Is It Bad To Sleep With Headphones On?

man sleeping with headphones on

Do you go to bed each night while listening to headphones playing relaxing tunes from music, podcasts, or white noise? You’re not alone. Millions of people worldwide follow this practice to gain relief from the signs of insomnia.

If you prefer not to take chances with your health, it is only logical to question whether it is a healthy practice that may not lead to complications in the future.

Is it bad to sleep with headphones on? The answer is no. As long as you wear proper noise-canceling headphones instead of earbuds, set volumes to moderate levels, and take regular breaks, wearing headphones at bedtime can offer a satisfying shuteye experience every night.

Benefits of Sleeping with Headphones 

The positives of sleeping with headphones or earbuds can be enormous. After all, if millions of people follow a specific trend night after night then you can assume that they’re on to something. Here are a few benefits of sleeping with headphones on.

1. Drown Out Background Noises 

Do you live in a college dormitory with loud roommates who’re always planning the next overnight party? or in a city center apartment where the sounds of slamming car doors, loud music, and other forms of noise can keep you up at night?

Going to bed strapped with headphones can supercharge the quality of your sleep by drowning out prevailing background noises. This is especially true for light sleepers and others who may be sound-sensitive especially at bedtime.

Sure, any type of headphones or earbuds can provide positive background noise-masking effects as long as the volume is turned high enough. However, choosing specialized “noise-canceling headphones” can be a smart move because they can mute background noises even at low volume levels.

2. Reduces Anxiety

woman suffering from anxiety in bed

Anxiety is one of the biggest barriers to good sleep and unfortunately, the pressures of modern life can translate to many of us going to bed with one raging issue or the other on the mind.

If you have distracting thoughts that keep you up at night, listening to music, podcasts, or other white sounds can be a good remedy. These sounds can help reduce anxiety levels, enabling the ability to fall asleep sooner than later.

The resulting lower levels of anxiety can lead to a better chance of sleeping through the night peacefully.

3. Improved Moods 

Most people report better moods after listening to their favorite music. At the end of a particularly bad day at work or school, going to bed with your headphones on can have a calming effect that does not only result in superior sleep but better moods in the morning as well.

The pick-up effect of music is well-known and depending on what may going on in your life, selecting the most appropriate tunes at bedtime can lead to immediate relief from negative emotions. For instance, people going through heartbreaks report almost instant uplifted moods after listening to tracks from artists such as Taylor Swift, Adele, and Ed Sheeran.

This can improve various aspects of your life including professional and personal relationships. If there are any lingering doubts, just put this to the test and see the results for yourself.

4. Fall and Stay Asleep Faster 

The effects of insomnia can be terrible in various aspects of life. From reduced productivity to increased levels of stress and overeating, a lack of sleep can shake anyone to the core.

The good news is that sleeping with headphones has shown impressive results for both chronic and short-term insomniacs. This is especially true among those who listen to white sounds specially crafted for sleep. 

These sounds may come in the form of falling rain, running fans, or air conditioner sounds. whichever option you choose, white noise cannot only quicken the time it takes to fall asleep but may also keep you in bed for longer.

5. Develop A Sleep Routine 

Sleep routines describe the activities and actions one takes at bedtime. Many of us have specific sleep schedules at around bedtime including taking a warm shower, brushing the teeth, reading a bedtime story, and nodding off.

Sleep routines can become so instilled in the brain that the minute you take that warm shower at night, the brain begins launching internal actions to speed up the nodding off process. This may involve releasing the sleep hormone melatonin as well as reducing the internal body temperature and lowering the heart rate.

Putting on your headphones at night can become part of your sleep routine to boost relaxing nighttime rest. The fact that whatever you may be listening to can also contribute to the mind relaxation process may mean an even better shuteye quality.

Risks of Sleeping With Headphones

Sleeping with a pair of headphones on does not come without negatives. Being mindful of the disadvantages can help you put in the necessary preventative measures to minimize these risks.

1. Smartphone or iPod Screen Breaking Accidents

broken iPhone 6 screen

Many of us listen to music by connecting our iPads or Smartphones to an earbud or earpiece. While utmost care can be taken during the daytime to protect these gadgets, the same cannot be said at night when you’re in the deepest realms of Dreamland.

The risk of tripping on the wires of the headphone can be greater overnight. This can lead to the accidental breaking of the music player or Smartphone’s screen. With the average smartphone screen repair service costing $100-$200, sleeping with headphones can lead to a hefty bill that may be out of your budget.

2. Headphone Damage

Very few people sleep at the same spot throughout the night without moving. Many of us switch positions, toss and turn, and even wake up several times before morning comes. These movements can increase the risk of tripping the headphone’s wires or sleeping on it which may lead to breakage.

The prices of headphones can range anywhere from $50 to over $500 depending on the brand name, features, and functionality. The last thing you want is to be forced to shop for a replacement after splashing out on a popular brand named model.

Unfortunately, there’s only so much you can control during sleep meaning there will always be a considerable risk of accidentally breaking your prized headphones. Even if they do not get faulty suddenly, the wear and tear from excessive contact with the body at night can decrease its lifespan significantly.

