The dancing of a candle flame is soothing, it provides a great scent and really creates an atmosphere in which you can relax. We all love lighting a candle when we are winding down for the evening and starting to get ready for bed, it gets us in the mood to go to sleep, I looked into this topic and this is what I found. Is it safe to sleep with a candle lit?
It is not safe to sleep with a candle lit. This is because the longer a candle burns the hotter it and its container will get, increasing the chance of an incident. In addition, If the container breaks, a pet knocks it over or it catches fire it could burn down your home or worse.
Even with a candle that can be in a holder where you know nothing can happen. Like a small tea light in a jar or a holder, it is still too risky for me and my family.
This is because of Murphy’s law.
Murphy’s Law – a supposed law of nature, expressed in various humorous popular sayings, to the effect that anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
Still, there are a lot of legitimate and serious issues with sleeping with a candle lit. Let’s take a look at some of them now.
Risks to sleeping with a candle lit
Let’s examine the risks of sleeping with a candle lit.
Risks To Sleeping With A Candle Lit
- Some candles can be toxic
- Fills your room with soot
- Jar candle is in busts
- Something knocks candle over
- Nearby objects could catch fire
Some candles can be toxic
Some candles are just toxic. It is probably not a good idea to increase the amount of time you are exposed to these candles further.
Certain fragrance oil additives use chemicals to achieve their artificial scents that can be toxic, in addition, paraffin wax itself is toxic.
Paraffin wax is a petroleum byproduct and is known to release toluene and benzene as it burns. These are what are known as carcinogens or cancer-causing agents.
Exposure through normal use may not be quite as risky but why extend that exposure to when you are sleeping.
In addition, the U.S. imports oil and produces its own soybeans. So by using soy wax candles over paraffin wax candles you are supporting American farmers over foreign oil producers.
Fills your room with soot
If you sleep with a candle, the candle may burn so long that carbon builds up on the wick, causing the wick to become disfigured or “mushroomed”“. This makes the candle’s flame become distorted. The distorted flame produces soot and smoke.
The soot and smoke can leave black spots on your walls, ceiling, curtains and you can even inhale it and get it in your lungs.
In October 2009, a woman in the United Kingdom left a candle burning while taking a nap before work.
She later woke up exhaling black smoke and coughing up black phlegm, in a room that was filled with smoke.
She has to be put on oxygen and was told if she had slept much longer, she probably would not have woken up and may have died in her sleep.
You can find more information about her story here.
Jar candle is in busts
If you let a candle burn so long that all of the wax melts, the wick can float off-center and cause the candle to burn irregularly.
When the wick goes off-center the flame will be closer to one side of the jar, making it much hotter than the other side. This temperature differential can cause the jar to burst, throwing hot glass and spilling hot wax wherever the candle is sitting.
This has actually happened to me.
It was one of those days where I was sitting at my computer for hours on end, the wife and gone, visiting her family. Giving me a chance to catch up on all my favorite YouTubers and play games.
I had a Yankee Buttercream candle (my favorite) burning beside me and I let it burn so long that the wick went off-center and started heating the side of the jar.
The next thing I know the side of the jar the candle is in explodes sending shards of glass all over my desk and keyboard as well as molten wax droplets and spilling hot wax out on to my desk.
I learned to pay more attention to my candles that day.
Something knocks the candle over
Suppose you are sleeping and a cat, dog, bird, child, or earthquake knock over your candle. The candle doesn’t go out, instead, it keeps burning melting more wax away from the wick letting the flame get bigger and bigger until it catches something else on fire.
Yes… I am that paranoid.
It is also a very real threat.
Not to mention, depending on the pet or child, I guess, candles can also be harmful to their health. Take a look at the article I wrote about pets and candles titled Are Candles Bad For Pets?
According to CBS, candles cause an estimated 18,000 house fires every year. You can find more about that here.
Nearly half of all candle sparked fires start in the bedroom.
With stats like that perhaps I am not so paranoid after all.
Nearby objects could catch fire
Hopefully, you do not use your candles as seen in the picture above. That is just asking for trouble!
Items near the candle can be at risk of contributing to a fire if it gets hot enough. Books, papers, even the desk or table the candle is sitting on can become a problem.
Some basic candle tips to follow
- Never burn a candle for less than one hour
- Never burn a candle for longer than four hours
- Trim the wick after every use to at least 1/4 of an inch
- Put the lid back on when the candle cools
Never burn for less than one hour
When you burn a candle for less than one hour, if it has not had a chance to melt the wax completely across the surface of the candle you could damage the wax memory.
When you damage the wax memory you can create a tunneling candle in which the wick becomes too short to completely melt the surface wax.
This can be a pain to fix because it can get messy. You can see how to do that here in my article about Candle Tunneling.
Never burn longer than four hours
When you burn a candle for longer than 4 hours the wick can begin to mushroom and burn irregularly. The wax pool gets deep and lets the wick go off-center which can heat the glass disproportionately and cause the container to bust.
Blowing it out after 4 hours and keeping the wick trimmed can help avoid that unpleasant situation.
If you look at the packaging your candle came in, or perhaps the sticker on the bottom of the candle it should provide the suggested burn times to you. Always follow the suggested burn times.
Trim the wick after every use
As mentioned above, a long or mushroomed wick can cause all kinds of problems.
The wick should be trimmed to 1/4 of an inch and the flame should never be taller than 1 inch.
This will regulate the burn speed of the candle and how much wax melts at once giving you the best candle burning experience.
