The Dangers of Sleeping in the Cold

Blizzard in a dark forest with fog in winter

Parts of the country are dealing with their first extended cold snap of the year, with temperatures staying well below freezing for days on end.  On top of that, blizzard conditions are being predicted for parts of the mid-Atlantic region for this coming weekend.  Between heavy snow and wind, power outages are assured.  How can you sleep at night in a cold house, and what are the dangers?  Here are some tips from SleepBetter:

Be careful with space heaters
Many people have generators, but in some cases those generators aren’t hooked up to run central heating.  In these cases, people may turn to electric space heaters.  Additionally, those who don’t have generators may turn to heaters fueled by flammable liquids such as kerosene.  Whether they’re electric or run by fuel, space heaters can be extremely dangerous.   Only use space heaters when there is zero chance you’ll fall asleep while they’re operating.  If you’re feeling a little sleepy, pile on the blankets instead.

Electric blankets help, but only if they’re used properly
If you have a generator that’s not hooked up to your central heating system, an electric blanket may be just what you need to keep warm while you sleep on a cold night.  There are some dangers to these lifesavers, however.  First and foremost, make sure your electric blanket is turned off when you’re not nearby.  Also, if you have a memory foam mattress or topper, note that you need to use your electric blanket a little differently.  Memory foam absorbs heat, so make sure you have a blanket in between your electric blanket and your sheet.  Start by using your electric blanket at its lowest setting, as your mattress may warm up enough that you don’t need to raise the blanket’s settings to a higher level.  Another thing to note is that if you’re using an electric blanket with your memory foam mattress or topper, expect the mattress or topper to get softer.

Fireplace safety
As with space heaters, it can be dangerous to sleep while you have a fire burning.  If you need to sleep in front a fire to stay warm, it’s best to have a glass screen you can close, so embers don’t accidentally catch carpeting or bedding on fire while you slumber.

Hypothermia
All of the cautions mentioned above are about items that could keep you warm and safe on a cold night, but it can also be dangerous to forego anything.  If you don’t have any artificial means of keeping warm, dress in layers whether you’re trying to sleep or not.  When trying to go to sleep, use a cold weather sleeping bag if one is available, and get your body all the way inside if you can.  If you have a sleeping bag that’s not rated for cold weather, line the insides with flannel blankets to increase its warmth.  Be sure to wear a warm hat, even while trying to sleep. Sharing body warmth is also a great idea.  Snuggle with family members and even family pets at night to help keep warm.  Finally, resist the urge to drink alcohol in extreme cold.  It may make you feel warmer, but in the end that’s only an illusion.

 

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