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How to Sleep With Headphones: 5 Simple Suggestions

Have you ever fallen asleep with your earbuds or headphones on and then tried to roll over? It’s terribly uncomfortable, is it not? Is it even possible to sleep while wearing either of these? Read on, friends. This article is going to give you some insight into this very common problem.

Let me just start off by saying that it is possible to sleep while wearing headphones. There are things you can do to improve the sleep quality. Some of these suggestions will require you getting items that help alleviate the discomfort. Other suggestions will ask you to try different things, such as sleep positions. All of these tips are worth trying out. Pick those that work for you.

5 Simple Suggestions

Get special pillows

There are special pillows you can purchase to make yourself more comfortable while sleeping with your headphones. Though not marketed for this purpose, they work well all the same.

Pillows with a hole

Specifically, there are two types of pillows that I recommend. The first special pillow I recommend is simply called, “Pillow With A Hole”. If you do a Google or Amazon search you will find out exactly what I’m talking about. These pillows are usually used for people who have recently had ear surgery, but are also used by those with ear pain or sensitive ears.

The hole in these pillows remove the stress that a regular pillow puts on your earbuds and headphones. It also reduces the smashing effect of them against your ear. You can avoid damage to your hear and earbuds/headphones with this type of pillow.

Another benefit with these pillows is the reduced risk factor is strangulation. Thread the wires from your headphones through the hole and run them out from underneath the pillow so as to stop the cords from getting tangled around your neck.

Amazon has quite a variety of “Pillow With a Hole” product listings. You can also search for ear surgery pillows to get the similar search results. Here are a few that I thought I’d share with you.

  • PureComfort Pillow with an Earhole – Memory foam pillows are very popular right now and this PureComfort pillow has a memory foam core, which most people concur is more comfortable than other pillows.. 
  • PureComfort Side Sleeping Pillow – This model is a little different in that it has two ear slots. Unfortunately, they are just impressions for your ear to lie in. There is no actual hole, so the added benefit of being able to run the earbud wires underneath the pillow would not work. So, the risk of strangulation would still be there.
  • Deluxe Comfort Better Sleep Earguard Pillow Accessory – If you want an inexpensive solution, or just to try out a pillow with a hole in it, you could pick up this small pillow accessory. It does have the hole all the way through so you get that protection from strangulation, but it is very small and you would probably need to add a regular pillow to make up for more padding. Made from eggshell foam, you might find it less comfortable than memory foam or cotton filling, but it would be a wonderful piece to try out.

Travel pillows

Now, here are a few of the pillows recommended for those nighttime noise lovers out there who prefer wearing the over-the-ear headphones. What I mean specifically are the ones with the headbands. These pillows, sometimes called travel pillows or neck pillows, are great because they are U shaped so the headband can lay inside the top of the U without being smashed by your head. Because of the shape, there is still a hole there for your wires, and it also keeps your ears up off the bed so that the cans don’t get damaged, nor is it likely that you will put excess pressure on your ear while propped up on the pillow.

The one thing that you really want in a travel pillow, other than comfort, of course, is for the tips of the U to have a snap or a tie to keep the tips together. Otherwise, you are going to fight a losing battle trying to get the pillow to keep its shape during the night. 

  • Twist Memory Foam Travel Pillow – This is a little miracle of a pillow listed at a great price. This one is fantastic because it is so versatile. You can roll and bend and twist this pillow in almost any configuration to make it the most comfortable it can be. It has a snap closure which is a must have on your pillow.
  • Cloudz Dual Comfort Microbead Travel Neck Pillow – This pillow is lightweight and is less expensive than other travel pillows. The microbeads feel as though you are lying on the softest of bean bags. It includes a snap and comes in many different colors and patterns.

One last word on the pillow solution is that you might find that all of these pillows are too flat for comfortable sleeping. If you desire to have your head raised a bit further at night, it is perfectly acceptable to use another pillow or two underneath these special pillows.

Get sleep headphones/earbuds

You could also choose to buy special audio equipment specially made for sleeping. These include special headbands with speakers in them, or special earbuds that fit flat against your ear while you sleep.

