Dangers of Sleeping with a Blanket over the Head

Everyone is different and our bedtime rituals differ, but we have one thing in common – we cover ourselves with a blanket (or more of them) in bed. Getting under the covers is one thing, but many people love sleeping with a blanket over their head. If you also have a habit to do that, this article lists all the reasons why you should stop.

It’s in Human Nature to Cover During Sleep

couch sleep

When was the last time you went to bed without covering yourself using a blanket or any other type of covering? The answer is most likely – NEVER.

Going to bed without getting under a blanket seems odd, like it’s some sort of an unwritten rule.

One paper explored sleeping arrangements worldwide and it included foraging and non-foraging people who live in hot climates near the equator. Results showed that only nomadic foragers regularly sleep without any covering. The rest of the people across the globe use blankets, duvets, or other covering types when they sleep.

Blankets aren’t just protecting us from the cold, they are therapeutic too. Tucking yourself under a warm, fuzzy blanket helps manage stress and anxiety.

That said, you should avoid covering yourself over the head as much as possible. Why? Here are the exact reasons to cut out this habit.

1. Brain Damage

This isn’t a joke; covering your head while sleeping can contribute to brain damage.

Evidence shows that 23% of people who sleep with their head under the covers develop dementia. Dementia refers to a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. With Alzheimer’s disease being the most common form of dementia.

The reason why covering your head raises dementia risk is that it restricts airflow through the mouth and nose. Therefore, the brain receives insufficient fresh air needed for proper functioning. When this happens over a long period of time, it leads to the afro mentioned consequence.

2. Unclean Air

Even when you sleep, the body and brain still need air. However, when you’re covered by a duvet or blankets (or whatever you use), you don’t inhale clean or fresh air because you create a womb-like residence under the covers.

As a result, you inhale dirt, dust, and bacteria that are buried underneath your blanket. Basically, this seemingly innocent habit creates a dust-filled bubble for your breathing.

And in turn, inhaling particle-filled air can trigger your allergies, which further make sleeping uncomfortable. You also breathe dangerous chemicals and dust trapped in the weave of your bedding, Unappealing!

3. Increases Carbon dioxide Levels

A research studying the oxygen and carbon dioxide concentrations when covering your head was conducted. Participants were covered with one sheet and one blanket for 10 minutes, then with an additional one sheet and two blankets for 10 more minutes.

It was discovered that oxygen levels decreased to 18% from 20.9%, whereas carbon dioxide concentration increased from 0.4% to 2% in just a minute. Overtime, oxygen lowered to 16.5%, with  raising to 4.1%.

This doesn’t pose a significant threat to healthy individuals per se, especially when partaken once in a while. Prolonged covering your head, however, will result in less oxygen circulating in the blood and to the brain. Some people feel dizzy.

On the other hand, individuals with congestive heart failures or related conditions are at risk of a host of problems like arrhythmias and hypoxia.

4. Difficult to Fall Asleep

unable to sleep

Covering your head may impair sleep quality and lead to insomnia, yet another common sleep problem in the United States and other parts of the world. How does this habit contribute to insomnia? It could be down to overeating.

Although it’s probably comfortable to be tucked in like a burrito, some people may find it difficult to sleep when they’re feeling extremely warm or even sweating. Plus, sleeping can be difficult when covers over your head don’t allow you to breathe properly.

Besides, sweating throughout the night leads to clogged pores on your face and body, which causes acne breakouts and tangled hair.

See also: Best Tea for Sleep Insomnia

5. Suffocation Risk

Even though covering your head while sleeping may seem incredibly comfortable, it carries certain risks too. One of these risks is suffocation, particularly if you already have some underlying condition such as asthma, sleep apnea, or cardiac disease.

People who have these conditions, including some type of lung disease, are at a higher risk of suffocation when they cover their head while sleeping. That is because they keep rebreathing the air they’ve just breathed out. This translates to less oxygen in the body overtime, which is hazardous.

6. Sleep Apnea Risk

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. Figures show that 42 million Americans suffer from sleep-disorder breathing and 1 in 5 people have sleep apnea . Covering the head while sleeping increases suffocation risk in sleep apnea patients – and can trigger or heighten common sleep disorder risk. Why? Again, restricted airflow is to blame.

See also: Best Pulse Oximeter for Sleep Apnea

7. Lack of Alertness in Emergency Situations

The last thing you want while sleeping is to hear noises or face any sort of distraction. But, sometimes that’s necessary because it keeps you alive. Covers over your head reduce the influence of outside stimuli. In turn, you don’t hear some noises or notice any weird smells. This can be a bad thing in emergency situations like fire, break-ins, and other scenarios.

