sleeping with noise cancelling headphones

I’ve always enjoyed blocking out noise when I sleep, and have often looked for the best ways to do this. Someone recently suggesting using noise-cancelling headphones for sleeping, and I wondered whether this was both possible and safe.

So, is it possible (and safe) to sleep with noise-cancelling headphones? Providing you’re comfortable, it’s possible, not bad and completely safe to choose noise cancelling headphones because they are a good alternative to earplugs, which can be harmful if worn at night. What’s more, headphones mean you can also listen to music.

While blocking out noise at night is one thing, being able to listen to music is another. Some people love listening to music while they sleep, so there are some obvious benefits to using noise-cancelling headphones. In the rest of this article I look at their pros and cons, and whether they can be used to block out snoring.

Also check out my post: Do noise cancelling headphones protect hearing?

Noise-Cancelling Headphones for Sleeping

I’ve tried plenty of ways to block out noise while I’m sleeping, and the best option I’d found previously was earplugs. However, there are some advantages to using noise-cancelling headphones over earplugs, aside from the ability to listen to music.

Light sleepers can get woken up easily by triggers. These noises are usually normal things that other people can sleep through, but there are few things worse than getting woken up in the middle of the night by a noise. The standard option most people go for is earplugs because these are widely known as an effective noise-cancelling option.

However, the main drawback of using earplugs while you sleep is in their very design. Unlike noise-cancelling headphones, which go over your head, earplugs go in your ears. This is generally fine in normal contexts, such as at work or in an exam, but isn’t the best while you’re sleeping.

If you roll onto your side while wearing earplugs, there’s a high chance you could do damage to the sensitive parts of your ear. For the same reason you’re told not to stick Q-tips in your ear, you shouldn’t put earplugs too far into the ear canal. Doing so can burst the drum, which isn’t ideal.

This is the main benefit of noise-cancelling headphones: they don’t put unwanted pressure on your ears. Instead, they sit over your head and cover your entire ear with noise cancelling foam padding.

Noise-cancelling headphones are very effective at blocking out ambient noise, although they won’t be great against very loud noises.

The main thing to remember with noise-cancelling headphones is that they’re not really designed to do the same job as earplugs. Earplugs are designed to completely block outside noise, whereas noise-cancelling headphones also play music, which means their noise blocking ability doesn’t need to be as effective.

However, if I were to choose between noise-cancelling headphones and earplugs, I’d choose the headphones every time. I’ve lost track of how many times I woke up with sore ears after sleeping with earplugs in, and noise-cancelling headphones have definitely solved this problem for me.

Do Noise-Cancelling Headphones Work for Snoring?

After I discovered how useful noise-cancelling headphones were at blocking out ambient noise while sleeping, I decided to find out whether they were effective against the ultimate foe of a light sleeper: a snoring partner.

So, do noise-cancelling headphones work for snoring? Noise-cancelling headphones are very effective at blocking out external noises, including snoring. Not only does playing music help to cover the sound, but the headphones have very effective noise cancelling foam. Not even the loudest snoring sleeper will be heard with noise-cancelling headphones. 

At the end of the day, snoring is simply another noise, and noise-cancelling headphones are designed to block these out. The main thing to consider if you’re buying noise-cancelling headphones for snoring is that the noise will be in close proximity to you, so make sure you’ve got a good fit.

Some brands market noise-cancelling headphone headbands specifically designed for sleeping. However, their ability to block out sound isn’t as good as noise-cancelling headphones, so if you’re looking specifically to block out snoring, then stick with the real deal.

If you’re looking for a set of headphones that’ll effectively block out snoring, I’d consider choosing an in-ear pair rather than an overhead pair. This is because you’ll be able to get a tighter fit with in-ear buds, which is important when the source of noise is so close to your head.

The main downside of this is that ear buds have the same problems as earplugs. If you roll onto your side while wearing ear buds in your sleep, there is a chance you could damage your ear canal.

However, the thing to remember with noise-cancelling ear buds is that they usually have something holding them in place, meaning they can’t be pushed to deep into your ear.

