Heating pads (not to be confused with an electric blanket) are common household products that can do wonders for sore muscles, back pain, or menstrual cramps. Personally, my heating pad is one of my most prized household health products – I use it constantly.
Ahhh…I feel relaxed just thinking about laying down and enjoying as that soothing heat radiates over my stiff and sore muscles, don’t you?
But wait – don’t get too relaxed just yet!
While your heating pad may seem like it’s totally harmless, if used improperly, it can actually put you in extreme danger.
Sleeping with your heating pad on is a prime example of a BIG no-no when it comes to proper use – maybe the biggest.
I hate to break it to you but if you’re heating pad is your favorite sleeping buddy, it’s time to kick your hot little friend out of bed.
Trust me, I know how tempting it can be to just drift off to sleep in the warm embrace of your heating pad. I suffer from horrific menstrual cramps and my heating pad has long been my best tool for fighting them – especially when I’m sleeping. And in winter? My heating pad helped warm my bed to a comfortable sleeping temperature.
But not anymore! I’m here to tell you – no more sleeping with your heating pad!
That is, only if you care about your health and well-being of course.
Not convinced? Join me as I examine some of the ways that sleeping with your heating pad can be hazardous to your health and safety.
1. Sleeping Pads Can Burn Your House Down
Over 2,000 people die each year in home fires.
Okay, so not all of those fires started by people falling asleep with their heating pads – but some did.
When using any type of electrical product, especially one that heats up like a heating pad, there’s the possibility of it catching on or starting a fire. This is why it’s critical that you remain conscious and alert when using a heating pad – or any other electrical product.
Say something goes wrong and your heating pad suddenly catches on fire. If you’re sound asleep when this happens, it may be too late to save yourself or your family by the time your woken up by the flames.
But how exactly does a seemingly properly working heating pad just start a fire?
I’m glad you asked.
There are a variety of possible reasons that your heating pad may start a fire
- Sparking from the wiring, plug, or outlet.
- Frayed wires.
- Holes present in the fabric covering.
- An improperly functioning on/off switch or temperature control.
- Lack of automatic shutoff mechanism.
- Use around flammable objects like plastic pillow or mattress covers.
With older model heating pads, you run an even greater risk of fire since almost none of these have temperature control or automatic shut-off. Plus, there’s a far greater chance they’re simply worn out – making a short-circuiting incident much more likely.
When using a heating pad, you always run risk that it will start a fire for any of the abovementioned reasons – but if you’re sleeping when it happens, you might not be able to put that fire out and keep the destruction to a minimum in time.
Bottom line – don’t sleep with your heating pad if you want to avoid getting stuck in a dangerous house fire.
2. Heating Pads Can Burn You In Your Sleep
Usually burns are associated with fire – or the sun – but rarely heating pads.
After all, isn’t there some kind of temperature control build-in to protect people from that?
Well, yes, most newer heating pads have a built-in temperature control mechanism. But even a heating pad set at the temperature lowest setting can burn you if it’s left on the skin for too long – like while you’re sleeping.
It’s actually possible to sustain first, second, or even third degree burns from the prolonged use of a heating pad in one area of your body.
Seems strange, right? Wouldn’t you feel a heating pad burning you and promptly remove it?
Not if you’re sleeping.
And even if you’re a very light sleeper, think about it – when you get sunburnt, you don’t actually feel the painful burn until its already happened. If you did, no one would ever get a sunburn!
Same concept with heating pads.
Sleeping with your heating pad on delivers constant heat to one area of your body. Over those long nighttime hours, that continuous heat slowly cooks your skin.
Falling asleep with a heating pad on will likely have you waking up with a painful patch of red skin that may even require medical attention.
This can be especially dangerous for people with diabetes or other medical conditions that cause them to have reduced skin sensitivity. They will have a hard time feeling the pain of the burn, making it even more dangerous.1
The goal of using a heating pad is to apply some element of heat to injuries or cramps, not to fry your skin off. Avoid painful heating pad burns by removing (and unplugging) your heating pad before falling asleep.
3. Heating Pads Can Actually Cause Circulation and Inflammation While You Sleep
When you heat up a sore muscle, it effectively increases blood flow to that area and opens the muscle up. This is why a heating pad can be so soothing and is a very useful device for treating that sore neck that you woke up with.
The problem with this is that increasing blood flow to one area of muscle for too long can also increase inflammation.2
Wait, huh? I thought the whole point of heating a sore muscle was to reduce inflammation?
Yes and no. Really, it’s cold temperatures that more effectively reduce inflammation and hot temperatures that alleviate pain. However, some application of heat can in fact help with inflammation – if applied correctly.
If done incorrectly, you’re only temporarily soothing your sore muscle and ultimately worsening your overall pain. Applying heat to an injured muscle for too long, like when sleeping, will only result in a slower healing process and increased pain once the heat is removed.
Most medical professionals advise that you apply heat for twenty minutes and then remove it for twenty minutes, continuing this process as long as needed.1
The other issue with the increased blood flow to one area is that it impacts your circulation.
When you heat up one area for a long period of time, like when you’re sleeping through the night, the blood essentially gets trapped there and isn’t able to circulate to other areas. This can lead to painful tissue damage and future circulation issues.
Your heating pad should soothe your pain and injuries, not make them worse! In order to avoid injury or recurring issues with circulation, do not sleep with your heating pad on.
Heating Pad Safety
If it hasn’t been made clear already, the number one safety rule with heating pads is…
…DO NOT SLEEP WITH YOUR HEATING PAD!
If you are even the slightest bit worried that you may fall asleep with your heating pad on, try one of these options instead of an electrical heating pad:
Use a circulating hot water pad or a hypo/hyperthermia machine – Most hospitals use these devices because the temperature is thermostatically controlled which allows them to be more safe for sleeping or unconscious patients.
Make your own sleep-safe DIY heating pad – Take a small cloth sack or even and old sock and fill it with grains or rice. This can be microwaved and used effectively as a heating pad without any danger!
Purchase ThermaCare Heat Wraps. These self-heating little packets can be stuck in your clothes or under your body for muscle relief without any health risks.
Do you sleep with a heating pad? Let me know in the comments below!