Experts not only recommend around 7 to 8 hours of sleep for most adults, but they also emphasize on the need of having a good quality, deep and uninterrupted rest.
It is known that many people struggle with their sleep due to noisy surroundings given by a bustling city, a snoring companion or loud neighbors that wake them up many times during the night. This uncomfortable ambience has direct consequences on the person´s sleep quality and therefore on their health and daily behavior, as studies have shown. A poor sleep quality can increase the risk of suffering mental health problems, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, deterioration of cognitive functionality and obesity, amongst other conditions.
Apart from this health-related issues, this situation can lead to aggressiveness, deteriorated interpersonal responses, a decay in concentration capacity and slower reactions, therefore interfering with productivity and our daily life. In fact, it was discovered that the lack of sleep may cost the United States around $411 billion in lost productivity per year.
These are a few of the reasons why it is highly relevant to achieve an acceptable sleep quality, and, in order to accomplish this, many people choose to use earplugs while resting. In this article, you will be able to learn a few things about these devices and maybe consider trying them out.
When to use earplugs
These gadgets have been invented with many purposes, and their designs vary depending on this. For example, some of them are made to protect the ear under water, while others are used to protect it from loud environments like concerts, construction sites, etc.
However, the third most common use for them is the one of interest in this article: earplugs can be used to ensure a better sleep by blocking out disrupting sounds from the surroundings. They are collocated right before going to bed and remain in your ear until you decide to take them out the next morning.
Why can earplugs be beneficial for sleeping?
Given a noisy surrounding, we can be woken up in the middle of the night or be impeded from sleeping as deeply as we need to properly rest. Earplugs fulfill the task of blocking these noises so that their users do not suffer any of the previously mentioned inconveniences.
With an uninterrupted sleep cycle the quality of the rest is much higher and it has a direct impact on our health. For example, it helps the body build a strong immune system, and influences on the motor skill acquisition and memory consolidation.
It is also not a novelty that well-rested people are much more productive during the day, therefore presenting a better performance at work or school and contributing to their personal success. Also, by resting properly we become much more thriving in what refers to personal and professional relationships.
Even though they are usually safe accessories, earplugs can present a few complications.
On the one hand, as they push ear wax further inside the canal, they can end up generating a blockage that entails a temporary hearing loss. This issue can be solved by paying a visit to the doctor or using eardrops.
On the other hand, if you reuse your disposable earplugs or don´t clean the reusable ones properly, the bacteria accumulated may provoke an infection. This can entail to more serious health problems, so it is important to get in touch with a doctor a soon as possible.
Some people may have trouble at the beginning because of the self-perception of their own breathing (it´s heard louder). This is explained by the resonance that the earplug generates inside of the auditory system. However, the nervous system tends to decrease the stimulus created by monotonous sounds within a few minutes. The true value of the earplug resides in the annulment of the non-monotonous sounds that come from the outside world, assuring a continuous night sleep.
Finally, it would be useful to make sure that your alarm volume is loud enough for you to hear it in the morning so that you avoid sleeping in or arriving late to work.
Nevertheless, if used properly there should not be any trouble: these complications can be easily avoided by taking a few things into account.
Precautions you should take
In order not to suffer any of the previously listed disadvantages, there are a few factors to take into account when using these devices.
First of all, they have to be removed carefully: a brusque movement can result hurtful to the ear because of the pressure accumulated on the canal.
Second, it is important to maintain the earplugs’ hygiene. There are different ways of doing this, and they depend on the model that is used. In the case of reusable earplugs, you must clean them regularly with water and neutral soap, to later keep them in a clean, dry case. Disposable or foam earplugs have to be tossed away, since reusing them for too long is a risky habit.
Keeping your ears clean is also important in order to avoid the forming of wax buildups on your ear canals. This delicate body part has to be cleaned carefully (with a paper tissue, for example) and not too frequently.
Another relevant precaution is not to ignore any discomfort or slight pain while using them. If you feel like there is too much pressure on your ears or any minor pain try readjusting them gently.
Finally, in case of any inconvenience, do not doubt visiting your doctor. Even if it seems like a slight discomfort, it is better to be seen by a professional rather than running any risks.
Types of earplugs
These devices have to be placed in the ear canal or opening, and there is a variety of shapes and materials to choose from. A few of the most known types are listed below.
