is it safe to sleep with a candle lit?
Sleep Safety

Is It Safe To Leave A Candle Lit While Sleeping?

Last Updated on September 30, 2023 by Louise Carter

Candles introduce a hard-to-define magic to the bedroom ambiance. Scented candles, especially lavender and chamomile fragrances, have been linked to lulling people into a relaxing sleep.

The low light of a candle can also trigger the release of melatonin, the sleep hormone.

Candles in the bedroom can burn for around 4 hours, but any longer can elevate the risk. Consider getting a wick dipper or snuffer to extinguish the flame and avoid generating smoke overnight.

Always blow out candles as soon as you notice you feel sleepy.

The risks of burning a candle overnight include spreading fire, inhaling volatile organic compounds (VOCs), dehydrating the skin, triggering allergic reactions, and even organ damage.

The benefits of candles can be experienced through scented products, like reed diffusers, hot wax melts, incense sticks, or cordless lamps for illumination.

Battery-operated candles can also trick the mind into thinking you’re watching lit candles.

Should I Light Candles in My Bedroom?

Consider whether you should use a candle to create an ambiance or scented candles to aid sleep in the bedroom. Follow these simple safety precautions:

  • Keep the candle away from curtains, blinds, or flammable materials like books and magazines.
  • Place the candle on a flat, stable surface, ideally a table.
  • Move the candle out of arm’s reach to avoid accidents.
  • Don’t allow pets in the room, especially birds, because they have vulnerable respiratory systems.
  • Don’t let the candle burn too high.

If you feel sleepy, blow out the flame before succumbing to sleep for safety reasons.

How Long Can You Have A Candle Lit in A Bedroom?

Most experts recommend burning candles for less than 4 hours. This is especially important if the candle is housed in a glass container. Any longer, and the glass may crack or break.

To remain safe, consider using tealight-sized candles in the bedroom, which last 4 hours. Only keep tealights lit while you’re in the bedroom.

How To Safely Blow Out A Candle in The Bedroom

Blowing the candle out before sleep isn’t as simple as a quick puff of air. Many candles continue to produce smoke after they’ve been extinguished if you don’t take additional precautions.

The safest way to extinguish a candle at night is with a wick dipper or a snuffer. You could try suffocating the flame with a candle lid or saucer, but this takes longer.

Is It Safe To Fall Asleep with Candles Lit?

You may burn a candle overnight to create a pleasant aroma or avoid being plunged into darkness. Is it bad to sleep with a lit candle?

Unfortunately, candles should only be used while you’re awake and alert enough to monitor everything. Falling asleep with a candle with a live flame could endanger your life and that of others.

Why Can’t You Sleep with a Candle Lit?

Whether you sleep with a live flame or accidentally fall asleep with a candle on, here are the risks:

what happens if you go to sleep with a candle lit?

Fire Hazard

The most significant risk surrounding a lit candle while you sleep is fire.

You could knock the candle over by kicking or flailing your legs in your sleep, or a pet that shares your bedroom may nudge a table that hosts the candle.

A small candle or tea light may burn itself out over time, but others will allow melted wax to catch fire, creating flames that could spread.

Even if you don’t keep paper in the bedroom, other flammable items include blankets and pillows.   

You must also ensure that no draughts are present in the room. Close all windows, and don’t leave a fan running overnight. Remove the candle from the room if it’s extinguished but still smoking.

Breathing Fumes

Many candles release volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Breathing in VOCs while you sleep is bad for your health. The most concerning VOC is formaldehyde, a confirmed carcinogen.

Health and Environmental Research Online confirms that candles release formaldehyde, especially in the first hour of burning. To this end, never light a candle as you sleep because you’ll breathe heavier.

Many candles contain solvents, like toluene. This is released while the candle burns. Inhalation of toluene can cause nausea and headaches upon waking up, especially if you consume alcohol before bed.

Pregnant women must be mindful of the risks of toluene. According to Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, inhaling toluene in large quantities can cause fetal defects and abnormalities.

There’s also a small risk of carbon monoxide poisoning if you sleep with a lit candle, especially near your head. Keep candles on the other side of the room to negate this hazard.

Allergies

While some people need to inhale significant VOCs from a candle to see an impact, anybody with allergies or a respiratory concern like asthma will be impacted more.

The chemicals released by a burning candle can trigger allergic responses.

Try lighting candles in your waking life and see how the body reacts. If you find yourself experiencing the following symptoms, extinguish the candle:

  • Streaming from the nose or eyes.
  • Tightness in the chest.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Breakouts on the skin, including rashes or hives.
  • Itchy or irritated eyes.

These responses suggest an allergic reaction. This will be magnified during sleep, and it’s more likely to cause an asthma attack or anaphylactic response while asleep.

Dehydration

Lighting candles can increase your body temperature. The wax in candles contains hydrogen and carbon, so as the top of the candle melts, it turns into a gas that is inhaled.

As this gas enters the atmosphere around you, the ambient temperature in a bedroom steadily increases.

This causes you to sweat under the bedsheets, potentially leading to dehydration that rouses you from sleep as you grow increasingly uncomfortable.

Sipping water if you have lit candles while still awake can temper the impact. This won’t be an option while you’re asleep, so avoid allowing the body to dehydrate.

Organ Damage

Regularly sleeping with a lit candle can damage internal organs. Consistent exposure to high levels of toluene can have the following consequences:

  • Lung irritation that leads to the build-up of mucus and respiratory problems.
  • Kidney failure, especially if you have early-stage renal disease.
  • Jaundice of the liver.

To experience these hazards, you’d have to regularly breathe large quantities of toluene. However, sleeping beside a candle makes that outcome likelier.

Alternatives to Lighting Candles in the Bedroom

You may wish to explore alternatives to candles. Whether you want to make your bedroom smell better or provide ambient illumination, consider one of these substitutes:

Lighting

Candles create charming and ambient lighting in a room, but this can be achieved in other ways. The closest alternative is investing in battery-powered electronic candles.

These provide the same lighting as traditional candles. Many of them can even be set to flicker, just like a real flame. If you doze off, there’s no fire risk due to the absence of flame or power cables.

Many lamps are equipped with dimmer switches.

A light set to low intensity will offer just enough illumination to prevent discomfort to your eyes, and a cordless lamp – chargeable by USB – won’t require a direct power source.

Scents

Another popular reason for lighting candles in the bedroom is the scent they release.

Scientific Reports explains how your perception of an aroma influences sleep more than the scent, but treating the nose can still assist with sleep.

Rather than lighting scented candles for overnight relaxation, consider these options:

  • Light an incense stick. This is a flame that burns out faster than a candle.
  • Use hot wax melts. These will be contained and won’t produce a naked flame.
  • Get an essential oil or reed diffuser for enhanced safety.

Any of these approaches will make your bedroom smell nice and relaxing without the dangers of lighting candles that continue to burn while you sleep.

Candles are atmospheric in the bedroom but can be dangerous. Following safety protocols and blowing out a candle before falling asleep means that you can enjoy all they offer.