It may seem counterintuitive, but many people wear their headphones to bed as they fall asleep, unaware of the potential dangers of doing so. While you might enjoy your favorite music or TV show on your way to dreamland, there are plenty of reasons why sleeping with headphones on may be bad for you and your overall health, including potential hearing damage and long-term cognitive impairment.
Here’s everything you need to know about the dangers of sleeping with headphones on and how to choose the right sleep headphones if you must.
Health, Safety and Headphones ON while sleeping
So is it bad to sleep with headphones on? Yes, in many ways. In most cases, yes. Wearing your headphones at night may be convenient, but it also has some adverse effects on your health. Using headphones overnight might not be a good idea at all. Especially if you wear them lying down, as most people do when they sleep.
This can affect your hearing and lead to permanent hearing loss because even just a few minutes of exposure can result in hearing damage according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). One of the main causes of hearing loss is exposure to high-level sound over a prolonged period of time.
According to NIDCD, prolonged exposure to sounds at 90 decibels or higher can cause permanent damage even after a short duration, while exposures at 100 decibels or more can cause immediate damage that may be temporary or permanent.
And what about sleep disorders like snoring?
There are studies that show how music played at low volume could actually help alleviate snoring issues. Furthermore, research shows that the use of noise-canceling headphones improved one’s quality of sleep. But make sure to turn off your phone before going to bed; other electronic devices emit EMFs which can disrupt one’s sleep cycle.
As such, Dr. Beal states that wearing headphones while asleep can be risky and detrimental to one’s health due to the possible occurrence of tinnitus, ringing in the ears caused by exposure to loud noises or prolonged periods of exposure to EMFs emitted from electronic devices.
But this doesn’t mean you have to give up listening to your favorite songs when trying to get some shut eye! Dr. Beal recommends using white noise instead. It blocks out external noises without exposing oneself excessively for long periods of time.
It is important for those who listen through their phones only though: don’t forget to set an alarm clock! When it goes off, turn your music off and remove your headphones slowly.
Is It Dangerous to Wear Bluetooth Headphones All Night While Sleeping?
The National Sleep Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Washington D.C., recently surveyed people about their bedtime habits and found that the majority of respondents say they wear earbuds or other devices at least some of the time when going to sleep, often so they can listen to music or podcasts, watch TV shows or movies on their devices while relaxing before falling asleep.
Of those who do use such devices, more than three-quarters reported doing so every night.
However, 43% said they had fallen asleep listening to something through headphones at least once.
According to one study done by Harvard Medical School research fellow Dr. Charles Czeisler and others from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, just as many people fall asleep with lights still on as fall asleep with earbuds still in place.
Both disrupt circadian rhythms, and natural body clocks leading to poor quality sleep which has been linked to weight gain, high blood pressure, heart disease, and mood disorders like depression.
Some people also report experiencing pain around the ears or jaw muscles due to prolonged head position during sleep.
In addition, there are reports of hearing loss from sleeping with headphones on. Dr. George Naderi says that noise isolation might be too much for some people and result in temporary hearing loss.
But don’t worry if you’re not using Bluetooth because a lot of noise cancellation is software driven.
If you want to continue listening to audiobooks or lectures but want to avoid these potential problems, try an old fashioned set of earplugs instead.
Is It Safe to Sleep with Headphones with A Low Volume?
The jury is still out on this one. There are those who have debunked the myth entirely and state that there is no reason that you can’t sleep while wearing your headphones. Then there are those who believe that it isn’t safe because you could throw off your body clock and mess up your sleep cycle.
Studies have shown, though, that as long as you keep your volume low and avoid potentially irritating sounds like heavy bass then you’ll be okay to go to sleep wearing them if you want to.
Is It Ok to Sleep with Headphones On in Order to Listen to Sleepy Sounds?
It looks cool but NO. It may be tempting to fall asleep while listening to soothing sounds or podcasts, but this may have more of a negative effect on you. The brain processes stimuli differently when it’s in deep sleep as opposed to light sleep, says Monahan.
Some people find that their sleep is less restful if they’re listening to sounds that could potentially remind them of an anxious feeling. This can cause you to be tired during the day and affect your mental clarity.
While it is generally safe to use headphones before bed, using them at night might cause your sleep cycle to become unbalanced which can lead to issues like insomnia and lack of focus.
Tips to protect your ears while sleeping with headphones ON
If you love listening to music and have become accustomed to sleeping with your headphones on, be aware that this habit may be harming your ears. Sleeping with headphones on can lead to hearing loss and tinnitus by putting pressure on the eardrums and interrupting their natural process of healing. The constant noise from any source can also lead to nerve damage in your ears if you listen to something too loud. So here are some tips on how not to damage your ears while sleeping:
Invest in a pair of comfortable, over-the-ear sleep earmuffs or headbands. These accessories will keep the pressure off of your eardrums while still allowing you to enjoy your favorite tunes before drifting off into slumber.
Turn down the volume on your device so it’s at a reasonable level before going to bed.
Remove headphones at least an hour before bedtime so they don’t interfere with your ability to fall asleep.
Make sure you have proper ventilation in your bedroom as it might be disrupting sleep patterns due to excess heat or sound. Keep windows open if there is heavy traffic nearby or use earplugs during high periods of traffic.
Listen to soothing sounds such as rain or white noise instead of music to help you relax and fall asleep faster.
If you are struggling with insomnia, avoid using headphones at all costs. Music is known to increase anxiety levels which may disrupt healthy sleep cycles when trying to drift off for the night.
It can take up to one year after a person starts wearing headphones every day for them to experience negative effects on their ears but the damage could already be done in the meantime.
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