It is late at night, and you are lying wide awake, staring helplessly at the mocking glow of your alarm. Or maybe you keep waking up in the middle of the night, unable to doze back off to dreamland.
Rest assured, you are not alone. At least seventy million Americans experience these symptoms of sleep disorders. One in four Americans develops insomnia every year.
Many of us turn to AirPods to solve our sleep issues, listening to music, audiobooks, podcasts, or other media before bed and overnight.
But is it safe to sleep with AirPods on?
In general, falling asleep with AirPods in your ears does not pose any life-threatening risks, but that does not mean the practice is entirely safe.
The following article will explain the possible dangers you face by sleeping with AirPods, some possible harm reduction techniques, and a few alternatives to try out instead.
If you have ever asked yourself “Is it bad to fall asleep with AirPods in?” read on to discover the good, the bad, and the ugly. Then you can make an informed decision about your health when it comes to using AirPods overnight.
Possible Risks of Sleeping With Airpods In
The following statements are in no way to be considered medical advice. It is always the best course of action to check in with your health care provider first if you have concerns about sleep quality and ear health.
Without further ado, here are some of the potential risks of sleeping with AirPods overnight.
Losing or Damaging Your Airpods
If you sleep in your AirPods regularly, there is no escaping the inevitable fact that they will fall out. Though they have an ergonomic design that keeps the pods in place, AirPods do not properly function when they get worn to bed.
Though AirPods falling out of your ear might not seem horrible, they are tiny and can become logged somewhere hard to reach. You might find them in your blankets in the morning or under the bed, but they might get lost forever.
The AirPods might get damaged if they fall out, even if you find them after the fact. You can also ruin them by exposing the AirPods to sweat and excess oil or earwax overnight.
Even if they are not damaged externally, keeping your AirPods on all night shortens the lifespan of your headphones. This means you will have to replace them more often.
Either way, you can potentially spend money on a new set of AirPods every few months. That can get rather expensive quickly.
Who wants to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars to keep replacing AirPods?
While sleeping with AirPods on might help you get to sleep initially, it might be a source of disturbance during your sleep cycle.
Constant noise during the night can stimulate your nervous system, speed up your heart rate, and even raise stress hormones. These issues make it impossible to experience deep sleep, leaving you groggy and exhausted in the morning.
A Baylor University study showed that listening to music before bed or during sleep could disrupt your sleep cycle. So if you keep the tunes playing, you might not get the amount of sleep needed to feel rested and refreshed.
Sleeping Through Emergencies
Light sleepers might wonder “Is it bad to sleep with AirPods in?” because they are worried about their health, but there are other health concerns that you should be aware of.
If you have AirPods in, their noise-canceling technology can make it impossible to hear any external noise, even in an emergency.
You might not hear a smoke detector or a CO2 alarm, or maybe you will miss the warning signs of a natural disaster. In rare cases, you might not hear the sounds of a home invasion or you could miss the sounds of your family members when they are in distress.
Even something as mundane as a missed alarm or a knock on the door can cause you lots of inconvenience in the long run.
Ear Wax Build Up
If you have ever worn your AirPods for an extended period, you have probably spotted some earwax residue on the plastic, white surface.
Prolonged use of AirPods, or any insertable earbud, can increase how much ear wax build-up you experience.
Earwax production might be triggered by a contact stimulus. This means that anything which makes contact and rubs the inside of your ear might stimulate the production of earwax even when you do not need it.
Your ears are trying to protect themselves from infection and irritation by secreting extra earwax. Sadly, excessive amounts of earwax can lead to a build-up of bacteria and dirt, leading to allergic reactions, itching, and inflammation.
It could also cause ear infections and hearing impairment.
Your ears are naturally self-cleaning, but when you keep your AirPods in overnight it can throw a wrench in the cleaning process. When ears are unable to clean themselves they are more prone to infection.
This can lead to an infection called Otitis Externa, a bacterial infection that affects the ear canal. Otitis Externa is also called Swimmer’s Ear and can be extremely painful. Worst of all, Swimmer’s Ear can take up to seven days to clear up!
