Sleeping with headphones on. Is it safe? Should you avoid it? What are the risks?
These are all questions that have been asked since the very first set of commercial headphones hit the market, back in 1937!
Of course, headphones these days are much more comfortable to sleep in than those old ones were… which makes the question even more important.
Some people simply like to listen to music while they sleep.
But is it possible that sleeping with headphones on could pose an actual medical risk?
Let’s jump right into it.
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What Will I Learn?
Is It Dangerous to Sleep With Headphones on?
There are actually many reasons to consider wearing headphones while sleeping… so let’s talk about those first.
Music is relaxing, and some people simply sleep better when they can hear their favorite music as they drift off to unconsciousness.
There are also other added benefits to wearing headphones while sleeping. There are dedicated products – such as SleepPhones that allow the user to wear a specially designed headband that plays music.
Some headphones and earbuds do a really good job of shutting out other sounds.
If you live near a railroad track, deal with noisy roommates, or have other ‘audio-based’ problems that tend to keep you awake, it might be very tempting to push your earbuds into your ear canals, throw the pillow over your head, turn on your favorite soundtrack, and pass out.
But unfortunately, this is not usually recommended. And here is why.
What Happens If You Fall Asleep With Headphones on?
There are a number of possible problems that can arise as a result of wearing headphones or earbuds to bed.
Here are some of the most notable potential issues.
Sleeping With Headphones on Can Cause a Buildup of Earwax
This is especially true of earbuds.
Unfortunately, headphones and earbuds can block air circulation in and around your ear, and this can lead to the wax becoming more firmly packed into the ear canal.
This wax can be problematic in the long run, and may require you to visit a doctor to get it removed.
You Can Suffer From a Condition Known As ‘Otitis Externa’
According to health professionals, Otitis Externa is “a condition that causes inflammation (redness and swelling) of the external ear canal, which is the tube between the outer ear and eardrum.”
This condition tends to be rather common among swimmers… but it can also be caused if you constantly wear headphones.
How do headphones cause it? Well, it is much more likely to happen if you wear earbuds. But essentially, the earbuds rub against the inside of the ear, which causes a buildup of fluid.
This also causes inflammation, which can cause some painful swelling and irritation.
You May Remain ‘Unaware’ of Safety Hazards
This same risk can be posed by wearing earplugs to bed as well.
Wearing something over your ears that at least partially blocks out noise can potentially cause you to miss important events that may go on around you.
Fire alarms, tornado sirens, a baby crying, etc.
Of course, these things are not always an issue.
But if they were to be an issue, and your earbuds or headphones were to keep you from waking up in time… you could be put at risk!
You Can Suffer From ‘Necrosis’ of The Skin
Necrosis is technically “the death of cells in living tissue caused by external factors such as infection, trauma, or toxins.”
And when you wear earbuds or headphones while sleeping, there is a chance that this could happen to your ears!
It is not necessarily likely to happen… but if your headphones or earbuds were to push against your skin hard enough, apply the wrong type of pressure to the wrong location, or otherwise hinder the natural blood flow from one part of your ear to the other…
Well, the tissue could become damaged… and then die… and then, you could be facing a pretty nasty problem!
Substantial tissue necrosis can even lead to problems like gangrene!
This is obviously a less-common problem. It would take quite a bit of pressure for a prolonged period of time for such a thing to occur.
But… it is not impossible. And it is one of the dangers (even if seemingly unlikely) that you face when you fall asleep with headphones or earbuds on.
You Could Be Strangled By Cords
Some earbuds and headphones have cords. And obviously, if these were to get wrapped around your neck while you were asleep, and cut off your oxygen supply… there is a very real chance that you could be strangled.
Again, this is seemingly unlikely in most scenarios.
But it is possible… and is just another reason to avoid wearing headphones and earbuds to bed, especially if they have cords on them.
You Could Damage Your Hearing
Another problem with wearing headphones to bed is that you may not always be aware of how loud the audio is while you are unconscious.
Sure, you can control the volume while you are awake. But what if you fall asleep and it increases unexpectedly? What if one song has harsher tones than the one you tested the volume out on?
What if you lean against your phone and accidentally turn up the music in your sleep?
There are actually a lot of potential ways for this to happen… and it is just one more reason to ditch the earbuds and put your music on the stereo if you really want to listen to music while sleeping.
Is It Safe to Sleep With Bluetooth Headphones?
There are actually quite a few wild rumors that go around about Bluetooth headphones!
On one hand, they don’t have cords… so the threat of being strangled in your sleep isn’t present.
But people also worry about radiation.
But is there really anything to worry about?
Let’s discuss it.
Do Bluetooth Headphones Cause Cancer?
This is actually a really interesting question that has a lot of people freaking out.
And while it is a semi-complicated question, the short answer is that that you don’t really have anything to worry about… at least, no more to worry about than you have with any other electronic device.
First off, there is really nothing especially harmful about Bluetooth radiation. It is not any worse than the radiation you get from almost any other electronic device.
And while there have been some studies done on the topic, there is still no real, conclusive evidence that any bluetooth headsets currently on the market are actually ‘dangerous’ from a radiation standpoint.
The American Cancer Society even says this about the RF waves given off by cell phones.
noted above, the RF waves given off by cell phones don’t have enough energy to damage DNA directly or to heat body tissues. Because of this, it’s not clear how cell phones might be able to cause cancer. Most studies done in the lab have supported the idea that RF waves do not cause DNA damage.”
At the end of the day, scientists still simply don’t know everything that there is to know about radiation, radio waves, and what role they may play (if any) in causing cancer.
But as of right now, there just doesn’t seem to be any compelling evidence to show that Bluetooth technology is to blame for any sort of ‘radiation’ danger.