Put the lid back on when the candle cools
This will keep the wick and the wax clean and a clean candle will burn clean with little to no soot. If your candle gets loaded with dust or debris it will all get pulled to the wick where it can cause an irregular flame.
An irregular flame can be larger than a normal flame or just burn in a way that fills your room with soot. Which could cause respiratory issues and even put you in the hospital.
Some tips to prevent candle fires
There are a few things you can do to help protect you, your family, and your home from candle related fires.
Tips to prevent candle fires
- Do not touch or move a candle while the wax is liquefied
- Never burn a candle on or near anything that might catch fire
- Keep candles out of the reach of children or pets
- Never leave a burning candle unattended
You can find more candle fire safety tips with the National Candle Association here.
Sleep time alternatives to candles
You have some alternatives to candles that might help replace what you are missing at bed time. Let’s take a look.
Alternatives To Candles
- Essential Oil Diffuser
- Reed Diffuser
- Flameless candles
- Wax warmers
- Salt lamp
- Room Spray
Essential Oil Diffuser
If it is the smell of a scented candle that helps you relax then an essential oil diffuser has you covered. When you have an oil diffuser you wont even have to think about sleeping with a candle lit anymore.
The great thing about essential oil diffusers is that they have settings you can use for intermittent mist or continuous mist. This means that you do not have to let it run all night, it can shut off shortly after you fall asleep.
They come in a variety of styles, colors and some of them light up which makes it an even better replacement for a candle than some of the other options on list.
A reed diffuser might not have the flash of a candle or the throw of an oil diffuser but it is still a great way to get a soothing fragrance through your room before bedtime.
No threat of fire, no batteries and no need to plug anything in it may be one of the safest alternatives on the list.
Reed diffusers work through evaporation. The sticks help carry the oil from the container and make it easier for it to evaporate into the air adding to the fragrance of the room wherever it is placed.
Incense has been in use for thousands of years. It has uses such as meditation, relaxation, reducing stress, anxiety and even helping people sleep.
Incense is also one of the cheapest alternatives to candles on the list.
While the fragrance from incense is somewhat different than what you get from most of these on the list and it might not be tolerated by everyone it is still very popular with some people.
If you just love the visual of a glowing candle then this is the best option for you. You can get flameless candle that has multiple light and timer settings to help replicate the visual of a candle.
This is a great option to create the ambiance and atmosphere of a candle without the risk that comes along with a flame.
The best part is that if you forget about one of these flameless candles and go to sleep the worst that can happen is that it will shut off at whatever you had set the timer for.
If you wake up in the middle of the night in need of some light it also has a light setting on the remove that will be handy to keep beside your bed.
An electric wax warmer with a light bulb that melts the wax tarts can also be a great way to get a nice glow and a nice scent.
You get both the benefit of scented wax, like from a scented candle, and some light but without the open flame that may potentially burn your house down.
Some wax warmers use a tealight to warm the wax which has some risk, although less than most candles. This wax warmer, however, runs on electricity and would be plugged in to the nearest outlet.
Salt lamps are lamps made with Himalayan pink salt. They provide a soft light that is both relaxing and soothing. They are also a great alternative to candles if all you are wanting to do is add to the rooms ambiance and atmosphere.
The risks with a salt lamp are minimal, you have no risk of an open flame like with a candle, however, they do plug into an outlet so be mindful of that as with every other electrical lamp in your home.
You can also buy 100% essential oil room sprays. You can find your favorite essential oils with all the benefits in a convenient and easy-to-use spray.
This isn’t as fun as some of the other options, or as nice to look at but if all you want is the fragrances then this is the way to go.
There are more fragrances and brands than I can mention but you can find the popular Volcano fragrance in a room spray as well as room sprays from one of my favorite candle makers PF Candle Co.
I know potpourri is not as popular as it once was but it is still a viable option for someone that wants their room to smell good without the risks associated with a conventional candle.
It is less dangerous than a candle and more fun to look at than a spray can. Although, it’s probably not as effective as the spray can.
One of the great things about potpourri is that it has a little bit of that DIY and customize-able factor to it. You can gather the ingredients and make the holder yourself.
Pick the fragrances you like while making it to be visually pleasing to you. Add in a little essential oil and you will have a risk free way to keep your home smelling great without any fire, electricity or harsh chemicals.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Hours Can A Candle Burn?
Candles should not be burned longer than four hours at a time. Any longer than this and the wax and the container will become too hot to handle due to the wick becoming too long. You can read more about that in my article titled How Long Can A Candle Burn.
Why Does My Candle Put Off Soot When It Burns?
This is likely due to the wick needing to be trimmed. You can read more about that in my article titled Why Is My Candle Giving Off Black Smoke.
Do Candles Burn Out On Their Own?
Under ideal circumstances, most candles will burn out on their own. However, it is always safest for you to extinguish the candle yourself rather than take the chance it will burn out on its own.
In conclusion, candles create a great aesthetic and a wonderful atmosphere to help you get ready for bed. I like to burn a candle almost every night as my evening is winding down.
It is nice and relaxing to sit back and relax reading a book, listening to a podcast, or watching an episode of my favorite TV show before bed while a candle is burning.
You can also choose from one of the great alternatives to candles. It seems like an option really exists for everyone.
You have choices that provide a nice soothing candle like glow, and you have options that provide the fragrances that we all love.
You even have options that can do both.
However, if you decide to stick with a candle, just make sure you blow it out before going to bed. It is not worth the risk.