3. Risk of Losing it to Thieves 

Are you going on a long bus journey or have a long-haul flight booked to an exotic destination? Sleeping with your headphones on can be one of the best ways to enjoy a peaceful shuteye especially on a noisy bus or aircraft.

Unfortunately, this can lead to a higher risk of being a victim of theft. There have been several instances of travelers falling asleep at bus stops while listening to music only to wake up to an empty ear with the headphones gone.

This is particularly common in crime-ridden parts of the world where wearing a popular brand of headphones such as Beats by Dr. Dre can make you an easy target. If the headphone is connected to an iPod or smartphone, it is not uncommon to wake up to those gadgets missing as well.

This could leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere with no access to a smartphone to contact friends and family.

4. Noise-induced Hearing Loss 

Sleeping with loud banging music in the ears can lead to noise-induced hearing loss in people of all ages. Sure, hearing your favorite tunes can be pleasurable especially on nights when good sleep seems evasive.

Unfortunately, the deep relaxation gained from this practice can make it very addictive. Soon, most people find that going to bed with their headphones on has become a part of their lives. This can lead to the symptoms of hearing loss especially among those who prefer louder music.

If you have a thing for earbuds instead of headphones, this can lead to an increased risk of hearing loss as well.

5. Muted Alarms

sleeper holding a bedroom alarm

There’s a good reason why homes and offices feature smoke and intruder alarms. These notification systems can be the difference between life and death in some situations.

A smoke alarm, for instance, can alert you to the buildup of fire for quick extinguishing before the situation gets out of hand. An intruder alarm may also enable you to seek self-defense or call the police in time before becoming a victim of a robbery or murder.

While going to bed with headphones on can be pleasurable and relaxing, it can make it impossible to hear these alarms should they go off in the middle of the night. This may put life and property at risk.

Besides, going to bed while listening to music can inhibit the ability to hear sounding-off wake-up alarms in the morning. This can mean running late for work or school.

Have you read the article we wrote on How To Sleep The Night Before An Exam? Click the link for some insane hacks that can put anyone to sleep in a few minutes.

6. Ear Wax Build Up

Do you have a preference for sleeping with earbuds? If yes, you could be at a significant risk of an earwax buildup. Unlike headphones, earbuds typically penetrate deeper and this can inhibit air from circulating into the ear.

Over time, substantial amounts of wax can accumulate and attach to the eardrum. Any attempts to clear this wax can lead to unbearable pain and soreness. This can result in infections that may be difficult to treat with related discomfort that can rob you of good sleep at night.

7. Ear Necrosis

Necrosis of the ear is the process where the ear cells are forced to decay or die due to the lack of blood supply. Remember, blood contains oxygen and other nutrients that provide nourishment for the cells found in specific areas of the body.

Again, this condition is common among those who prefer going to bed with earbuds instead of headphones. If the earbud of choice has fitting problems, it may also exert excessive pressure in the internal skin of the ears resulting in the slow death of the affected cells.

8. Ear Canal Irritation 

doctor checking a patient's ear for infections

The ear canal is the tube that connects the eardrum to the outer ear. The process of fixing headphones and listening to music for several hours each night can irritate this powerful tube.

Known medically as Otitis Externa, this condition can be prevalent among those constantly listening to something with their earphones.

The signs of ear canal irritation may include:

  • Swelling and redness of the outer ear 
  • Disturbing pain and discomfort in the ear 
  • Fluid buildup and leakage in the ears especially when you lie down 
  • Itching and irritation in the eardrum
  • Presence of scales on the ear which may peel off 
  • Excessive pressure and fullness in the ear 
  • Hearing loss 

9. Strangulation 

This may sound like a stretch but did you know that sleeping with headphones on can lead to strangulation and fatalities?

That’s right, going to bed with wired headphones can cause accidental wrapping of the cords on your neck, blocking the oxygen supply and leading to death. This may be more likely in children and senior citizens who may be suffering from severe health problems but why take the risk?

How to Minimize The Risks Associated with Sleeping With Headphones On

Despite the negatives outlined above, wearing headphones can be a great way to hit the hay. Here are the best features to look out for when choosing the right models for sleep to minimize the risks discussed earlier.

1. Proper Headphones, Not Earbuds

Most people choose either headphones or earbuds depending on personal preferences. While headphones may be a bit cumbersome, they can be less damaging to the ears compared to earbuds if you intend to sleep with it.

Earbuds slot directly into the eardrum and can be the source of irritation and infections especially when they exert excessive pressure. Additionally, the risk of developing hearing loss can be greater with earbuds since they provide greater exposure to a relatively higher volume of sound.

2. Noise-Canceling 

World-class noise-canceling is non-negotiable for anyone who wants the best experience from sleeping with their headphones on. It is no secret that regular headphones can offer pleasure from listening to your favorite tunes, podcasts, and white noise.

However, increasing the volume as background noises get louder may be inevitable and this can be a common occurrence especially among those who live in loud city areas or during flights on noisy aircraft.

