Tis’ the season to enjoy curling up in front of your roaring fireplace at night. Or if you are in Alaska, every season.
During those colder months of the year, there’s nothing cozier than relaxing in front of a crackling fire. It’s so cozy, in fact, that you might forgo your bed and snuggle up on the floor in front of your fireplace there for the night!
But is it safe to fall asleep in front of your fireplace?
The short answer is No.
No matter what type of fireplace you have – wood-burning, gas, or electric – sleeping in front of a burning fire can be dangerous. The only exception is an electric fireplace (But this hardly classifies as a fireplace).
Before you get too comfortable in front of that glowing fire, consider some of the risks that sleeping in front of your fireplace poses.
Sleeping in front of your fireplace puts you at serious risk for carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Yep, the same nasty stuff that comes out of your car’s exhaust is given off by your fireplace.
Often referred to as the ‘silent killer’, carbon monoxide can poison and kill you before you even detect its presence. This is due to the fact that you can’t see, smell, or taste this dangerous gas.
Each year, more than 400 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning – and thousands more become seriously ill from it.1
Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels containing carbon – like coal, gasoline, wood, charcoal, kerosene or natural gas – are not burned completely.
This means that your fireplace is potentially quite hazardous to your health. And when you sleep in front of that fire, you put yourself front and center for breathing in this hazardous gas.
Burning a fire in your fireplace can quickly expose you to carbon monoxide for a few different reasons.
1. The smoke produced by burning wood contains carbon monoxide and needs an effective way to escape – usually this is through your fireplace flue. If your flue is not open, or is obstructed in any way, that CO-filled smoke can’t escape. This means that it will move into your home and put you in danger of CO poisoning.
2. Is your home on the small side? If so, burning a fire in a small space can reverse the flow of air and draw combustion gases into your living area.
Even though you don’t have to sleep directly in front of your fireplace to put yourself at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning, it can definitely speed up the rate at which it affects you due to physical proximity.
Exposure to carbon monoxide while you’re sleeping frequently results in death before you ever have a chance to experience symptoms like:
- Shortness of breath
- A loss of consciousness
Obviously if you’re already unconscious (asleep), you won’t be able to recognize these symptoms before it’s too late.
The first line of protection against carbon monoxide poisoning from sleeping in front of your fireplace is pretty obvious – don’t sleep in front of your fireplace when a fire is burning!
Beyond that, there are a few more precautions that you can take to avoid CO poisoning: 2
Install Detection – Install CO detectors throughout your home. Be sure that they meet Underwriters Laboratories (UL) safety standards and are placed in locations that adhere to local regulations.
Exhaust -Be sure to open the flue of your fireplace before every use, to help prevent carbon monoxide from building up.
Be Clean -Hire a professional chimney sweep to inspect and clean your chimney annually. This will help you avoid any clogging, blockages, or damage.
Ultimately, if you want to guarantee that you wake up in the morning, avoid sleeping in front of your fireplace.
2. Flying Sparks
Those beautiful glowing embers in your fireplace make it so tempting to snuggle up and fall asleep right in front of it. They also make doing just that extremely dangerous.
Regardless of what type of fireplace you have, there’s always the possibility for sparks to fly out of it and into your home. When you sleep in front of your fireplace, you’re that much more likely to be injured by shooting sparks.
Sparks that shoot out of your fireplace can burn your skin or ignite your hair, clothes, or bedding on fire. This is even more of a concern when you’re asleep because by the time you’re actually woken up – there’s a good chance you’ll already be on fire or seriously burned.
Avoid dealing with dangerous sparks shooting out of your fireplace by investing in a fireplace screen. While it’s still possible for some small sparks to escape through the screen, having this safety precaution in place seriously lowers the risk of this happening.
You’ll also want to make sure that you only burn appropriate materials in your fireplace like dry, seasoned wood or logs. Things like evergreen branches, paper products, or other materials are more likely to cause dangerous sparks.
Your best line of protection though, is quite simply to not sleep in front of a burning fireplace. Make sure to keep all flammable materials a safe distance from the fire as well to avoid potential house fires.3
3. Smoke Inhalation
When your fireplace isn’t properly ventilated, you put yourself at serious risk for smoke inhalation – especially if you’re snoozing directly in front of the flames.
The risk of smoke inhalation that comes with sleeping in front of your fireplace is similar to the previously mentioned risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Positioning yourself in such close proximity to fireplace smoke while sleeping makes you that much more likely to suffer from smoke inhalation.
Smoke produced by your fire needs a way to escape so that it doesn’t enter into your home. If your fireplace flue is closed or your chimney is clogged, the smoke will have nowhere to go. This will force the smoke to enter home and put you at risk for inhaling it. If smoke begins filling your home while you’re awake, you’ll likely notice it occurring and can remedy the situation before suffering from any health issues.
However, when you sleep in front of your fireplace, smoke inhalation can occur without you ever noticing.
Smoke inhalation can be very dangerous and affect you in a variety of ways:
- Heat damage: burning that occurs in and around the mouth, nose and throat
- Tissue irritation: throat and lung tissues are damaged
- Asphyxiation: a lack of oxygen that often results in suffocation and death
- Long term risks: smoke inhalation can make you more likely to develop lung cancer or heart disease
Your best line of defense for avoiding smoke inhalation is to not sleep in front of your fireplace or leave fires burning unattended.
Just Don’t Sleep in Front of Your Fire Place
Hopefully the reasons discussed here have simmered your burning desire to sleep in front of your fireplace. While it is a tempting place to sleep, it’s simply not safe.
While you can take certain steps to lower the risks that come with sleeping in front of your fireplace, the best decision is to simply not do it. Only burn fires in your home when you’re conscious and awake to enjoy them and never leave them unattended – no matter where you sleep. If you are going to bed, make sure you extinguish the fire before you fall asleep.4
Shivering cold and can’t sleep? Now that we have ruled out the fire as a source of warmth while you sleep, check out these much safer tips to sleeping warm in winter.
Do you sleep in front of your fireplace? Let me know in the comments below!