Is it Safe to Sleep in a Hoodie? (Babies and Adults)

As an adult, you may want to sleep in a hoodie for extra warmth, protection from cold draughts, and to increase comfort.

Or you may be thinking about buying a hooded onesie, romper, or pajama set for your baby.

But is it safe to sleep in a hoodie?

It’s fairly safe for a healthy, fully mobile, unintoxicated adult to sleep in a hoodie. However, it’s very dangerous for a baby, infant or toddler to sleep in a hoodie or hooded item of clothing (with or without a drawstring) due to the risk of suffocation, overheating, and Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome.

See below for a full explanation as to why sleeping in a hooded item of clothing is relatively safe for most healthy adults, but could prove to be fatal for babies.

How Letting Your Baby Sleep In Hooded Pajamas Could Be Fatal.

The 3 Dangers of Babies Sleeping in Hooded Pajamas

It is fairly safe for a healthy adult to sleep in a hoodie because you are likely to have the awareness and dexterity to remove the drawstrings or material if your face becomes covered or your airways constricted as you move around during the night.

This risk however, does increase if you have a disability or impairment that would otherwise impede your ability to free your airways if they become restricted.

Similarly, this risk increases if you’re intoxicated and unable to free yourself if the drawstrings become tangled on a nearby fixture and/or if your face becomes covered by the material – although the level of intoxication would probably have to be quite significant to impede your involuntary emergency reflexes.

(And if you wear earbuds to go to sleep in, be sure to check out my article on the risks of sleeping in AirPods too).

But what about babies?

It is very dangerous to have your baby sleep in a hoodie – with or without a drawstring – a hooded onesie, or hooded pajama set because the loose material of the hood could cause suffocation.

More specifically, a scientific investigation revealed that an estimated 30% of sudden unexplained deaths can be attributed to accidental suffocation [1] (Unger et al, 2003).

And whilst hooded items of clothing were not explicitly addressed in that study, the causes of such suffocation included sleeping face down and having the face entirely covered – with ‘excess clothing’ being cited as a specific postnatal risk factor.

And whilst you may think that putting the hood down might prevent suffocation, your child may put it back up on their own; whilst the hood may also cause overheating – a risk factor in Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome.

Here’s a more detailed explanation of the individual dangers of allowing your baby to sleep in hooded pajamas and how they could lead to the death of your child.

1: Suffocation

Suffocation is the biggest risk associated with allowing your baby to sleep in hooded clothing.

Avera specifically state in their guidance for Preventing Suffocation and Strangulation in Young Children to ‘never put a child to sleep wearing clothing with a hood, a bib, or any other item that could get tangled around the neck’ [2].

Suffocation can occur when the hood blocks the airways either through your baby rolling into the material or having it otherwise cover the face.

Babies typically lack the dexterity to remove such obstructions themselves, and the fit of the pajamas can actually hinder mobility even further.

And if the clothing has drawstrings then strangulation and choking also becomes a risk too.

If your child’s face becomes covered by the hood, or they roll into a position that significantly obscures breathing, then the exhaled air can become trapped and is re-breathed – resulting in higher levels of carbon dioxide, less oxygen, asphyxia, and death [3].

2: Overheating

Hooded pajamas, rompers, and onesies may also cause heat-stress – which is a suspected precursor to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome [4].

More specifically, extreme elevations in body temperature can cause a fatal heat stroke – as observed in data from colder countries where infants are often covered in several layers of clothing and quilts.

The face is a focal point of heat elimination, so if the child were to end up face down and/or have their face covered by a duvet, blankets, or hooded clothing then this may cause heat stress that could lead to death.

Heat stress could still be an issue if you’re allowing your child to wear hooded items of clothing during the day too.

3: Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID)

Allowing your baby to sleep in hooded pajamas could lead to Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) through the combination of the suffocation and overheating risk factors.

Sometimes also called SIDS or ‘cot death’, the NHS warns that infants under 6 months old are the most at risk – especially if they were born prematurely or with a low birth weight [5].

However, SUID can still be a worry up until your baby is one year old and potentially beyond this point too.

SUID is still being studied by scientists since the exact cause is still unknown, but known risk factors (pre and post natal) can include [6]:

  • Loose bedding materials.
  • Blankets and pillows.
  • The infant is sleeping on their front.
  • Overheating due to clothing, blankets, or the room being too warm.
  • Mother smoking during pregnancy.
  • Mother being younger than 20 years old.
  • Exposure to second-hand smoke.

Crucially, according to research, infants at risk of SUID may have developmental defects in the brain that can interfere with their ability to regulate breathing and/or body temperature.

This means that if an infant with such underlying conditions were to sleep in a hooded item of clothing, the risk of death could increase because the child may begin to overheat and/or suffocate.

Because it is thought that whilst a healthy child is more likely to wake up and begin crying if they become uncomfortable, an anomaly in the brains of infants at risk of SUID may mean that the protective wake-up signal is not relayed and the child suffocates due to re-breathing.

So whilst SUID is a complex condition that’s still under investigation, loose clothing and bedding is considered to be a known risk factor.

Therefore it is crucial that you do NOT dress your baby in hooded pajamas, onesies, rompers, or any other type of clothing that may cause suffocation and/or overheating.

Related Questions

Here are the answers to some of the common questions related to sleeping in hoodies and similar clothing.

Are Zip-Up Pajamas Safe?

Zip up pajamas are not completely safe for infants to sleep in according to one person who claimed that her 3 year old daughter was nearly strangled by a zip-up onesie when the front of the clothing was pushed against the toddler’s airway when she moved around – with the zip becoming stuck [7].

Is it Safe for a Toddler to Sleep in a Hoodie?

It is not completely safe for a toddler to sleep in a hoodie because although the risk of SUID seems to lessen after your child is older than 12 months, there is still some risk of suffocation – especially if drawstrings are present in the clothing.

Are Hoodies Dangerous For Children to Play In?

Hoodies can be dangerous – and even fatal – for children to play in; one case was reported where a 7-year-old girl died when the hood became tangled on a door handle [8].

Conclusion: Hoodies Can Be Dangerous For Babies

Just because you can buy hooded pajamas, rompers, and onesies for babies doesn’t mean that they are safe to sleep in.

Because even in healthy infants, the hood presents the risk of suffocation (and strangulation if a drawstring is present).

And in the case of infants who are predisposed to SUID syndrome, the risks increase even more because their brains may lack the ability to relay the protective wake up signal that allows them to cry and get help if they start to overheat or suffocate due to re-breathing.

Please share this article with other parents to help warn them of the risks of allowing their baby to sleep in a hoodie.


Sources and References

[1], [3], [4] NCBI – Tragic and sudden death. Potential and Proven Mechanisms Causing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Accessed 18/6/20.

[2] Avera – Preventing Suffocation and Strangulation in Young Children. Accessed 18/6/20.

[5] NHS – Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Accessed 18/6/20.

[6] SleepFoundation.org – Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Sleep. Accessed 18/6/20.

[7] Huffington Post – Mum Issues Onesie Warning After Her Toddler Was Almost ‘Strangled’. Accessed 18/6/20.

[8] The Guardian – Girl, Seven, Died After Being Strangled by her Hoodie, Inquest Hears. Accessed 18/6/20.

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