It can be hard to get a good night’s sleep nowadays, especially if you live in a densely populated city. The blaring of car horns on crowded streets, the noise from neighbors next door (or if you live in an apartment complex, from above and below your unit), and the other sounds that can intrude while you’re trying to get to sleep can have a negative impact on your mental and physical health. You might have considered various natural sleep aids, like melatonin or other supplements, but the noise may still be disturbing your sleep in the middle of the night. If you’re one of these people, you might have considered using earplugs while sleeping.
Objectively speaking, there is nothing wrong with the choice to use earplugs to help you sleep: if you’ve tried it and it works for you, feel free to continue napping with earplugs in. But if you’re considering doing it for the first time and you aren’t aware of the potential risks, it might be a good idea to get some more information before leaving foreign objects in your ears all night.
For your consideration, here are a few of the pros and cons of using earplugs to get a good night’s sleep:
The Benefits: What Proper Earplug Use Can Provide
Finally Getting Some Good Sleep
Sleep deprivation can be a significant health hazard, and the possible consequences of running too long without sleep should be weighed against any of the less significant side effects of using earplugs. If loud noises wake you up in the middle of the night with any frequency, you may want to consider using earplugs, as waking up in the middle of the night interrupts your sleep cycle, shocking you out of REM sleep. If this happens, even if you attempt to go back to sleep, it can take your body a while to re-enter that stage of sleep, which can have significant effects on your health.
Lack of sleep overall, over protracted periods, can result in effects ranging from a weakening of your immune system and poor mental health to diabetes, heart attacks, and strokes. While you may not think your sleeping habits are bad enough to produce some of the more severe side effects, it’s best not to wager on it.
Low Probability of Negative Side Effects
It’s widely accepted that most brands of earplugs are generally safe for use. They’re designed to be inserted into your ears and block noise, and so the probability of negative side effects may be (on average) so low that you consider it insignificant.
The Drawbacks: Possible Side Effects and Things to Avoid
Wax Buildup and Infections
Unfortunately, the repeated use of earplugs can cause an unsafe wax buildup in your ears. Your ears are made, to a point, to clean themselves, and earplugs stop up your ear canal, halting this process. While the more negative side effects can be avoided by simply watching for buildup and cleaning your ears regularly, if this problem isn’t caught, it can cause health issues like tinnitus, earaches, and dizziness.
Another possibility is that inserting a foreign object into your ears can increase your likelihood of getting an ear infection. While this can be a side effect of wax buildup as well, it’s far more likely that bacteria growth on your earplugs, and the frequency with which you use them, will cause this to happen. If not addressed properly, ear infections can cause hearing loss, so it’s important to be aware that this can happen if your earplugs aren’t cleaned regularly.
Bad Brands and Potential Damages
While this is less likely than the other two side effects, it still bears considering: earplugs designed by brands that don’t take enough care, or earplugs that malfunction and cause damage to your hearing. For example, the 3M military-issued combat arms earplugs that were given to soldiers abroad who were fighting the “War on Terror:” These earplugs provided inadequate protection for these soldiers, and the damages were so significant that there is an ongoing lawsuit to demand recompense for those injured.
Before using earplugs, do your research on the best brands for your specific needs. Don’t just buy the first set you can find, else you might suffer serious injury.
Weighing Your Options
When it comes to how you get a good night’s sleep, there are few wrong answers. If you find that using earplugs works for you, be careful to constantly check up on how they may be affecting you, and make sure you’re using a brand that will protect your hearing. But if you find that the potential consequences are a bit too scary, feel free to pursue other means of getting a good night’s sleep: I think you’ll find, at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.