If you experience chronic outer ear infections, you could suffer from permanent hearing impairment or (in rare cases) deafness down the road.
While AirPods might look small and harmless, they can damage the sensitive parts of your inner ear if you wear them overnight. When you toss and turn, you could roll on the earbuds and they will press deeper into your ears.
Though you may only experience a bit of pain or discomfort when this happens, there is a risk of real injury involved as well. When AirPods press into your ears at an awkward angle they disrupt blood flow in the inner ear canal.
Repeatedly cutting off this blood flow can lead to necrosis of the ear. Necrosis occurs when skin cells die and leave behind black or brown lesions.
While you might not have thought of this risk, you can rest assured that it is very unlikely. It is, however, entirely possible that an AirPod might get dislodged from your ear and end up in your mouth.
In 2019 a Taiwanese man named Ben Hsu swallowed one of his AirPods in his sleep. He found it the next morning using Apple’s tracking feature. Much to his surprise, it sounded like it was coming from inside his body!
Luckily for Ben, the AirPod passed through his digestive system without injury and he avoided surgery. Had he been exposed to the AirPod’s Lithium-Ion battery he might have suffered dire consequences.
Exposure to Lithium can cause a slew of health problems like abdominal pain, nausea, headache, blurred vision, tremors, seizures, coma, and more.
Aside from the risk of Lithium exposure or gastrointestinal consequences, you could easily choke on an AirPod and block your windpipe. This could lead to asphyxiation and death.
Even when you listen to AirPods during the day, prolonged exposure to 70 decibels (dB) can lead to hearing damage, and exposure to 105 to 110 dB can cause damage in less than five minutes.
105-110 dB is generally the maximum volume setting on personal listening devices like AirPods. If you listen to your media at a volume of 60 dB or less, you can listen indefinitely. Otherwise, you should only listen for sixty minutes at a time.
Chronic exposure to loud sounds in your AirPods can cause you to lose hair cells in the most sensitive part of your ear, the cochlea. The minuscule hairs send messages to your brain and once they are damaged you can experience permanent hearing loss.
Some studies in Europe show that ten percent of earbud users who listen while commuting on public transit suffered from permanent hearing loss.
Just listening to headphones to and from work caused this irreversible damage. So you can imagine how sleeping in AirPods might cause you serious consequences down the line.
Recently there have been several different viral posts about the risk of AirPods on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. These posts differ in content, but most claim that low-frequency radiation leads to instances of cancer in the throat, ears, and even the brain.
Scientists and public health have come forward to proclaim that these claims are false and there is no evidence that radiation from AirPods causes cancer in humans.
While exposure to magnetic, electric, and electromagnetic fields can certainly be dangerous, EMF exposure is categorized by non-ionizing and ionizing radiation levels.
Radioactive material and XRay machines emit ionizing radiation and can cause cellular damage or cancer with high exposure. WIFi routers, mobile phones, microwaves, and wireless headphones emit nonionizing radiation.
Studies into non-ionizing radiation are limited as exposing humans to any radiation testing can be very dangerous. While most scientists believe non-ionizing radiation is not harmful, some scientists believe more research is necessary to get a full picture of the real risk.
In any instance, Bluetooth headphones emit ten to four hundred times less radiation than your average smartphone.
Non-ionizing radiation sources are generally considered to be safer than their ionizing counterparts, but less risk does not equate to zero risk.
In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the World Health Organization, classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possible causes of cancer in humans.
Even now, eleven years later, more research is needed to provide a definitive yes or no answer to the question.
Troubleshooting Overnight Airpod Use
While the risks mentioned above are very real and can be frightening when you are desperate to get some sleep they may seem like necessary evils.
If you sought out this article with questions like “Is it okay to sleep with AirPods in?” or “Can I sleep with AirPods pro” and still want to try knowing the risks, there are some solutions you can try to help mitigate possible harm.