A seemingly innocent and comfortable habit of covering your head in bed can bring forth many risks. To avoid these unfortunate scenarios, avoid covering your head while sleeping. Your body and brain will love the fresh air, especially if you have a humidifier in your room.

If adjusting to sleeping without blankets proves difficult for you, start out with covering your head with a light sheet in lieu of the heavy blanket, then slowly work towards no blanket at all. The light sheet will offer breathability whilst still offering warmth and comfort.

 

Further Solutions:

Some Alternative Blankets To Ensure Your Head Isn’t Covered While You Sleep- Wearable blankets for adults as well as wearable blankets for kids / babies.

After looking through the dangers that are associated with covering one’s head with the blanket while sleeping, it would be incomplete if we didn’t look at some of the alternative blankets, that you and your family members would make use of, with a lot less risk. We have previously reviewed various types of blankets, such as Electric Blankets, and here’s a review of wearable blankets, as an alternative to the usual blankets. Read on to our reviews, so as to help you make an informed decision before you can opt to do a purchase.

Wearable Blankets’ Reviews

Wearable blankets for Adults. Top 5 picks

1. The Comfy Original (oversize and sherpa wearable blanket)

This wearable blanket is super comfy and super soft thanks to the sherpa fabric inside. It is suitable for any activity you decide to indulge in. You are free to watch TV, work on your laptop, make a sandwich while carrying your warmth around. You are allowed to roll up the sleeves so you can work using your bare hands. It is also a one size fits all, the comfy oversized designed is set to fit any size or shape.

Why choose it?

The blanket not only ensures that you are warm wherever you are, it also limits your chances of suffocating. The wearable blanket comes nowhere near your face, but it has a hood to make sure your head is warm.

Pros

  • Easy wash
  • Super comfy.
  • Can fit anyone.
  • Large, warm pockets.

Cons

  • Tight wrists.
  • May not fit all.

2. Catalonia Wearable Fleece Blanket

They design the Catalonia wearable fleece blanket to keep both your arms and feet warm. It is designed with built in feet pockets for keeping your feet warm all the time. Also, the hands are left free to enable you to manage some tasks with your bare hands.

The blanket is also designed with a luxurious material to make you more comfortable. You can snuggle, watch TV, play, read a book on the sofa while still putting on your fleece blanket.

Why choose this fleece blanket

The fleece blanket is warm, comfy, which is why you will also love sleeping in it. You do not have to worry about covering yourself on the face and end up suffocating. It does not have an oversize hood, so you do not have to worry about suffocating yourself.

Pros

  • Super soft
  • Warm feet pockets.
  • A pocket for your phone and camera.
  • Cozy.

Cons

  • May fall off while walking in it.
  • Poor quality of material.

3. Snuggie – the original wearable blanket

This is the original snuggie wearable blanket that has been keeping Americans warm for ten years. You can wear this snuggie anytime and anywhere. You can go camping, lounge in the bed, sleep in it or even sit on the couch and watch TV. The snuggie also has sleeves allowing your hands to be free enabling you to do stuff with your hands. It is also super soft, which means it will hardly slide when wearing it.

Why It Is Safe to Sleep on

This snuggie is an oversized wearable blanket which is a one size fits all. Its size limits the chances of this fleece blanket to cover up your face or squeeze your body in when you toss and turn. Also, the wearable blanket does not have a huge hoodie that would cover your face and suffocate you.

Pros

  • Soft and cozy
  • One size fits all.
  • Does not slide while wearing it.
  • Oversized sleeves.

Cons

  • It may be shorter

4. Catalonia Sherpa Wearable Blanket

This wearable blanket is to be worn backwards. It is warm, cosy and soft all thanks to the sherpa fabric lining. It helps keep your arms, shoulders, feet and your entire body warm while keeping your hands free. The wearable blanket is wonderful for watching TV, reading a book, working on your laptop and lounging on the bed. It is also a one size fits all, so it is oversized and can fit anyone.

It is safe to sleep in it

The Catalonia sherpa wearable blanket can never cover your face while you are asleep and cause suffocation. This is because this blanket does not have a hood that can cover your face while sleeping. It also does not slip, so you do not have to worry about this blanket sliding over your face.

Pros

  • Soft and warm.
  • Can fit anyone.
  • Easy to put on.
  • Washable.

Cons

  • It may slip when walking in it.

5. Kanguru Wearable Blanket

This blanket is 100% polyester, but very comfortable and soft to be in. The blanket is very free, which means that you can walk in it and do all the chores while still wearing it. It also has an opening at the back which means it is worn backwards and an opening on the head, arms and thumbs. It is also washable and once you wash it; you are sure to get a near new wearable blanket once again.

