Thanks to electric blankets, we can increase our warmth beyond what our natural body heat creates in bed. Unfortunately, there are dangers associated with using an electric blanket at night.
Sleeping with an electric blanket throughout the night can be dangerous due to the risk of overheating and fires. Electrical fires cause about 13% of house fires, especially in the winter.
Also, too much warmth can disrupt your circadian rhythm, leading to disrupted sleep.
Standard electric blankets function with the use of electromagnetic waves, and there are numerous myths surrounding them. So, let’s debunk the myths to reveal how things have changed.
Is It Safe to Sleep with the Electric Blanket On?
Sleeping with an electric blanket on is never risk-free. They are known for overheating and catching fire, although modern electric blankets have systems to prevent accidents.
Electric blankets have been around since 1936. There were few safety measures, so house fires due to electric blankets overheating were commonplace in the early days.
They had coiled metal wires inside, which were heated with electricity when plugged into an outlet.
The electric blankets had a voltage of up to 115 watts, meaning the metal wires would get too hot and burn through the fabric, sometimes causing house fires.
Modern blankets have systems to prevent accidents. Since the early 2000s, most electric blankets have been equipped with automatic shutoff systems that turn off after a particular time.
Low-voltage electric blankets function with 12-24 volts to prevent overheating and electric shocks. Others have forgone the metal wiring for insulated wires or have carbon fiber wires.
Sleeping with an electric blanket switched still carries risks because faulty circuitry causes accidents. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported that electrical fires accounted for 13% of house fires between 2015 and 2019.
Electrical failures were the second leading cause of electrical house fires, with 30% occurring during cold weather months due to wiring and related equipment.
Leaving a working electric appliance plugged into the wall overnight isn’t a good idea.
Does An Electric Blanket Affect Sleep Quality?
Aside from being a fire hazard, when you sleep with an electric blanket turned on, you risk overheating your body and disrupting your circadian rhythm.
Warming the body to the point where your core temperature is altered leads to reduced sleep quality.
The warmth causes the brain to release serotonin, which encourages melatonin production. While warmth positively affects us, it has a significant drawback.
According to Sleep, increasing our core body temperature doesn’t affect melatonin output. The study found that a higher nighttime core body temperature increases arousal and disrupts sleep.
We should stay warm while we sleep, but not so warm that it increases our core body temperature.
Can Electric Blankets Cause Blood Clots?
There’s no evidence to suggest that electric blankets cause blood clots. Blood clots form when parts of our blood thicken. We see this happen when we get a cut somewhere on the body.
The blood forms around the injury and clots to prevent further blood loss and protect the damaged area. However, blood clots can occur inside blood vessels, which disrupts blood flow.
It has been found that cold weather thickens the blood. North American Journal of Medical Sciences found that the incidence of vascular diseases increases during the winter.
As the use of electric blankets naturally increases during this time, people who aren’t fully informed may partially attribute this rise to electric blankets. There is no evidence to support this claim.
Can Electric Blankets Cause Cancer?
The belief comes from the notion that exposure to the electromagnetic field radiated by electric blankets causes radiation damage. There’s no correlation between cancer and electric blankets:
- The American Journal of Epidemiology concluded that electric blankets don’t cause breast cancer.
- Bio Electro Magnets found no significant leukemogenic risks associated with electric blankets.
The SLF-EMFs (super-low frequency electromagnetic fields) are in the non-ionizing electromagnetic spectrum. Non-ionizing EMFs don’t change DNA cells the way high-energy radiation does.
Are Electric Blankets Safe for Pregnant Women?
Studies suggest electric blankets pose no risk to pregnant women or their babies.
The EMFs radiated by electric blankets are non-ionizing. They don’t change DNA cells, so any neurological birth defects in babies have nothing to do with the mother’s use of electric blankets during pregnancy.
According to Harvard University, exposure to heat during pregnancy can be linked to neural tube defects (NTDs). However, the study highlights how hot tubs contribute to NTDs, not electric blankets.
How to Use an Electric Blanket Safely
Electric blankets can be dangerous, but that doesn’t mean you should never use them. You can use electric blankets to stay warm at night while lowering the risk of injury and fire.
Safety tips that you can follow include:
- Use an electric blanket to preheat the bed.
- Use the automatic shutoff system.
- Use low-voltage electric blankets.
- Always lay the blanket flat.
- Test the electric blanket with an electrician every 2 years.
- Don’t sleep on top of an electric blanket.
- Never place another blanket on top of the electric blanket while it’s on.
Monitor the electric blanket, even if you only use it to preheat your bed. Ensure that small children and pets avoid the electric blanket as you prepare for bed.
Refer to the manufacturer’s guide to determine how long you should keep the electric blanket turned on.
How To Keep Yourself Warm in Bed
Electric blankets are popular for a reason, but given their dangers, you may want to find other ways to stay warm in bed. Instead of using an electric blanket all night, you may want to:
- Use the electric blanket for preheating.
- Adjust the room temperature.
- Wear socks at night.
- Use heavy duvets.
- Prepare a hot water bottle.
Just because electric blankets have the potential to be hazardous doesn’t mean you can never use them. As discussed, you can use them to preheat the bed and turn them off once you’re ready to sleep.
Adjust the room temperature by turning up the heating, and ensure all windows are closed to insulate the room. You may also want to get insulated curtains.
Our extremities are the first parts of our bodies that lose heat when we’re cold.
Insulating the feet with socks will make us feel warmer. Use multiple layers of winter duvets made of wool and cotton, which are materials with thermal insulation properties.
If the bed gets cold hours after being preheated with an electric blanket, there are ways to stay warm.
For example, you can put 1-2 water bottles under the covers. As long as they remain under the sheets, water bottles will stay warm for 3-6 hours.