If you want to sleep with Airpods you must stick to a healthy volume. If you find your ears ringing from the volume of your media then you need to turn the noise level down significantly.
Sleeping on your back or your stomach instead of your sides will lessen the chance that you suffer an ear injury thanks to an awkward angle. However, this does increase the chance that your AirPods will become dislodged throughout the night.
Find the Perfect Pillow
If you are a side sleeper, opt for a softer pillow that will not press the AirPod so deeply into your ear. Memory foam pillows work well.
Tend to Your Hygiene
Make sure you wash your ears every morning after wearing AirPods overnight. Even if you don’t wear AirPods overnight, a weekly deep clean and disinfecting routine is important for overall ear health.
Clean Your AirPods
Make sure your AirPods are cleaned and sanitized regularly. Remove any excess earwax buildup from the headphones. Use rubbing alcohol to disinfect them. Keep your AirPods in their ventilated case to avoid bacteria and moisture buildup.
Sleep With Just One AirPod
If you are worried about missing your alarm or being oblivious to an emergency in the night, try sleeping with just one AirPod instead.
Find the Right Fit
Make sure your AirPods fit well and are not uncomfortable. Twisting them upwards can stop them from falling out but can lead to ear injuries.
Alternatives to Try
If reading this article gave you second thoughts about sleeping with AirPods, never fear. There are a few alternatives that you can try which might help you get a good night’s sleep without using Bluetooth headphones.
Ear Plugs and Ear Defenders
Traditional earplugs can be used instead of AirPods, but they still present the risk of earwax buildup and ear infections with continued use. They do however block noise without the risk of EMF exposure.
Ear defenders are also called ear muffs. They are classified as personal protection equipment and used to shield people from loud noise levels that could cause hearing loss. They cover the whole ear and resemble headphones from decades past.
They are also used by people with sensory issues and noise sensitivity.
Sleep Headphones are just what they sound like. These headphones are designed to fit more comfortably during sleep.
Some still fit inside the ear canal, overs go over the ear instead. There are lots of different designs of sleep headphones that come in all sorts of unique designs and styles. They block noise and some provide meditation content to help you fall asleep.
Some sleep headphones can be very expensive, but there are plenty to choose from and the budget range varies from product to product.
Before the invention of headphones, people used to listen to music on external speakers.
Depending on the noise level of your area, you could place speakers on your nightstand and get the same results as wearing AirPods to sleep without all the adverse effects.
Remember, listening to media too loudly on your speakers can still cause damage to your ears if the speakers are loud enough and close enough.
Another alternative that could help you drift off to dreamland is a noise machine. White noise machines are the most common of these, but there are many different kinds available for every sleepless shopper.
White noise is a specific type of noise that features all frequencies in the spectrum of audible sound in equal parts.
It spans multiple bands of sound and is referred to as broadband noise because of this. It can also be compared to static on a radio or television. White noise can help you quiet your mind and get to sleep at night without AirPods.
There is also Pink noise, which is like White Noise but the power of its frequencies decreases by three decibels with every octave it climbs. Pink noise has a relatively lower-pitched sound than white noise.
Then there is Brown noise, or Red noise, where the frequency decreases twice as fast as Pink noise and can be compared to the sound of gentle rainfall or a bathroom shower.
No matter what sort of noise machine you choose, the soothing sounds could be a great alternative to using AirPods overnight.
Your Big Takeaways
Can you sleep with airpods in? As we have seen, there are no life-threatening risks involved when you sleep with AirPods. Though there is a chance that EMF emissions could have a link with cancer, there is no real evidence proving it true.
Still, just because wearing AirPods to bed will not kill you doesn’t mean there are no consequences. It’s up to you to decide whether or not those consequences are worth it.
We encourage you to follow this article up with your research if you feel so inclined, so you feel secure in whatever decision you make regarding your health and well-being.
Above all, always remember there are harm mitigation solutions and safe alternatives that you can try as well if you are worried about using AirPods while you sleep.