Earplugs for Sleeping

What Are the Important Qualities of Earplugs for Sleeping?

Sleep is far more than just a means with which to avoid boredom during the hours of darkness. It is an essential restorative process regulated by the body’s circadian cycle, preparing it both mentally and physically to meet the demands of the waking hours. Researchers maintain that adults need to spend between 6-8 hours in this state of altered consciousness each night. This enables necessary activities, such as cellular regeneration, information processing, and strengthening the immune system. While some seem able to sleep through anything, others are disturbed by the slightest noise and must always wear earplugs for sleeping.

Whether it is a window pane rattling in the wind, late-night revellers, traffic noise, or a spouse’s snoring that may be the source of their disturbance, light sleepers are frequently desperate for the silence that will finally enable them to doze off and enjoy their 6-8 hours without interruption. Blocking the ear canals is, of course, the obvious solution and, in less enlightened times, some sufferers were even driven to do so with the aid of lumps of moistened bread or beeswax. Since then, of course, the development of commercial products has rendered such improvisation unnecessary and one can generally purchase a pair of earplugs from a local pharmacy for anyone who has difficulty sleeping.

Not all of the products available are ideal for this purpose and there are a number of things that need to be considered before making a selection. If the wearer is to enjoy a good night’s sleep, the product must fit snuggly in the ear if it is to cancel any ambient noise effectively. However, it will require more than a product capable of muting any disturbing noises. In addition, given that it will have to be worn continuously for up to eight hours or more, it will also need to be comfortable. Generally, manufacturers address the need for comfort with the use of soft, mouldable materials. Since many of these are synthetic, it can be equally important for someone with a tendency to suffer from allergies to ensure that any earplugs they may purchase for sleeping are known to be made from hypoallergenic materials.

While the aim of these devices is to exclude the various intrusive noises responsible for keeping the wearer awake, the chosen product should definitely not act to block out all sound completely. From a purely practical point of view, this might make it impossible to hear the doorbell, a telephone, or an alarm clock one may be relying on for getting to work on time. There are, however, more serious implications of attenuating all ambient noise indiscriminately. This would also make it impossible to hear and respond to an activated smoke or intruder alarm, which could have disastrous consequences.

In summary, earplugs designed for sleeping should be comfortable and, ideally, should mould to the precise contours of the wearer’s ear, as well as made from a suitable hypoallergenic material. Crucially, they should also be able to cancel the noise responsible for disturbed sleep without occluding those that are actually intended to wake the wearer. In practice, this is the reverse action of those worn in industrial environments where the purpose is to protect against noise-induced hearing loss. These products act to attenuate dangerous levels of noise, whilst still allowing the wearer to converse and to hear any spoken instructions that are essential to the job.

To ensure that earplugs intended for sleeping will fit snuggly, there are three main options. There are some one-size-fits-all products that rely on concentric, flexible flanges of different sizes. These allow the plug to be inserted as far as is necessary to provide the best seal. There are also products made from a soft thermoplastic which, when warmed in hot water and inserted into the ear, can be moulded to fit and, if necessary, can be re-moulded at a future date. Alternatively, a more permanent solution is to begin by creating accurate impressions of the contours of your left and right ears and to use these in order to create a pair of moulds with which to shape the finished product.

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