfort during sleep.

Alternatives to Headphones for Sleep

If the potential risks of sleeping with headphones on outweigh the benefits for you, there are alternatives. White noise machines can create a soothing background sound that masks disturbances, and earplugs can also be effective in reducing surrounding noise. Sleep masks with built-in speakers can deliver audio without any pressure on the ears.

Safe Practices When Sleeping with Headphones On

If you decide to sleep with headphones on, there are several safe practices you can follow to minimize potential risks. First and foremost, keep the volume at a safe level. Prolonged exposure to loud sounds can lead to noise-induced hearing loss. The World Health Organization recommends limiting headphone use to no more than one hour a day at no more than 60% volume. While this may not be entirely practical for overnight use, it underscores the importance of keeping the volume low.

Secondly, clean your headphones regularly. Ear infections can occur when bacteria build up on your headphones and then get transferred to your ear canal. Regular cleaning can help prevent this.

Lastly, consider using a timer or sleep function if available. Many devices and apps allow you to set a timer that will automatically turn off the audio after a certain period. This can be a good way to use audio to help you fall asleep without it playing throughout the entire night.

The Impact of Audio Content on Sleep Quality

The type of audio content you listen to can also have a significant impact on your sleep quality. Research has shown that slow, calming music can help improve sleep quality. On the other hand, listening to stimulating content, such as action-packed audiobooks or heavy metal music, could potentially have the opposite effect.

White noise or nature sounds are often recommended for sleep as they provide a consistent sound that can mask other, more disruptive noises. These sounds are also typically devoid of the emotional content that can be found in music or spoken word content, reducing the chance of them causing arousal or stress.

The Role of Headphones in Managing Tinnitus

For individuals with tinnitus, a condition characterized by a constant ringing or buzzing sound in the ears, headphones can be a useful tool. Listening to white noise or nature sounds can help mask the tinnitus sound, making it less noticeable and potentially helping the individual fall asleep more easily. However, it’s important to note that this is a management strategy rather than a cure, and it’s always recommended to seek professional medical advice for tinnitus.

The Psychological Effects of Sleeping with Headphones On

Sleeping with headphones on can also have psychological effects. For some, it can create a sense of security and calm, helping to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. This can be particularly beneficial for those who have trouble falling asleep due to stress or anxiety. However, it’s important to note that this is a personal experience and can vary greatly from person to person.

The Impact on Sleep Patterns

The use of headphones during sleep can also impact sleep patterns. While the soothing sounds can help you fall asleep, the continuous noise might affect the quality of your sleep. Some studies suggest that the brain continues to process sounds during sleep, which could potentially disrupt the sleep cycle, particularly during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage, which is crucial for memory consolidation and learning.

The Effect on Partners

If you share your bed with a partner, your use of headphones for sleep can also impact them. On the positive side, if you’re listening to audio content that would otherwise disturb your partner, using headphones can help ensure that your partner’s sleep is not disrupted. However, it’s also important to consider the potential safety issues. For example, if an emergency occurs during the night, it might be more difficult for you to hear your partner or for your partner to wake you.

The Future of Sleep and Headphones

As technology continues to evolve, so too do the options for using headphones during sleep. Companies are developing and refining products specifically designed for this purpose, with features like sleep tracking, personalized soundscapes, and smart alarms that wake you during light sleep stages. As we continue to learn more about the relationship between sound and sleep, it’s likely that we’ll see even more innovative solutions in the future.


In conclusion, sleeping with headphones on is a practice that comes with both benefits and risks. It’s important to make informed decisions based on your personal needs and circumstances. By following safe practices, choosing the right audio content, and considering the potential impacts on your sleep patterns and those around you, you can make the most of this practice. As technology continues to advance, we can look forward to more tailored solutions that enhance our sleep experience while prioritizing our health and well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to sleep with headphones on?

Yes, it is generally safe to sleep with headphones on, but it depends on the type of headphones and the volume of the sound. Over-the-ear headphones or headband style headphones are safer than in-ear styles. Using an external speaker would be the best option.

What are the potential risks of sleeping with headphones on?

Potential risks include discomfort, bacterial infections, earwax buildup, and potential strangulation with wired headphones. In-ear headphones could cause discomfort and bacterial infections if used for prolonged periods.

Can sleeping with headphones cause hearing loss?

There is a risk of reduced hearing sensitivity and tinnitus or ringing in the ears if the volume is too loud.

What type of headphones are best for sleeping?

Over-the-ear headphones or headband style headphones are recommended for sleeping. Noise-canceling headphones can also be beneficial as they block out noise, helping you to sleep better.

Are there any health benefits to sleeping with headphones on?

Yes, listening to calming music or sounds can help promote a night of deep and quality sleep. It can also help individuals relax before falling asleep by lowering the heart rate and alleviating stress.

Can sleeping with headphones cause ear infections?

Yes, prolonged use of in-ear headphones can cause bacterial growth leading to external ear infections.

Are wired headphones safe for sleeping?

Wired headphones may pose safety risks if the cords get tangled during sleep. It’s recommended to use wireless headphones for safety.

Can sleeping with headphones cause cancer?

No, sleeping with headphones does not cause cancer.

What are the alternatives to sleeping with headphones?

Alternatives include white noise machines, earplugs, and sleep masks with built-in speakers. These can create a soothing background sound that masks disturbances.

Are there specific headphones designed for sleep?

Yes, there are specific headphones designed for sleep. These include the Pixel Buds Pro, Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, and Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Noise Canceling Headphones.