Also check out my post: Are noise cancelling headphones safe for ears?

The Pros and Cons of Noise-Cancelling Headphones for Sleeping

Overall, I’ve found that noise-cancelling headphones are one of the best options for blocking out sound while you sleep. However, this option might not be for everyone, so consider the pros and cons before buying yourself a pair. You never know, there might be a better option for you.


Here are the pros:

1. Listen to music 

Not only do noise-cancelling headphones block out external noise, but they also let you listen to music. This is something I’ve largely overlooked so far, but it is an obvious advantage for some.

What’s more, noise-cancelling headphones from brands like Bose (one of the few I’d recommend choosing) obviously come with excellent sound quality to boot. So if you’re going to listen to music while you sleep, why not do so with great audio quality?

Noise-Cancelling Headphones from Bose

Check out the entire Bose noise cancelling product range on Amazon.

2. Reduced stress 

On the back of that point, listening to music while you sleep is a great way to reduce stress. If you don’t fancy music, why not try an audio book or something?

Your brain is surprisingly active while you’re sleeping, so it can be a great time to learn something like a foreign language or motivational speaking.

Similarly, the very act of not getting constantly woken up by ambient noises will do wonders for your stress levels. Being able to sleep undisturbed means you’ll wake up feeling fresher and readier for the day. So whether you’re listening to music or just blocking out sound, expect to see your stress levels drop.

3. Blocks out snoring 

One of the most important benefits of noise-cancelling headphones is their ability to block out snoring. Just remember that ear buds will be a better choice if this is your problem, as they’ll give a tighter fit, which will be more effective at blocking out close proximity sounds.

4. Bluetooth options 

Noise-cancelling headphones have a large portion of the market now, which means you’ve got plenty of options for customization. A useful feature if you’re using headphones when sleeping is Bluetooth compatibility.

More than anything, this means you don’t have to deal with wires in bed, which are not only annoying, but can be dangerous if they get wrapped around your neck. Wireless noise-cancelling headphones should really be your starting point if you’re going to be using them in bed.


And here are the cons:

1. Cost 

Some of the best headphones for sleeping are understandably quite expensive. When it comes to your budget, you have to decide whether either audio quality or noise blocking ability is your main priority.

If it’s audio quality, then you’ll definitely end up paying more money. As with many of their other products, Bose noise-cancelling headphones can set you back a few hundred dollars, although they will do a pretty good job.

2. Comfort level 

My first choice for noise-cancelling headphones would be overhead ones because I find these are the best for blocking out sound. However, wearing overhead noise-cancelling headphones means you can’t sleep on your side, which can lead to obvious comfort problems.

Another option is to use noise-cancelling ear buds. However, as I’ve mentioned, these can press into your ears, which can be both uncomfortable and potentially damaging. I’d do everything possible to avoid wearing these at night, but at least they mean you can lie on your side.

A final option is noise-reducing headbands. These are the most comfortable to use while sleeping because they’re basically just a sweatband with headphones built in.

However, these headbands are nowhere near as effective as other noise-cancelling headphones. Consider these if your main intention is listening to music, but avoid at all costs if you’ve got a snoring partner you want to block out.

3. Hot ears 

This might sound like a silly thing to suggest, but wearing headphones at night will make your ears very warm, which can become uncomfortable. The worst offenders are noise-reducing headbands, because these insulate your head and give out plenty of their own heat.

Some Final Thoughts

I found it very useful to know that it’s possible to wear noise-cancelling headphones for sleeping. What’s more, they’re great for blocking out snoring. However, if safety is your primary concern, then avoid ear buds, as these can be damaging to your ear canals. Whatever option you choose, comfort should be your main priority.

Thanks for reading! You may also like to check out my article on best soundproofing materials.

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Author S Krone

A lawyer never retires. So I would just say that I am not as active as I used to be. Now I simply dedicate myself to fishing, my hobby, and my grandchildren. For Business Finance News I write about legal aspects of mortgage policies, mostly regarding the rights of policyholders. I also have articles about personal injuries.

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