All have their own advantages and disadvantages. The biggest difference in the products in this simple step is the price. The cost of the equipment in this step varies depending on which product you decide works best for your situation.

  • Homder Sleep Headphones – Headband type sleep headphones are a fantastic option for sleeping comfortably. This pair has great reviews and they cut down on a lot of risk factors. There is no need for a special pillow with these, and you won’t have that strangulation risk as they run off of Bluetooth technology. They lay on top of your ears, are packed with a lot of padding, so there is less chance for ear canal damage due to excessive friction of regular in ear headphones.
  • Sleep Earbuds – With less casing to break off in your sleep, these special earbuds make for better sleeping conditions. The silicone earpieces work for a more comfortable fit and they are noise cancelling. Risk factors still apply though, so use caution when wearing them.
  • Bose Noise Blocking Sleepbuds – Of all the earbuds on the market, this one seems to be the most controversial. They work, and they work well according to reviews, but they don’t play music. Preprogrammed only with soothing white noise angers some customers. However, there is no cord to get tangled up in and the earpieces come in three sizes for a great fit, but no Bluetooth technology or anything except the white noise. These earbuds are also the most expensive option, which is where a lot of the controversy comes from. 

Go wireless

You could always go wireless and cut out the strangulation risk altogether, but by doing so, you trade off a physical risk with less playing time. Most wireless earbuds will hold charge for approximately 5 hours, which is great for an energetic jog around town, but not so good for sleeping all night. If you are the kind of person who only needs the music or white noise only to fall asleep and be able to stay asleep, these wireless headphones could be just right for you.

Here are a few examples of wireless headphones to help you with your search for the perfect pair of headphones for sleeping.

  • Rose Gold Wireless Earbuds – You will find these wireless earbuds have a flat casing design that some users find more comfortable, but you must be careful to review all of your options wisely. In the title these headphones claim 18 hour play time, but if you read further down you will see that they actually have a 3.5-4 hour single charge. The 18 hours is the total that you can use them by using the portable charging station. Otherwise, this pair has great reviews and come recommended by some customers.
  • Jabra Elite 65t Alexa Enabled True Wireless Earbuds with Traveling Case – This pair of headphones also has a flat casing that doesn’t protrude out from the ear as far as conventional earbuds do. Some people may still find them too bulky to sleep comfortably, but you can always put the pillows discussed earlier in place to help with that comfort level.

Sleep on your back

The most obvious solution to sleeping with headphones on is to sleep on your back. This is a fantastic solution if you can sleep in one position all night. Most people don’t, but if you are one of those rare persons, you might have good luck with your everyday headphones, as long as you don’t roll over on accident in your sleep.

Get headphones that fit correctly

The absolute most important solution, and this works in conjunction with all of the other solutions listed here, is to always make sure your earbuds or over-the-ear headphones fit correctly. 

For earbuds, you should look for pairs that come with multiple earpiece sizes, at least two, but more choices are even better. You want those tips to fit perfectly in your ear to avoid physical damage to your ears and your equipment.

If you are more interested in the over-the-ear headphones, you want to make sure that the padded cups on the cans fit all the way around your ear for the most comfort and the best noise cancellation capabilities.

It is indeed possible to sleep comfortably with headphones and earbuds. Take some of the suggestions I just made and see what works best for you.

A discussion on the topic of sleeping with headphones would be remiss if I didn’t mention the risks involved. There are benefits to sleeping with headphones on, but there are also risks that you need to be aware of, as is the case with most things in life. Take heed of the following risks to your health and to your headphones.

Risks From Wearing Headphones While Sleeping

You always want to be aware of any risks involved in any situation. Be sure to read through these and try to make arrangements so that they do not happen to you. There are ways to sleep with your headphones on safely. 

Risks to your health

There is an increased risk of ear related injuries that can happen from wearing headphones or earbuds for long periods of time, including wearing them while you sleep.

One of the most extreme risks of ear damage is the buildup of earwax in the ear canal. This happens because the earbuds or headphones cover or impede the ear canal, which means that air cannot circulate easily around the eardrum. When this ear wax builds up it can harden, causing the wax to be hard to remove without professional help, and even then, it is not always possible to remove the risk without harm.

