Dangers of Sleeping with a Blanket over the Head

All people are different and our bedtime rituals differ, but we have one thing in common – we cover ourselves with a blanket (or more of them) when we’re in bed. Getting under the covers is one thing, but many people love sleeping with a blanket over the 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 sleepWhen was the last time you went to bed without covering yourself with a blanket or other type of covering? The answer is most likely – NEVER. It seems odd to go to bed without getting under a blanket like it’s some sort of an unwritten rule.

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

Blankets aren’t just protecting us from the cold, they can be therapeutic too. Tucking yourself into a warm, fuzzy blanket can be a wonderful way to manage stress and anxiety. That said, you should still avoid covering yourself over the head. Why? Here are some of many reasons to break this habit.

1. Brain Damage

This is not 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 is a term that refers to a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and millions of people are affected by it. The reason why people who cover their head while sleeping are at a higher risk of dementia is restricted airflow through mouth and nose. That way, you’re not getting enough fresh air that your brain needs to function properly. When happened over a long period of time, it could lead to these unwanted consequences.

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. Not appealing!

3. Difficult to Fall Asleep

unable to sleep

Covering your head may impair quality of sleep 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 too warm or even sweating. Plus, it could be also difficult to sleep when covers over your head don’t allow you to breathe properly.

See also: Best Tea for Sleep Insomnia

4. 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.

5. 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 . Not only does covering the head during sleep increases risk of suffocation in persons with sleep apnea, but this habit can also trigger or increase the risk of the common sleep disorder. Why? Again, restricted airflow is to blame.

See also: Best Pulse Oximeter for Sleep Apnea

6. 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 including fire, break-ins, and other scenarios.

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

  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.

  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?

    • 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.

  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.

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