Safe To Sleep in

As mentioned this wearable blanket has an opening around the head making it impossible for the blanket to cover your face. It also has an opening at the back, only unlike traditional blankets. So this gives you a guarantee that the blanket will not cause suffocation.

Pros

  • Soft and warm
  • Big enough to fit almost anyone.
  • Can be washed

Cons

  • A bit pricy.

Wearable Blankets for Kids / Babies. Top 5 picks

      1. Baby Deedee sleep Nest (0-6 months)

This wearable blanket for children is designed to be used on outdoor activities and at home as well. The blanket has removable sleeves that you can remove when you want your child to take part in your activities. It is also designed with a buckle through design, allowing you to buckle your child and the stroller without having to wake them up.

Why it is safe to let your child sleep in it.

The blanket is perfect enough for sleeping since it’s not oversize and your child will not cover their face while they sleep. It also does not have a hood to accidently cover your baby’s head like traditional blankets.

Pros

  • Perfect size for a 0-6 months old baby.
  • Warm and cozy.
  • Washable.
  • Easy to transport.

Cons

  • Expensive.

      2. HALO Sleepsack Wearable Blanket

This wearable blanket is sleeveless to limit overheating. It is designed to allow your baby to kick their legs while in it. There are different sizes depending on how old your baby is, so it is not oversize to avoid it rolling over your baby while they sleep. The zipper also runs from the bottom to allow for easy diaper checking.

Is it safe to sleep in?

Many nurses have opted for this wearable blanket to show mothers safer ways for your sleeping baby. The sleeveless design and the absence of a hood minimizes the chances of covering up your kid’s face.

Pros

  • Sleeveless to avoid overheating.
  • Warm and cozy.
  • Free size for your child to kick their legs.
  • Washable.

Cons

  • May be too heavy.

      3. Baby Deedee Sleep Nest Sleeping Sack

This wearable blanket is made of a breathable material, thus allowing for controlling warmth to avoid overheating. It is also sleeveless to allow more air in the blanket. It is also very lightweight, making easy to transport for the baby to wear and also it washable.

Safe to sleep in?

The wearable blanket has nothing designed to cover the baby’s head, thus it is impossible for your baby to be covered on the face by the blanket. This blanket is also very warm, so it is completely safe to sleep in and warm for your child.

Pros

  • Very warm and comfortable.
  • Breathable.
  • Lightweight.

Cons

  • May be too small.

4. Woolino 4 Season Basic Merino Wool Baby Sleeping Bag

The blanket is perfect for all seasons since it is designed with an optimal weight merino wool. The merino wool is very luxurious, thus allowing a more warm, soft and cozy feel for your baby. It also has a two-way zipper allowing easier and quicker diaper and clothes changes. The blanket comes in all sizes and it’s also flexible to allow your child to be active even in the cold weather seasons.

Is it safe for a baby to sleep in?

The blanket is completely safe to sleep in. It is not attached to a hood, so it would be impossible for your baby’s face to be covered when they are asleep. The material is also warm and sturdy to avoid your baby, to slide in while they are sleeping.

Pros

  • Luxurious merino wool.
  • Different sizes for different ages
  • Two-way zipper

Cons

  • May be too heavy.

      5. Silver Lily Food Shaped Sleeping Bag

This blanket is made with cheese designs, perfect for kids who love cheese. It is warm and very soft to touch since it has a fleece material. This blanket for sleepovers, parties and many also lounging around the house. It however does not have sleeveless or a neck region. You only need to get in and sleep in it.

Safe to sleep in?

Unlike traditional blankets where you need to cover yourself for warmth, this blanket only needs the user to get inside the blanket. There are zero chances of your suffocating since the blanket does not provide any chance of the face being covered up while sleeping.

Pros

  • Interesting design.
  • Warm
  • Safe to sleep in
  • Brightly colored.

Cons

  • May slip out while sleeping.

Conclusion

The perfect way to avoid suffocating while sleeping in a blanket is by avoiding the traditional blankets. Wearable blankets are the new norm and are the perfect alternative to traditional blankets. If you fear suffocation or finding your child suffocated in a blanket, then you should consider any of the above adult wearable blankets, or the wearable blankets for children, accordingly.

See also: Electric Blankets Review, Updated for 2020

16 Comments
  1. I already have sleep apnea, and use a CPAP. It seems to me that the only reason not to cover my head is your #6. I do, however, live with others, at least one of whom is very alert, even when sleeping.

  2. Hello Barc777,
    Sorry for the condition and I’m glad you have read and shared your thoughts. As per this article, #6 is the main reason. All the same, as times change and you probably may not be around the alert person(s) all the time, then you can gradually and over time train yourself to have your head uncovered as you sleep. It’s gonna do you a lot of good.