These earplugs usually come covered with a thin layer of cotton, making them softer to the ear. They are usually accessible, provide a comfortable fit and are reusable, although many users complain about them for being too oily.
Cylindrical, foam earplugs
This is the most basic model of earplugs, as they adapt easily to most ear shapes and are usually low-priced. Because of their material, they are highly malleable but disposable for hygienic reasons.
Bell-shaped, foam earplugs
As well as the previously mentioned ones, these accessories are disposable and tend to be affordable. Even though both cylindrical and bell-shaped earplugs are designed to be placed in the ear canal, the shape of the latter ones can provide a better fit with a bit less of pressure on the canal.
Round, silicone earplugs
These earplugs, unlike the foam ones, are reusable, and are not made for placing in the canal. Their shape is made for them to fit on the outer opening of the ear, which makes them ideal for those who feel too uncomfortable placing other designs deeper inside the ear.
Ergonomic, silicone earplugs
For a better fit, some companies offer designs that adapt much better to the shape of the user´s ears. Some models are already designed and sold generically, while other companies make it possible to provide their clients with custom-made products. While these options may be much more costly, they can compensate their price with the comfort and effectiveness that they present.
So… which ones should you use? In order to find out which material and shape of earplugs suit you the best, the only solution is to try them. Each person is unique and has different preferences and ear shapes, so there is no universally correct answer for this question.
How to use earplugs
Its usage depends on the model chosen. For foam, disposable or wax earplugs the first step to take is rolling them until they are as narrow as possible. Later, the ear has to be held up with the opposite hand, while the other hand places the earplug in the canal in a gentle but quick manner. To be well fit, half or three quarters of the device has to be inside the canal.
In the case of round, silicone earplugs, they first have to be kneaded until they become warm and malleable, and later pressed over the ear canal until the zone feels sealed. For it to be more comfortable, the external part can be flattened as a last step by applying a little pressure.
When it comes to wax earplugs, they have to be pressed against the ear canal without inserting them there until the zone feels sealed.
If any feeling of discomfort appears, you can always remove them and try again: the earplug is well placed if it doesn’t hurt and it blocks the external noises.
It is recommended to be careful when removing these devices to prevent any injuries caused by the pressure in the canal. When doing this, the first step is to gently pull it a bit down until the seal is broken to later remove it entirely.
Other more complex earplugs may have different steps depending on their design and it is important to read and follow the instructions that come with them carefully.
Earbuds vs. Earbuds
You may have thought about sleeping with earbuds and some background music instead of earplugs, and this could be more comfortable for some people. Music has even been proven to be beneficial for many people´s sleep cycle, as long as it is used with low volumes and relaxing songs or sounds.
Even though this might be a tempting option, we consider earplugs to be the most comfortable ones: sometimes we don´t feel like listening to music and it is important to have this alternative available. Plus, a pair of comfortable, noise cancelling earbuds imply a much more expensive purchase, especially if you look for a set with a long-lasting battery so that there are no cables tangling around you while you sleep. This pricey purchase might turn into something unsuccessful if you find out that listening to music actually bothers you when it comes to sleeping, and you will have wasted your money.
Still unable to rest well?
If after trying many types of earplugs you still have trouble sleeping, it might be convenient to look for other measures, like changing the mattress or pillows (if they are not comfortable enough), avoiding facing screens at late hours or meditation.
In case this still doesn´t work, you can visit a professional for help: there is always medication, diets or other techniques that could be prescribed given the patient´s particular situation.
To conclude, it is visible that the interruption of sleep is a problem that has to be addressed in order to avoid a wide variety of disadvantages, and earplugs seem to be a highly effective solution. There are several shapes and materials to choose from, offering the perfect suit for each person. Most of them are affordable for the majority of people, but you can also go a little over the budget to get fancier ones, and they all do a good job cancelling the noise from the outside.
They are not very invasive, and even though they may present a few disadvantages, these can be easily avoided by maintaining a proper use of the gadgets and keeping them clean.
Many people already use them and find their sleep-cycle to be a lot healthier than before: there is no doubt that this economic devices can bring major improvements into the life of someone who struggles to remain asleep during the night.
- [i] https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/sleep/Healthy_Sleep_At-A-Glance_SPANISH_Final.pdf
- [ii] https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2010-13439-002
- [iii] https://fortune.com/2016/11/30/sleep-productivity-rand-corp-411-billion/
- [iv] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6084766/
- [v] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4055012/
- [vi] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6591240/