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Should you sleep with your bedroom door open or closed?
The question seems innocent enough, but the answer is actually quite serious.
Keeping your bedroom door closed at night significantly increases your chances of surviving a household fire. However, only 29% of Americans regularly sleep with their bedroom door closed. Worse, over half of adults sleep with their door open, under the mistaken belief that it keeps them safer in case of a fire.
Those stats were taken from a survey of over 3,200 adults conducted by the Underwriter Laboratories Firefighter Safety Research Institute. These are the same folks behind the UL mark and safety certification you see on various household products, like your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. This survey was the end result of a ten-year research campaign, during which researchers analyzed how open vs. closed windows and doors affect how quickly a fire spreads throughout a house.
While fire safety is the primary reason you should sleep with your bedroom door closed, it’s not the only reason to keep your door shut during shut-eye. We review all of them below.
According to the UL FSRI research, as a fire spreads, rooms with closed doors will maintain temperatures under 100 degrees Fahrenheit, compared with over 1,000 degrees in the rooms with open doors. That temperature difference can mean the difference between life and death. For a shocking visual demonstration of what happens when you don’t close your bedroom door, watch the “Close Before You Doze” campaign video they shared on Facebook. It’s racked up over 10 million views to date.
Here’s why keeping your bedroom door closed is so vital to your safety in the event of a household fire:
Fire needs oxygen to keep burning. By keeping your doors closed, you cut off the oxygen supply and help contain the fire. This feels counterintuitive to many of us, as we think opening a door will help let the smoke out. But in fact, it’s safer to close all the doors in your home (and if you can do so safely, close them as you’re leaving during the fire).
This keeps the fire and smoke contained. As a result, you and the other residents will have more time to escape safely—and firefighters will have more time to respond and save you and your property.
As Stephen Kerber, Director of the UL FSRI, explains: “People think, ‘Well, there’s smoke in my house. I want to let the smoke out.’ Yes, you’re letting the smoke out, but you’re letting the air in, and that’s where the problem occurs. With the doors and windows closed, the fire won’t have oxygen to burn and it’s going to stay right there, giving other people in the house more time to get out and also helping protect your property.”
Time is of the essence when it comes to surviving a household fire. Unfortunately, thanks to the way modern homes are constructed, with open floor plans and different types of furnishings, fires can spread much more quickly now. In 1980, a person had roughly 17 minutes to escape a burning home. Today, they have less than 3 minutes.
Clearly, the biggest argument in favor of sleeping with your door closed is home safety. But it’s not the only one. When sleep science and feng shui experts weigh in, they also agree: a closed bedroom door is better for sleep.
The ideal temperature for sleep is in the low to mid-60 degrees Fahrenheit. Getting your bedroom to this cool temperature can be tough during hotter summer months, but if you keep your bedroom door closed, it’s easier to contain the cool air. Depending on your air conditioning system, you may be able to just spend the money cooling that room of the house.
In the winter, you may have to do the reverse, depending on how cold it is where you live. Keeping the door closed makes it easier to both heat the bedroom up to that temperature, and keep it steady once it reaches it.
Either way, closing your door at night simply makes for a more energy-efficient bedroom, and a better one for restful sleep.
It’s also better feng shui to keep your bedroom door closed. Feng shui is all about keeping positive energy (or “chi”) in a continuously flowing loop. Leaving your bedroom door open while you sleep allows that energy to flow out, letting negative energy enter in in its place.
Feng shui also recommends closing all other doors in your bedroom while you sleep, to avoid any positive chi from getting trapped. This include closet doors, interior bathroom doors, and even dresser drawers.
There are more sleep benefits to sleeping with your bedroom door closed. For many people, closing the door promotes a sense of security, which makes it easier for them to fall asleep.
It can also shut out noise from other parts of your house, which might otherwise wake you up or disturb your sleep. A bedroom door makes it easy to ignore buzzing electronics or night owl roommates.
Well, according to a 2017 study in the Netherlands, keeping a window or door open in the bedroom may be important for ventilation. As we breathe during the night, the carbon dioxide level in our bedrooms increases while we sleep. According to the study, this may have a small impact on our sleep quality. However, this study was limited in scope, and there were only 17 participants.
Plus, you can easily counteract these effects by sleeping with a window open (although that undoes the energy-efficiency and feng shui principles we discussed above), or by leaving your bedroom door open during the day to allow fresh air to flow through.
To stay safe and sleep well, keep your bedroom door closed at night. Also ensure that you have working smoke alarms installed inside every bedroom, and outside each sleeping area, and that they’re loud enough to wake you up should they go off.
The National Fire Protection Association recommends using interconnected smoke alarms so you’re alerted as soon as there’s smoke or fire in any part of the house. Regularly check the batteries, replace them when they expire, and practice a escape plan with your family.