Some of us prefer to sleep on top of the covers and avoid contact with them, while others prefer to sleep underneath bedsheets, leaving no exposure to the outside world.
Sleeping with your head under the covers offers protection from external stimulation, dulling any light and muffling sound, making sleeping easier at night.
Also, sleeping under the covers keeps us warm, reducing pain in the neck and enhancing feelings of psychological security.
However, there are risks to sleeping with your head under the covers, so this position isn’t suitable for everybody. Understanding the hazards of covering your head is essential.
Why Do I Like to Sleep with my Head Under the Covers?
Everybody has a preferred position for sleeping, although it usually revolves around whether we lie on our back, side, or stomach. One thing that is less often discussed is the use of blankets.
Some people can’t sleep with blankets and covers anywhere near their faces. On the other hand, others will only feel comfortable if blankets entirely cover them from head to toe.
If you fall into the latter category, there could be many reasons why you feel comfortable with your head under the covers.
Explanations of why you may wish to sleep with the head under the covers include:
- Dulling of any lights or noise in your vicinity
- Feelings of security
- Warmth afforded by enclosing the head
The British Medical Journal considers head covering a common and avoidable symptom of sudden infant death syndrome, but some adults feel comfortable in this sleep position.
Advantages of Sleeping with the Head Under the Covers
If you find it difficult to sleep without completely covering your head with bedsheets, don’t worry. This is perfectly normal, and it could even benefit your health.
One of the biggest reasons to sleep with your head under the covers is the lack of distractions around you. If you’re a highly sensitive person or light sleeper, the world can be filled with lights and sounds that prevent you from nodding off.
Sleeping with your head under the covers won’t provide complete sensory deprivation, but it can go some way to helping you sleep. It’ll block out light from streetlights outside your window and could muffle ambient noises, such as traffic.
Sleeping with your head under the covers can bolster the human immune system. In theory, this makes little sense as you’ll breathe in stale and recycled air.
This is true, but you’ll also breathe in warmer air. This will reduce the risk of developing an upper respiratory infection, such as the common cold or influenza.
Neck Protection and Healing
According to Spine, 13.8% of adults report chronic neck pain that lasts at least six months.
Some of the most frequent causes of neck pain include:
- Muscular strains are usually caused by poor posture when seated at a computer.
- Musculoskeletal concerns include osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.
- Whiplash and soft tissue injuries are caused by excessive neck movement.
- Compressed nerves, including bone spurs or herniated discs.
These conditions will need medical intervention to resolve permanently.
The pain and discomfort they cause can be managed, though. Sleeping with your head under the covers can be a helpful step toward achieving this aim.
This position will protect the neck, in addition to offering more warmth. As the neck isn’t exposed to cold air, it’ll remain comfortable. Sleeping with your head under the covers can provide the same comfort as a scarf or snood for a sore neck.
Stress and anxiety keep countless people awake at night.
Whether you’re struggling to nod off or woken up multiple times by unwelcome thoughts or worries, psychological strain can negatively impact the ability to gain quality rest.
Placing the head under the covers creates a sense of safety and calm for some people. This theoretically dates to childhood, when many of us hide from perceived threats by hiding under a blanket. As the adage claims, old habits are the hardest to break.
Placing your head under the covers will also trigger a psychological reaction similar to ‘swaddling’ an infant. Experts claim that this feels comforting as it reminds us of the womb.
Of course, this doesn’t apply to everybody. If you have claustrophobia, for example, wrapping yourself up in bedsheets may create feelings of panic and discomfort.
However, if you enjoy the sensation, it may help you relax and naturally doze off.
Disadvantages of Sleeping with the Head Under the Covers
Despite the benefits, you need to consider the hazards:
We discussed how sleeping with your head under the covers would help you doze, as it blocks light and sound. While that’s usually considered a good thing, it could lead to dulled reactions in an emergency.
If you cannot hear clearly as your head is under the covers, you may not be able to hear a fire alarm or similar warning sound. Equally, if you’re tangled up in bedsheets, you may not be able to react quickly.
Arguably the most significant hazard of sleeping with your head under the covers is the limit it places on oxygen. It’s always easier to take a deep breath and enjoy a lungful of clean air when our mouths and faces aren’t covered.
This restricted oxygen will send a warning signal to the brain, potentially waking you up multiple times at night. This broken sleep will quickly grow frustrating and take its toll on your health in the morning.
Under extreme circumstances, you could even risk severe sickness. Essays in Biochemistry correlate hypoxia (a lack of oxygen to critical organs, including the brain) to Alzheimer’s disease.
Risk of Breathing Disorders
Sleeping under the covers magnifies your asthma or COPD risk. You’ll be breathing in all manner of bacteria and germs under your sheets without the ability to expel the used air and breathe in a cleaner alternative.
If you already have a respiratory issue, this will quickly become problematic. At best, you’ll be woken up in the struggle for breath. Even more concerning is the possibility of suffocation. It’s a long shot, but it can happen.
Sleep apnea will also be enhanced by dozing with your head under the covers. The noise may not be such a concern – sleeping with your head covered will likely muffle snoring sounds, but the potential hazards to your breathing must also be addressed.
Sleeping with your head under the covers will undoubtedly keep you warm. As confirmed by the Journal of Applied Physiology, heat from the body is lost through the head. However, by covering this body part, thermal regulation is more consistent.
Under ordinary circumstances, this is a good thing because few of us enjoy feeling cold. The body must cool off overnight, so wrapping yourself under the covers can disrupt sleep. It’s better to sleep in cool conditions than somewhere hot and stifling.
If you need to stay warm while sleeping, use a hot water bottle or another temporary measure. Then, lift your head out from the covers.
This is more likely to keep you comfortable without disturbing your sleep as the night wears on.
How To Safely Sleep with Your Head Under the Covers
Having discussed the side effects of covering your face while sleeping, you may consider sleeping with your head under the covers too dangerous. This is not necessarily the case, as you need to ensure you adopt an optimum position.
To safely sleep with your head under the covers, follow these steps:
- Keep the blanket loose. Don’t mummify yourself in a blanket – keep it flexible enough to be breathable. A thin material on the sheets, such as silk, is beneficial.
- Lay on your back. It’s less likely that you’ll get wrapped up in a blanket and restrict your breathing.
- Use a lightweight cover. It may be tempting to sleep under a heavyweight duvet in the winter but stick with light covers to aid breathing. Use heavier blankets further down the bed for warmth.
- Keep the area above your head clear. Don’t erect shelves or anything that could drop on your head.
If sleeping with your head under the covers makes you feel secure and ensures that you sleep well, there’s nothing wrong with the position. Just ensure that you do so safely, always ensuring that you can breathe easily and remain alert to any concerns that may arise.