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Do deaf people sleep better?

Getting a good night’s sleep is important for overall health and wellbeing. However, many people struggle to get quality sleep on a regular basis. For those with hearing loss, including the deaf community, the question arises as to whether their sleep is more sound than hearing individuals. Research provides some insight into this intriguing question.

Do deaf people have fewer distractions at night?

One major factor that can disrupt sleep is noise. Even faint sounds can rouse light sleepers from slumber. The deaf community lives without auditory stimuli, giving them one less distraction to contend with at night.

During the night, hearing people may be woken up by noises inside or outside the home. These can include:

  • Partner’s snoring or breathing
  • Pets moving around
  • Sirens from outside
  • Noisy neighbors
  • Dripping faucets
  • Wind and rain

For those who are deaf, these auditory disturbances during the night are not an issue. This allows them to sleep through sounds that would interrupt the sleep of hearing individuals.

Use of visual alarms

Hearing people often rely on auditory alarms from clocks, phones, or alarm systems to wake up in the morning. Deaf individuals opt for visual alarm clocks involving lights or vibrations.

This allows the deaf to sleep through the night until the visual alarm signals it is time to wake up. There is no disruption from auditory nighttime alarms going off accidentally.

Lack of Misophonia

Misophonia is a disorder where specific sounds, like chewing, tapping, or breathing, trigger an outsized emotional reaction. These everyday sounds can cause anxiety, anger, and sleep disturbances in those with misophonia.

As deaf people do not hear the triggers, they do not experience this disruption. Without misophonia, deaf individuals avoid a potential barrier to quality slumber.

Do deaf people report better sleep?

While deaf people theoretically have fewer distractions, do studies back up the idea that they get superior shut-eye? Research provides useful insights:

Difficulty assessing own sleep

In 2017, a systematic review examined sleep disorders in hearing loss populations. The authors found deaf individuals tend to underestimate how long it takes them to fall asleep. They also overestimate total sleep time. This makes it more difficult to accurately assess sleep quality in deaf individuals through self-reporting.

Higher daytime sleepiness

A 2016 study had deaf adolescents complete the Pediatric Daytime Sleepiness Scale. Their scores indicated a higher level of daytime sleepiness compared to the general adolescent population. As excessive daytime sleepiness can result from poor nighttime sleep, this suggests deaf teens may not be getting optimal rest.

Delayed Circadian Rhythm

Research into sleep cycles shows deaf populations are more likely to have a delayed circadian rhythm. Their bodies want to sleep and wake up later. Trying to sleep at an earlier time that conflicts with the circadian clock could disturb deaf individuals’ sleep.

Increased reports of insomnia

A meta-analysis of multiple studies found an association between hearing loss and insomnia. Deaf individuals were found to have more difficulty falling and staying asleep through the night.

However, the connection between deafness and insomnia is unclear. It is possible other factors beyond hearing loss contribute to insomnia in the deaf community.

Factors that may disrupt deaf sleep

While deaf individuals are not disturbed by sounds, research indicates adequate sleep is still a challenge:

Use of Cochlear Implants

Cochlear implants partially restore hearing by directly stimulating the auditory nerve. However, implants come with risks of disrupting sleep in deaf patients. The devices can create new auditory disturbances, like tinnitus ringing. Implants also require daily removal and charging, which may interfere with sleep routines.

Resonance from snoring partner

While deaf people cannot hear partner snoring, they can still feel the vibrations. One study found snorers with deaf partners report their partner can feel the reverberations. This resonance effect could still potentially wake deaf individuals.

Light pollution

As deaf people use visual alarm clocks, they often sleep with a light on. This light pollution in the bedroom can interfere with quality sleep. Exposure to artificial light before bed and during the night can disrupt circadian rhythms.

Physical disorders

Some diseases of the ear that cause deafness may also contribute to conditions like vertigo and tinnitus. These physical effects can make it difficult for deaf individuals to get truly restful sleep.

