Can You Suffocate In A Sleeping Bag? 3 Tips To Ease Your Mind

To those that don’t suffer from even mild forms of claustrophobia, this might seem like an odd question. But to anyone who is even slightly put off by being in enclosed spaces for long periods of time, this question makes a lot of sense. Sleeping outdoors inside a tent, and then inside a sleeping bag inside that tent, is an uncomfortable thought for many people – and suffocation feels like a genuine threat to them. So, can you suffocate in a sleeping bag? In order to answer that, you need to think about a few things.

Air Flow Concerns When Sleeping

First, in order for you to suffocate in any walk of life, you need to be completely restricted from the air. That means the amount of oxygen you are breathing in is at a whopping zero. Now, in order for that to happen in a sleeping bag, you would need several things to stack against you. One of the main things would be that there would have to be no air coming into your tent or sleeping bag. But the likelihood of this happening is ridiculously slim.

You have to remember that manufacturers of sleeping bags and tents have to meet certain industry standards, and one of those is making sure that there are plenty of air inlets. To be blunt, a sleeping bag wouldn’t be on the market if the likelihood of suffocation was high, because that’s pretty bad for business.

Another way in which you could theoretically (and that’s theoretically only here) suffocate in a sleeping bag would be if they designed the sleeping bag to be airtight, and there was no way for you to get out of it. Now obviously, manufacturers don’t create sleeping bags like this. They aren’t designed to cover a person entirely, and nobody using a sleeping bag would purposefully cover their entire body and head with the material when simply trying to sleep. But, and it’s a huge “but”, if you somehow managed to do all of that accidentally and restrict your air at the same time, you still have the ability to get yourself out of the sleeping bag.

A sleeping bag isn’t designed to lock you in. Manufacturers know customers might need to get out of their sleeping bag quickly in the event of another emergency such as a fire. Even in a less dire situation, manufacturers know you might simply need to pop to the loo quickly in the night. So, no matter the fastening that keeps you in your sleeping bag at night time, there’s always a quick way to undo it and get yourself out. 

Manufacturers would have had to test this to make sure people can get out in a hurry, or else we could blame them for deaths in the event of a fire. Whether it’s a zip, buttons, or any other fastening you can think of, if it’s on your sleeping bag, it’s because you can get out of it again quickly if need be. So accidental suffocation whilst in a sleeping bag is nearly impossible.

Unfortunate Event Cocktail

If you’re somebody who worries a lot about these sorts of things, then maybe you noticed the ‘nearly’ above when we said ‘accidental death is nearly impossible. That’s because the likelihood of all of that happening is incredibly slim. As close to zero as you can possibly imagine. But is it still possible? Well, yes, but you’d have to be the unluckiest person in the world to suffocate accidentally in a sleeping bag.

If, for example, you accidentally covered your head entirely in your sleep in the sleeping bag’s material, closed off all possible air, failed to wake up from the sheer discomfort of not being able to breathe properly, and then made sure that all air inlets were closed off to the point that you were unable to get any oxygen into your body at all, then yes, you could suffocate.

We tell you this not to scare you, but to highlight just how unlikely that is. The chances of all of those things coming together in a frightening cocktail of disaster are practically zero. So whilst, yes, theoretically it’s possible, we’re here to tell you that the likelihood of it happening is so slim, that it definitely shouldn’t be a concern of yours if you’re packing up this weekend for a camping trip.

Likelihood Of It Actually Happening Is Ridiculously Slim

This is the most important thing to keep in mind if you’re somebody who is genuinely worried about this sort of thing. Hopefully, this post hasn’t come across as dismissive of your concerns in any way, because believe us, we know what it’s like to worry about things that most people probably never think about. But what we really wanted to do was drive home the point about the chances of suffocation in a sleeping bag being so slim, that worrying about it truly is a waste of your time.

Camping trips are supposed to be fun, you’re supposed to be able to go away and leave all your troubles behind whilst you reconnect with nature and enjoy the company you keep. It’s not time to think about the sheer unlikelihood of suffocation in a sleeping bag. So, read this article (read it twice if you have to) and then let your worries go.

How To Prevent Losing Oxygen When in A Sleeping Bag

We get it now, the likelihood is super low that you actually suffocate in your sleeping bag. In fact, you have much higher odds of getting into a bad car accident on the way to the campsite than you do suffocating in your sleep from the sleeping bag. But, it never hurts to have some plans in place that will even further place the odds in your favor when you head out camping. Following these steps below are a few things you can do to prevent any chance of suffocation:

Know Your Sleeping Bag Materials

We live in a time where companies outsource products to the lowest bidder and in some cases, we don’t know much about our product other than the fact that we saved some cash. Well, when it comes to sleeping bags and how they are made, most have breathable fabrics and designs that keep the airflow going no matter how zipped up inside you are. Know your materials before heading out camping for that piece of mind that your bag is breathable no matter how you sleep. Check out this good article from Backpacker about sleeping bag breathability.

Don’t Trap Yourself Inside

Some sleeping bags could have a cheap “waterproof” lining or sleeping bag cover that is in fact, air-tight. If this is the case, this would not be the type of sleeping bag you want to keep your entire face, nose, and mouth inside the bag and zipped up. There is a potential in that scenario for a dramatic decrease in available oxygen levels. If the caping you are heading to has extremely low temperatures planned, you may want to invest in a good Extreme Cold Weather Sleeping Bag which will keep you warm and limit your desire to shrink up inside your bag hiding from the cold.

Keep your Nose and Mouth Outside Of The Sleeping Bag

If you’re unsure about materials, or simply dont trust it, the fool proof way to keep your self fro suffocating, is to keep your head, nose and mouth external from the sleeping bag so that there is constantly a flow of available oxygen. To be fair, I personally have crawled too far inside my bag and then had a mini-panic attack at 2am when I woke up and couldn’t locate the zipper lol.

Wrapping Up

Hopefully, by laying out the various ways in which suffocation is theoretically possible, you can see that it just isn’t likely at all. A series of unlucky events would have to all blend to cause such a tragic event to happen, and the chances become so minuscule when you look at how they would all have to combine to create the perfect recipe for disaster.

So, we can say with complete confidence that you are far more likely to just have an amazing time on your trip than you are to face such a tragic situation like the one you’ve been worrying about. So go, have fun, enjoy camping for all the joy it can bring, and be reassured in the fact that suffocation in a sleeping bag just simply isn’t likely at all!

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