Is It Safe to Sleep With Earplugs? Risks and Benefits Explained

Sleeping peacefully with earplugs: Are there any risks?
Sleeping peacefully with earplugs: Are there any risks?

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Learn the benefits and downsides of wearing earplugs to bed and finally enjoy a good night’s sleep.

Earplugs are a cheap and easy remedy to help you sleep through random noises at night. But now that you’ve worn them more, you probably wonder if there’s any health risk from wearing earplugs to sleep.

Furthermore, you often feel sore in the ear when you wake up. Does that mean earplugs are bad for your health?

Be confused no more! We’ve compiled a guide that covers the health benefits and risks of sleeping with earplugs. You can now put your mind at ease and finally enjoy a good night’s sleep.

Let’s begin!

Is It Safe to Sleep With Earplugs Every Night?

Yes, it’s generally safe to sleep with earplugs. In fact, if they are comfortable and well-designed, earplugs are great sleeping aids that can improve your sleep quality.

Based on research by National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), getting enough rest is linked to a healthier immune system, lower stress levels, and a better focus.

However, there are minor problems that can occur with prolonged use, including ear wax build-up and ear soreness. This might ultimately lead to ear infections and other conditions such as vertigo. But, as you’ll find in the next sections, they’re nothing too serious and can be avoided by proper earplug usage.

If you find real earplugs uncomfortable or believe they are unsafe for you, feel free to check out our guide on some earplugs alternatives you can try.

Let’s explore some benefits and risks of wearing earplugs to sleep below.

If you are also wondering if earplugs can help reduce Airplane ear and background noises when on a plane, check out this guide where we explore how earplugs can help when flying.

Benefits of Wearing Earplugs to Sleep

According to a research study, earplugs have been proven to improve sleep quality in intensive care patients. When combined with eye masks to block light, earplugs helped prevent noises that caused sleep disorders and deprivation.

Patients wearing earplugs were also observed to have elevated levels of melatonin, which is the hormone that prepares the body for sleep.

Having good sleep quality due to earplugs can have a domino effect on your overall health.

For instance, research also indicates that good sleep quality is essential to help improve blood sugar control, promote brain development and regulate appetite and energy.

In contrast, poor quality sleep can lead to health complications like poor mental and physical function. Furthermore, insufficient sleep has also been linked with chronic diseases and conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.

According to the CDC, adults should get at least seven or more hours of sleep per night.

Risks of Sleeping With Earplugs

Although wearing earplugs to sleep is generally safe, you might experience side effects, especially if you use them frequently. As mentioned, these side effects mostly happen dure to improper usage and maintenance, though.

These side effects may include:

  • Ears hurting: Wearing earplugs incorrectly for long periods, like going to bed, can cause discomfort and earache. Also, if your earplugs are of the wrong size or made of hard material, it can be uncomfortable, especially when lying on one side to sleep.
  • Ear infection: If you don’t clean your earplugs and your ears regularly, wearing earplugs to bed every night may push earwax further into the ear canal. This earwax can build up over time and cause ear infections. Ear infections can be painful and, if left untreated, may lead to other complications like hearing difficulties.
  • Tinnitus: Often described as a constant ringing in the ears – it’s typically a symptom of an ear injury or hearing loss from old age. Wearing earplugs to sleep isn’t directly linked to tinnitus, but Reddit users shared that it aggravated their condition. This can be because of how there’s no more ambient noise to mask the ringing.
Concerned about other health effects of wearing headphones? Read our guide on whether headphones can cause ear infections.

Choosing the right earplugs is important to ensure you get a comfortable sleep while minimizing the risks of infections and discomfort. In the next section, we look at what you should consider before buying a pair to use for sleep.

Best Types of Earplugs for Sleeping

Using foam earplugs for sleep
Using foam earplugs for sleep

As earplugs are a common sleeping aid, you can find many different variants available to choose from. Earplugs can have different pros and cons depending on the manufacturer and their choice of material, such as:

  • Foam earplugs: Foam earplugs are great for blocking out low-frequency noises like air conditioner hum. They’re usually soft and comfortable. However, their porous nature makes them more susceptible to moisture damage. Fortunately, they’re relatively cheap to replace. Try checking out Mack’s Ultra Soft Foam Earplugs if you think this one’s for you.
  • Wax earplugs: Wax material easily molds to your ear, forming a more secure fit to effectively block out noise. We recommend checking out the PQ Wax Ear Plugs – they have a snug fit design with a noise canceling rate of up to 32db.
  • Silicone earplugs: Silicone is reusable and less prone to moisture damage. However, some silicone earplugs tend to be firmer, which can cause discomfort, especially when sleeping on the side. Try checking out Mack’s Pillow Soft Earplugs – they have soft and rubbery silicone material that doesn’t cause discomfort to the ears.

You can either buy commercial earplugs off the shelf or have custom ones made. With both these options to choose from, you might be wondering, which is better for sleeping?

Commercial vs custom earplugs: which is better?

Commercial earplugs are manufactured for general use and usually come in universal sizes. However, humans have different ear shapes – meaning commercial earplugs may not provide the best fit for yours.

The poor fit from commercial earplugs may cause discomfort or ear pain. Additionally, they may not always live up to their advertised noise reduction rating due to the poor fit.

With that in mind, you can opt for custom earplugs. Custom earplugs are created based on a mold of your ears. However, the custom molding process and the higher quality materials used mean they’re more expensive than commercial earplugs.

Since custom earplugs offer a proper fit that matches your ear profile, you don’t have to adjust them constantly in place. As a result, custom earplugs are usually still comfortable to wear for hours on end.

Some custom earplugs are made of sturdy non-porous material, which can help reduce the risk of bacteria growth. This material makes them more hygienic and durable for long-term use.

How Do I Use Earplugs Properly?

Whether you’re using custom-made or commercial earplugs, it’s important to know how to insert them properly. This way, you’ll get the best overall experience when using them to sleep or protect your hearing.

Here are the steps to correctly use your earplugs:

  1. Using your fingers, gently roll the earplug into a small thin pellet.

    Roll up the ear plugs using your fingers. (From: YouTube/Doctor Cliff)
    Roll up the ear plugs using your fingers. (From: YouTube/Doctor Cliff)
  2. Pull the top of your ear back and up with your other hand. Doing this straightens out your ear canal and creates an opening for you to insert the rolled-up earplug.

    Insert the rolled-up ear plugs to your ears. (From: YouTube/Doctor Cliff)
    Insert the rolled-up ear plugs to your ears. (From: YouTube/Doctor Cliff)
  3. Hold the earplug in your ear and let it expand to fill your ear canal. Your voice should sound muffled, which indicates a good seal.

    Pushing earplugs inside the ear (From: YouTube/Doctor Cliff)
    Pushing earplugs inside the ear (From: YouTube/Doctor Cliff)
Try cupping your hands tightly over your ears. If the sounds are more muffled, you may not have achieved a tight seal. Therefore, remove the earplug and try again.


Everyone dreams of a sound and pleasant night’s sleep. Unfortunately, in the real world, noises and disturbances are unavoidable. Thankfully, earplugs are an easy remedy to counter unwanted noises and sounds while you sleep.

And now that you know more about the risks and benefits of different earplugs and how to use them properly, you can enjoy a better night’s rest.

What did you think of this guide? Or were there other risks or benefits that we may have left out? Share your thoughts in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

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