There’s a lot of information available about safe sleep for babies—which is so important—but what about safe sleep for the rest of us? After all, when you’re asleep, it’s a potentially vulnerable time. But it turns out there are concrete steps we can take to sleep more safely—and that can help us sleep more soundly.
1. Sleep with your bedroom door closed
Sleeping with your bedroom door closed buys you critical time in the event of a fire. Whether from candles, clothes dryers, faulty wiring or countless other causes, many fires start at night while people are sleeping. It’s sobering to know that you are more likely to die in a fire at home, than anywhere else, according to FEMA. Decades ago, you had 17 minutes to get out of your house alive. Today, because of open floor plans and other factors that make residential fires burn faster, you have 3 minutes or less, according to extensive testing by Underwriters Labs. Fortunately, closing your bedroom door each night is a simple, yet little-known measure that can save your life. A regular wooden door is remarkably effective at keeping the heat, smoke and flames at bay, giving you extra time to escape. And, the best part about this tip: it’s free!
2. Be Sure Your Mattress Is Made with Certified Foam
A non-profit group called CertiPUR-US puts mattress foam through rigorous, independent testing and surprise spot checks to make sure it’s made without chemicals of concern like formaldehyde, tris flame retardants—and more. I was so impressed with the CertiPUR-US program that I partnered with them to help get the word out. Certified foams meet exacting standards for content, emissions and durability and are analyzed by accredited laboratories. It’s like a health check-up for foam. The CertiPUR-US program was started 10 years ago, so if your mattress is more than 10-years-old, it may contain things you would rather not sleep on if you care about indoor air quality. Indoor air quality is an important consideration to a growing number of consumers, who want to be certain the foam used in their mattresses and upholstered furniture is free from restricted and potentially harmful chemicals. You spend a third of your life sleeping on your mattress. You should feel comfortable doing so—in more ways than one! You can verify that any mattress you are buying contains certified foam by checking the list on the CertiPUR-US website.
3. Don’t Ignore Common Signs of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a serious and possibly fatal disorder that affects an estimated 12 million people in the U.S. And yet 80 percent of those with sleep apnea — a disorder where you top breathing while you sleep—are undiagnosed, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association. And that’s alarming because sleep apnea can kill you—either quickly, when you stop breathing, or over the long haul because it causes other health problems like high blood pressure and heart disease. Other potential problems: stroke, diabetes, depression and automobile accidents caused by falling asleep at the wheel. The sleeper is generally unaware that he or she has stopped breathing because these episodes don’t trigger a full awakening. Snoring, gasping for breath and waking with a morning headache are three of the most common signs. The ASAA offers simple tests to help you determine if you may have this common disorder. If this sounds familiar to anybody watching, they should get to a good sleep doctor and get diagnosed.
4. Download a disaster alert app
Some of the people who died in those awful California wildfires the last two years, had no idea how close the flames had gotten while they were sleeping—and never woke up. The solution is to sign up for disaster alerts on your cell phone. These loud warnings will also give you a heads up about other disasters like tornadoes, flash floods, chemical spills—and so on. Many counties offer disaster alerts or you can sign up for the Red Cross’s alert system, which will cover you whether you’re at home or away. The Red Cross mobile app detects your exact location via GPS and will sound an alert customized to where you are. It’s always a good idea to know the county you’re in when you are traveling because many warning messages use county, rather than town, names.
5. Travel with a portable carbon monoxide detector
I hope anybody reading this has already installed carbon monoxide detectors in their own home. This odorless, colorless gas is one of the top causes of fatal poisoning. That’s why it’s also important to take precautions for a safer night’s sleep when you travel. In recent years there have been multiple news stories about families dying of carbon monoxide poisoning while on vacation. Think about it. Many other countries you might visit do not require carbon monoxide detectors—even in hotels. And if you stay in a private house or apartment, which is so popular now, half the states in the U.S. do not require carbon monoxide detectors in homes either. Why take the chance of dying from this odorless, colorless gas? For $15 to $50, you can buy a handy portable carbon monoxide detector. Some use batteries. Others plug in. It could save your life.