    Keep it http://www.sleepholic.com for more of great content and reviews related to sleep and relevant items.
    Regards.

  3. I’m not aware that I cover my head with a blanket until I wake up and cant breathe.
    What can I do to not to cover my head while sleeping?

    • What helps me when I sleep under the blankets I leave my nose and mouth poking out so I can breathe fine. :>

    • Hello Stacy and we really empathize with your predicament.
      Have you considered using bedding materials that are lighter on your upper quarter as you sleep?
      A light sheet (if the conditions are favorable), would be great as it won’t have much interference even if you covered your head.
      You may also consider some form of pegs that hold your blanket in a certain position while you sleep, such that you aren’t likely to cover your head. The ideal peg should be firm enough to deliver as desired.
      Above all, training yourself to do away with the habit would help, and as you grow, you may gradually outgrow the habit.
      Be sure to visit https://sleepholic.com/ to drink from our https://sleepholic.com/education/ on everything around sleep, accessories, and a lot more. Cheers!

  4. Hello,
    I do sleep with my blanket over my head on occasion. Most of the time it is when I am napping in my chair in the living room. What is weird is I do it the most while fully awake. The noise level in my house is pretty bad sometimes so I will cover my head and tune it all out. I have felt the need to remove it because I feel suffocated.
    After reading this I will do what I have to, to stop. I already have memory issues and stuff. Thanks for the info!!

    • Hello Tammy,
      Thanks for your feedback. We are glad you found this piece of information useful.
      Be sure to visit our site in general for further sleep tips, hacks and reviews on accessories.
      Be sure to share the same within your social channels.
      Cheers!

  5. I keep hearing about a privacy hoodie to wear on plane journey through night to cover up CPAP but cant find one on line – any ideas please?

    • Hello Tracey,
      Kindly run a search on ‘CPAP hose cover’ and see if the results are close to what you’re looking for.

  6. So with all this face coverings with this virus situation, what will happen if you cover your face for 8 to 12 hours

    • It’s quite a worry, but as for the face masks, you can try and limit wearing them to when you’re interacting with people, and while in public places. While in-house, you can put them to rest. It is advisable.

  7. I cannot physically fall asleep without a blanket above my head…I just read all this and to be honest I’m a bit worried. I’ve been like this since I was born I’ve been sleeping with a blanket above my head for many years..I tried using sleep pills doesn’t work even sleeping with lights on doesn’t work…What should I do ? Is there a phobia related to this ?

    • Hi Max,
      It is human to always cover one’s head while sleeping. All the same, you might want to try ‘wearable blankets’ and see if they could help, in that your fore-face isn’t really fully covered.
      We have reviewed some of them in the updated version of this article.

  8. I used to do this all the time as a child, i remember being scared since i wached some scary movies and it feelt more secure under the blanket.

  9. I have always worried about people who cover their heads while sleeping because I personally feel I can’t breathe with sheets over my head…I see my husband or kids do this and I panic and make them uncover their heads. I also feel like I am suffocating while wearing a Covid mask. What do you think? I am seeing major cognitive dissonance everywhere in this regard..children can’t wear them because they will suffocate, but adults are apparently unaffected? I feel suffocated by the masks the same as I do with sheets. I am working hard to breathe and feel I may pass out (the feeling begins working seconds of putting it on). Every single “scientific” explanation I have read only confirms to me that mask wearing reduces ability to breathe…Major cognitive dissonance…that airflow spreads the virus so you must reduce air flow (Which means your ability to breathe is reduced)? But somehow oxygen is at 100%? So if there is reduced airflow, I’m dizzy, can’t breathe I am somehow making that up? But it is dangerous to put on kids because they might suffocate, and babies shouldn’t use blankets because of SIDS…don’t wear “breathable” masks because they “don’t work”…? So aaccording the experts, the only masks that “work” are the ones that don’t let you breathe or force you to work hard to breathe (kind of like when you have an asthma attack). So I wonder… what would you say is the difference between wearing masks made of three layers (if cotton, same materials as sheets) and putting your head under a bedsheet? I feel both are bad, and masks are worse bc they are designed to block airflow…

    • Hello, we have updated this article, and it may have a bit more content that tries to address some of the concerns shared of late.
      Meanwhile, we encourage you to continue wearing your masks, just as the health experts have been advising.

      However, there are various types of masks already in the market, and some are easier on the airflow, than others. One needs to go and get a mask that feels quite comfortable when breathing, but at the same time not compromising on the quality, as the mask is needed to serve the purpose of preventing the transmission of the Coronavirus.
      I have personally tried out a variety of masks, and found one that is quite comfortable on me.
      I may not recommend you to get any of them, but for sure you’ll find it if you try out a few samples in the market.

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