Thanks to electric blankets, we can increase our warmth beyond what our natural body heat creates in bed. However, there are risks with using an electric blanket during the night.
Sleeping with an electric blanket throughout the night is dangerous due to the risk of overheating and fire. Electric blankets cause about 13% of house fires.
Also, too much warmth can disrupt your circadian rhythm, leading to sleep loss.
Standard electric blankets function with the use of electromagnetic waves, and there are numerous myths surrounding them. So, those myths need to be cleared up.
Is It Safe to Sleep with the Electric Blanket On?
Sleeping with an electric blanket on isn’t risk-free.
They have a reputation for overheating and catching fire, even though numerous modern electric blankets have systems to prevent those accidents.
Electric blankets have been around since the 1900s. There were few safety measures, so house fires due to electric blankets overheating were common.
Electric blankets had coiled metal wires inside, which were heated up through electricity when you plugged the blanket into an outlet.
The electric blankets were made with a voltage going up to 115 watts. So, the metal wires would get too hot and burn through the fabric of the blanket itself, which would cause fires.
Modern blankets have systems in place to prevent that from happening. Since the early 2000s, most electric blankets have been equipped with automatic shutoff systems that turn the heating off after a certain time.
There are low-voltage electric blankets that function with 12-24 volts. Others have forgone the simple metal wiring for insulated wires or ones made of carbon fiber. These materials prevent overheating and electric shocks.
However, sleeping with an electric blanket on is still risky, as faulty circuitry often causes accidents. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports 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.
So, you’ll have to find other ways to stay warm in bed because leaving a working electric appliance plugged into the wall overnight is not a good idea.
What Happens If You Sleep with An Electric Blanket On?
Aside from the fire hazard, when you sleep with an electric blanket on, you risk heating your body too much and disrupting your circadian rhythm. Warming your body to the point where your core temperature is altered leads to reduced sleep quality.
This might go against other things you’ve heard since warmth is often associated with comfort and a better night’s sleep.
The warmth causes our brain to release serotonin, a chemical that encourages the production of the melatonin hormone. While warmth positively affects us, it’s only true to an extent.
According to Sleep, increasing core body temperatures doesn’t affect melatonin output. The study suggests that a higher nighttime core body temperature increases nighttime arousal and disrupts sleep.
So, we should stay warm while we sleep, but not warm enough to alter 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 commonly see this happen when we get a cut somewhere on our bodies.
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 is a problem since it can disrupt blood flow.
It has been found that cold weather thickens the blood. American hospitals report that the percentage of stroke patients increases during the winter. Because the use of electric blankets increases during this time, people who aren’t fully informed may blame the electric blankets.
Humidity is another factor, as it causes dehydration and leads to blood clots. Because summer heat usually comes with high humidity, people confuse the two and believe heat causes blood circulation problems. However, heat from electric blankets doesn’t cause blood clots.
Can Electric Blankets Cause Cancer?
Studies show that there’s no correlation between cancer and electric blankets. The myth comes from the idea that exposure to the electromagnetic field radiated by electric blankets causes radiation damage.
However, the American Journal of Epidemiology concluded that electric blankets don’t cause breast cancer in women. Another study from Bio Electro Magnets reports that there are no major leukemogenic risks associated with electric blankets.
The SLF-EMFs (super-low frequency electromagnetic fields) radiated by electric blankets are in the non-ionizing electromagnetic spectrum. Non-ionizing EMFs don’t change DNA cells the way high-energy radiation does.
Some scientists theorize that electric blankets suppress melatonin, and low melatonin levels are associated with a high risk of breast cancer.
We know that increasing your core body temperature can lead to disrupted sleep, but nothing suggests that it can lead to lower melatonin levels.
However, if electric blankets lower melatonin levels, it would only be because of an increase in core body temperature, not because of the blanket itself.
So, the myth that electric blankets are carcinogenic is a myth.
Are Electric Blankets Safe for Pregnant Women?
Studies suggest that electric blankets pose no risk to pregnant women or their babies. Many old studies regarding the issue talk about exposure to electromagnetic radiation.
However, the EMFs radiated by electric blankets are non-ionizing. They don’t change DNA cells, so any neurological birth defect in the baby has 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, this study highlights how hot tubs contribute to this defect, not electric blankets.
How to Use an Electric Blanket Safely
Electric blankets can be dangerous, but that doesn’t mean you can never use them. You can utilize electric blankets to stay warm at night while lowering the risks of causing a fire or injuring yourself.
Safety tips that you can follow include:
- Use it to pre-heat the bed instead of sleeping with it
- Use the automatic shutoff system
- Use low-voltage electric blankets
- Always lay the blanket flat
- Test out the electric blanket with an electrician every two years
- Don’t sleep on top of the electric blanket
- Never place another blanket on top of the electric blanket while it’s on
Keep a close eye on the electric blanket, even if you only use it to pre-heat your bed. Ensure that small children and pets steer clear of the blanket as you get ready for bed.
As for how long you should keep the electric blanket turned on, refer to the manufacturer’s guide.
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 keep yourself warm in bed. Instead of using an electric blanket all night, you may want to:
- Use the electric blanket to pre-heat the bed
- Adjust your room temperature
- Wear socks at night
- Use heavy duvets
- Use a hot water bottle
Just because electric blankets have the potential to be hazardous doesn’t mean you have to throw yours out. Use it to pre-heat the bed and turn it off once you’re ready to sleep.
Adjust your room temperature by turning your heating up and ensuring all your windows are closed to insulate the room. You may also want to look into getting insulated curtains.
Our extremities are the first parts of our bodies that lose heat when we’re cold. Insulating our feet with socks will keep us warmer. Use multiple layers of winter duvets made of wool and cotton, which are materials known for their thermal insulation properties.
If your bed gets cold hours after being pre-heated with an electric blanket, there are other ways to stay warm. You can always put a bunch of water bottles with warm water under the covers. As long as they stay well insulated under the sheets, they’ll stay warm for a long time.