Mental health considerations

Deaf people are at higher risk for anxiety and depression compared to the general population. These mental health conditions are closely tied to sleep disturbances. It is possible mental health plays a role in higher deaf insomnia rates.

Tips for deaf individuals to get better sleep

While deafness eliminates auditory sleep disruptions, achieving quality sleep still requires effort. Here are tips for the deaf community to get their best rest:

  • Stick to a firm sleep schedule, even on weekends
  • Exercise regularly, but not before bedtime
  • Limit light exposure in the evenings by turning off TVs and screens
  • Create a dark, quiet, and relaxing bedroom environment
  • Manage stress through practices like meditation, yoga, or journaling
  • Avoid large meals, alcohol, and caffeine close to bedtime
  • See a doctor if insomnia persists for underlying health issues

The impact of hearing loss severity

Level of hearing loss may also relate to sleep quality. A look at the evidence:

Increased sleep disruption with more severe loss

A study of hearing loss in older adults found more severe levels of hearing impairment were linked with poorer sleep quality. Adults with profound hearing loss reported the most sleep disturbances.

People with some hearing rely more on sound

Those with partial hearing loss tend to rely on auditory alarms for waking up. Therefore, they may experience more sleep disruptions from noises compared to those who are profoundly deaf.

Connection to health conditions causing hearing loss

The underlying pathology leading to hearing impairment may also contribute to sleep disorders. For example, ear diseases that result in deafness may come with symptoms like tinnitus that impair sleep.

This indicates severity of hearing loss alone does not determine sleep quality. Overall health is a key factor in sleep disturbances in deaf individuals.

Sleep challenges shared by deaf and hearing people

While deafness eliminates some barriers to sleep, certain challenges are universal. Both deaf and hearing populations report issues with:

Difficulty falling asleep

Insomnia, anxiety, underlying health issues, and lack of daytime physical activity can all make it hard for both deaf and hearing people to initially fall asleep at night.

Waking up during the night

Factors like having to go to the bathroom, discomfort, stress, chronic pain, or sleep disorders like sleep apnea may wake people up in the middle of the night.

Poor quality sleep

Even if sleep duration is adequate, sleep quality may still suffer. Poor sleep often leaves people feeling unrested in the morning despite enough time in bed.

Daytime fatigue

Regardless of hearing ability, lack of quality sleep makes people prone to sluggishness, difficulty concentrating, and increased errors during waking hours.

This shows many universal obstacles to sleep apply to all people regardless of deafness. Overall health is key for achieving sound slumber.

Sleep tips for all

Considering the shared sleep struggles between deaf and hearing individuals, recommendations to improve sleep can benefit all:

  • Be physically active during day, but avoid exercise within 2 hours of bedtime
  • Limit screen use before bedtime
  • Establish a calming pre-bed routine like reading or taking a bath
  • Keep bedroom dark, cool, and quiet – use blackout curtains, a fan or white noise machine, and insulate walls from outside noise
  • Reserve bed for only sleep and sex to strengthen sleep/wake association
  • Evaluate medication side effects and interactions that may interfere with sleep
  • Reduce stimulating substances like nicotine, caffeine, or alcohol especially in the evenings
  • Relax the mind through meditation, deep breathing, prayer, yoga, or gratitude journaling
  • Consider cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia if sleep habits and hygiene do not work
  • See a doctor to address underlying conditions or sleep disorders interfering with rest


Research provides mixed evidence on whether deaf individuals truly experience better sleep compared to those with normal hearing. While they have fewer auditory sleep disruptions, studies show many deaf people still fight insomnia and daytime fatigue.

Level of hearing loss, use of cochlear implants, lighting conditions, and physical or mental health may all influence sleep among deaf individuals. Still, the barriers to quality sleep are similar between deaf and hearing populations.

By managing health conditions, optimizing sleep habits, and promoting restful bedroom environments, both groups can achieve rejuvenating rest on a regular basis.