This can increase the risk of irritation to the eardrum resulting in conditions such as hearing loss and Otitis Externa.

The good news is that noise-canceling headphones can mute background noises effectively. This means the ability to listen to preferred music at low volumes even in the loudest environments.

3. Bluetooth Connectivity or Cordless Functionality

happy black woman enjoying listening to her headphones

Cordless headphones may come with relatively higher price tags compared to wired models. However, choosing cordless headphones can offer several benefits over the wired ones.

Firstly, it can prevent accidental tripping of the cord which may cause damage to the headphones as well as connecting devices such as Smartphones or iPads. Secondly, the lack of cords can safeguard the need to bring out your smartphone which may prevent needless exposure that can get you marked as a target by criminals during traveling.

Cordless earphones rely on Bluetooth or similar technologies for connectivity. Most smartphones and music players feature Bluetooth so pairing with your favorite headphones should not be a problem.

I love going to sleep while listening to the Bose QuietComfort 35II Wireless Bluetooth Headphones from Amazon. It offers 3 levels of world-class noise-cancellation for superior listening experiences in any environment. As a previous long-term insomniac, it has been a game-changer for my sleep so I highly recommend it.

4. Sound Quality 

Sound quality can be extremely important when choosing headphones. If you’re looking for a bedtime partner, ordering a model that produces mediocre sounds can be detrimental in many ways.

Firstly, the terrible sound quality can make even your favorite tunes sound irritating in the ears.

Additionally, low sound quality headphones can increase the need to crank up the volume of whatever you may be listening to. This can lead to several negative side effects from the blasting of loud music in the ears all night long.

5. Volume Limits 

You’re probably tired of hearing the importance of listening to music at the right volume throughout the night. Volume limits can be another important tool to avoid loud banging music blowing in the ears overnight.

Some music players and Smartphones allow users to set volume limits. If your gadget has that feature, setting a volume limit can prevent an accidental crank up of the headphone volume during sleep.

6. Take Breaks

Listening to music throughout the night may sound extremely romantic. However, the reality can be different and this is why it is vital to take regular breaks.

Usually, falling asleep is the biggest problem insomniacs have to deal with. Once that happens, sleep can be enjoyed for several hours. Thus, taking off the headphones immediately you begin dozing off can be a great idea.

Besides, many of us wake up several times during the night. Taking off the headphones may also be possible once you wake up in the middle of the night. Even without the pleasure of listening to the relaxing melodies, going back to sleep should become easier.

Alternatives For Sleeping With Headphones 

Do you love the sound of relaxing tunes or noise at night but hate the feeling of wearing headphones? Here are a few alternatives you can explore:

1. White Noise Machine 

Just as the name sounds, these machines produce relaxing noises that can put anyone to sleep. If you’re stressed out or suffering from disturbing conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or insomnia, these machines can be heavenly at bedtime.

Switching on a white noise machine can offer deep relaxation that enables satisfying sleep without the hindrance of wearing headphones. These machines can be placed on the nightstand or another area of the room and usually feature volume controls for users to choose their preferred loudness.

Additionally, white noise machines may be integrated with multiple sounds so users can get complete control over what to listen to.

The Dohm Classic White Sounds Machine from Amazon offers soothing and relaxing natural sounds that can calm the most disturbed mind and induce sleepiness. It can be a great alternative for anyone that hates the idea of sleeping with headphones.

2. Radio 

Radios can be an alternative solution for anyone who thrives on listening to white sounds for nighttime rest. Most radio stations are mindful of the listener’s sleep needs and play relaxing melodies at night as a result.

You can rely on radios to relax the mind and enjoy a peaceful shuteye each night. Even in the absence of a dedicated radio device, there are several free Apps available on the App Store and Google Play store that can help users tune into their favorite radio stations on their smartphones.

3. Turn on the Fan or Air Conditioner 

Have you noticed that many folks switch on their fans or air conditioners at night even the weather is not exactly hot? This is because these electronic appliances can serve as great sources of white noise.

Most people say the sounds emitted by an air conditioner at night does not only speed up the time it takes to fall asleep but also improves the duration and quality of their shuteye. Many others report similar experiences from the white sounds emitted by an oscillating fan’s blades.

My girlfriend and I love turning on the Lasko T42950 Wind Curve Tower Fan With Remote Control from Amazon. Not only does it provide a cool breeze on hot nights but it also produces pleasant sounds that make falling asleep easier.


Sleeping with your headphones on can be a great way to relax the mind and enhance the ability to fall asleep quicker. If you’re severely stressed, traumatized, or suffering from insomnia, you should consider this simple method.

However, make sure to take precautionary measures such as choosing proper headphones instead of earbuds as well as going cordless to prevent the risk of tripping up on the wires accidentally in the middle of the night.

Gabriel Smith

Hello, my name is Gabriel and I LOVE to sleep. Okay, you’re right, a lot of people do like sleep. But my passion is actually not sleeping. My interest lies in the “theoretical part”. What to do before bedtime. What a good night’s sleep is. etc. In short, how to sleep well. I hope you share the same interest as me, and enjoy reading everything about sleep.

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