Are There Headphones for Sleeping?
There actually are headphones that are specifically designed to be slept in.
Voerou, for example, makes a pair of headphones called the Voreou Wireless Headband headphones.
They slip on comfortably, like a sport headband. They are loose-fitting, so no danger of strangulation or cutting off circulation.
They are also wireless and equipped with Bluetooth technology, so you won’t have to deal with cords or anything like that.
And perhaps best of all, they deliver quality sound without requiring you to stick any sort of ear-bud into your ear canal.
In fact, they are made of breathable material, so airflow won’t be disrupted while you wear them, either.
If you want to wear headphones while sleeping, something like this might be the best way to go.
Other Alternatives to Sleeping With Headphones on
Here at Dawn Study, we want to equip our readers with the best information on the topics we write about on our site.
And in this case, the big question is pretty obvious.
If wearing headphones and ear buds is so dangerous, then what kinds of alternatives should you look at?
Here are some tips for how to bypass the dangers, and get back to sleep while also listening to your favorite music at the same time.
Wear a Sleep-Safe Headphone Band
As we mentioned above, there are headphone products that will help you to listen to music while sleeping… but even the Voerou Wireless Headband headphones aren’t the only option!
Shop around and find an option that works for you.
Put Your Music on the Stereo
If all else fails, and sleep-friendly headphones aren’t an immediate option, then you may have no choice but to put your music on a stereo system and listen to it that way.
But at the same time, this also requires you to have some kind of stereo system nearby.
For bedrooms or sleeping quarters that are not outfitted with speakers, you can always use your phone.
Listen to Music on Your Phone While You Sleep
Listening to music on your smartphone is not only a ‘portable’ option, but it is also a very audio-gentle one.
Music played on your phone’s built-in speaker isn’t going to have a high-quality, dynamic sound… but it will be soft, can be controlled, will not be hurting your ear canals, and gives you the option to access pretty much any music, soundtracks, sleepscapes, or meditations that you might want.
Use a Portable Bluetooth Speaker
If your phone speaker is simply too quiet to listen to music on, consider purchasing a bluetooth, wireless speaker, like the Anker Soundcore.
This speaker has a 66 ft. Bluetooth range, a 24-hour battery life, a built-in mic of its own, a usb charging cable, and offers instant setup and connectivity with virtually any Bluetooth enabled device… all at a super-affordable price of $27.99.
But that isn’t even the only option! A quick search on Amazon will reveal literally dozens of wireless Bluetooth speakers that you could potentially take with you.
Using a device like this, you could even listen to music while camping… without having access to a power source!
Should You Let Your Children Wear Headphones to Bed?
This is a question that is almost more complicated than deciding whether or not to wear them yourself!
Because kids can be super headstrong about these types of things. And in all honesty, a lot of parents simply do not audit it.
If a kid wears their headphones or earbuds to bed, it often just goes unnoticed.
But still, with that being said, this is definitely a serious-enough issue that it warrants attention.
There is a very good chance that wax-buildup is the worst thing that will happen if your kid wears their ear-buds or headphones to bed.
But still… is it really worth the risk?
It is understandable that kids would want to listen to music while sleeping.
In fact, this activity comes with quite a few different health benefits!
Here are a few different options you could explore to help navigate this somewhat delicate issue, while still allowing your children to enjoy the benefits of listening to music while sleeping.
Buy Your Child a Bluetooth Speaker and Put It Beside Their Bed
This is an awesome way to help your child listen to music while sleeping, without requiring earbuds or headphones.
Plus, such a purchase is often as cheap, if not even cheaper, than buying a pair of headphones!
For best results, get something sturdy that can withstand the stress of existing in a child’s room!
If your child is young enough that they drop things, the speaker may get handled and dropped from time to time!
Put Music on a Stereo System
If your child has a stereo system in their room, this can also serve as a great place to play music.
Of course, you may want to make sure that they are playing calming music that won’t keep them awake needlessly.
But as long as it works and contributes to a good night’s sleep, there isn’t much reason to say ‘no’ to such a thing.
What If The Music Is Keeping Other People Awake?
This is where it can start to get challenging.
If you can’t play music out loud for your child because it is keeping other people awake, then you might need to consider investing in sleep-friendly, wireless headphones.
This can keep the music quiet, but still keep your child safe from the dangers that wearing traditional headphones or ear-buds can pose.
Here at Dawn Study, we strive to answer all of your questions on these topics to the best of our ability.
With that being said, here are some other frequently asked questions on this topic that we tend to hear pretty regularly.
Hopefully, this will provide answers to questions on this topic that haven’t yet been addressed in this post.
As a general rule, you really don’t want to sleep with headphones in… unless they are headphones that are specifically designed to be safe to sleep in.
There are really just too many possibilities for harm to wear earbuds or regular headphones to bed!
It is highly unlikely that wearing headphones to bed would kill you.
But still, with that being said, it is not impossible.
In fact, statistics dictate that you are more likely to strangle yourself in your sleep than you are to die in a plane crash!
The odds are still pretty slim. But they do exist!
As a general rule, listening to music while sleeping is only detrimental if it inhibits your ability to get a peaceful night’s rest.
If the music is keeping you or someone else awake, for example, then yes… it is actually bad for your health, and you should consider either turning it off, turning it down, or figuring out a different type of audio to listen to that does not impede your ability to rest well.
Hopefully this post has helped to answer your most pressing questions on this topic.
If not, feel free to leave a comment! We would love to continue the conversation.
Sleeping with headphones on is a risky affair! For the sake of all involved… you should probably avoid it unless you are wearing headphones specifically designed for it!
Stay safe out there!