Otitis Externa is another risk to watch out for. This means, in layman’s terms, inflammation of the outer ear. The symptoms can include irritated and possibe raw spots on your outer ear from having the headphones or earbuds causing friction and the possibility of rubbing away skin. In the most severe cases, otorrhea, or fluid draining from the ear, can occur. When this happens, you risk infection to your outer ear area.

Risk to your eardrum can happen if you listen with the volume up too high. When listening to audio at high volumes you risk rupturing your eardrum or in some cases experiencing hearing loss. When listening to music or other noises while sleeping with headphones or earbuds, make sure you listen at reasonable levels. A lot of music devices that have earphone jacks, like a smartphone, will warn you if you are listening at a high volume. Always heed these warnings.

If you are using headphones or earbuds that have wires, you run the risk of strangulation in your sleep. Most people don’t sleep in only one position, which means that the cords can get tangled and wrap around your neck. In extreme cases, death can occur.

One more concern is that when you listen to music while sleeping you run the risk of not being able to hear anything around you. These sounds could come from smoke alarms or other dangers in your home. This is especially troubling if you are home alone. It is in your best interest to only cancel out noise when there is someone else in your home, so that there is someone to warn you in case of an emergency.

Risks to your headphones

One of the most common causes of headphone or earbud damage can happen at any time, but especially at night while you are wearing them while you sleep. This is the plug that connects your headphones to your auditory device. When there is too much pressure applied to this plug, it can cause damage to the plug as well as the jack that it plugs into. The reason this is more prevalent at night is because when you toss and turn during the night you are pulling on the cord, causing the plug and jack to become stressed and breakage can occur.

You can also run the risk of shredding the cord by placing pressure on the point where the cords attach to the plug causing too much bending and stretching that can strip the wires. This can also happen at the point where the cords attach to the ear pieces.

If you are wearing over-the-ear headphones the risk of damage to the cans increases. Not only do they put too much stress on your ear, but the cans can crack or even snap off. The headpiece that the cans are on can also become bent or warped and then they will no longer fit correctly, thus increasing the risk of physical injury to your ear canal and eardrum.

The snapping and breaking can also happen with earbuds if you aren’t careful. When earbuds crack and break off they can leave small remnants of sharp plastic that can cause cuts and abrasions inside your ear with the possibility of rupturing your eardrum with one of the shards.

There are also risks to your listening device. Not only with the plug in and jack that we discussed earlier, you also run the risk of it falling off the bed and breaking or cracking. The device can also overheat and possibly cause burns or even a full-on fire if the conditions are right.

Benefits From Wearing Headphones While Sleeping

It’s important to weigh the risks with the benefits that come with every decision you make. While I listed a handful of risks that you need to be mindful of when sleeping with headphones on, there are also a handful of benefits.

The greatest benefit of all, in my opinion, is that listening to music, or white noise, while you sleep triggers our brain to release serotonin, which is the hormone that makes you happy. With increased levels of serotonin, your brain is less stressed, and this enables you to get a better night’s sleep.

Also, thanks to our good buddy serotonin, our brains are more relaxed, which allows our bodies to relax. When bodies more relaxed, the muscles are less tense and you feel relaxed, which lets you fall into a deeper and more relaxed state. Studies have shown that the more time you spend in deep sleep the more refreshed you feel when you wake up.

While this benefit is also a risk, you can use your best judgement to see which it is for you. Blocking out all noise from the street, or your family, the neighbors, or, dare we say, your snoring significant other, can come in mighty handy at night. Just please be aware that you will likely not be able to hear sirens or smoke alarms going off, so please pay attention to your surroundings to be as safe as possible.

There is also an increased possibility of learning while you sleep. There have been studies conducted that show listening to the spoken word while sleeping can help you retain information. The results show that a foreign language is the most memorable while you sleep, though other types of learning are possible.

Conclusion

As you can see here, I have shared 5 Simple Suggestions to help you get a good night’s sleep while wearing headphones. As these suggestions point out, comfort is possible along with less risk to your person and your equipment. Always take precautions to be safe while you are wearing your headphones and make better buying decisions by reading the reviews and take into account all of the things that would be beneficial to you. 

Happy sleeping everyone!