Can You Suffocate In A Sleeping Bag or Bivvy Bag? [Answered]

Last Updated on 02/01/2023

Can You Suffocate In A Sleeping Bag

Can you suffocate in a sleeping bag? In this article, we explain why it would be almost impossible to run out of air inside a sleeping bag. You will also learn why breathing in a sleeping bag is bad.

Important Disclaimer: We are experienced outdoor people, not doctors. This article is opinion-based and should not be taken as fact unless stated. If you are concerned, please speak to your doctor.

Can you suffocate in a sleeping bag? If you asked this question in a crowded room, you might get a few smirks and funny looks but I bet almost everyone would be curious to know the answer. So let’s find out.

Can You Suffocate in A Sleeping Bag?

It is extremely unlikely that a healthy person would suffocate in a breathable sleeping bag (unless they somehow inhale the material and suffocate through choking). And because all sleeping bags are breathable and not airtight, you will never run out of air inside. Here are some of the main reasons it would be very hard to suffocate inside a sleeping bag:

  • When your brain senses that your body is not getting enough oxygen while asleep, it forces you awake
  • Sleeping bags are made from breathable fabric
  • Sleeping bags do not zip all the way up, and there is always an opening for your face
  • Zips are breathable

If you were to hold the opening of a sleeping bag shut from the inside, the air quality inside would diminish pretty quickly. This may cause you to feel lethargic or may even give you a headache, but as far as the research team can find out (me), no one has ever suffocated from being inside a sleeping bag.

If, for any reason, you have a pre-existing health condition, then trapping yourself inside a sleeping bag would carry a higher risk. For example, if you have heart or lung complications, then restricting fresh air could be dangerous and irritate your condition.

Can You Suffocate in a Bivvy Bag?

Suffocating inside a bivvy bag is far more plausible than suffocating inside a sleeping bag because the material is often water-tight. It would need to be completely sealed shut for you to run out of air potentially, but again, your brain would prevent this from happening while you are asleep and wake you up to find fresh air.

are sleeping bags safe for children

Can A Child Suffocate in A Sleeping Bag?

Kids love sleeping bags, and one thing they all seem to do is slide right down to the bottom of the bag and curl up like a hamster in a nest. You may worry that they may run out of air if they fall asleep in there, but there is little to worry about so long as you are close by. It should be said that we d not recommend letting your child fall asleep in the bottom of a sleeping bag just to be safe.

How to Use a Sleeping Bag without Suffocating

The only thing you need to do is make sure your face is always sticking out of your sleeping bag. So if you have an extra lofty winter down sleeping bag with a big, warm hood, you still want your face showing so that you can breathe outside the sleeping bag (more on this below). If your nose and mouth are clear of the sleeping bag material, then there is no way you are going to suffocate in it. I know what you’re thinking and no you can’t suffocate in a tent either.

Why You Shouldn’t Sleep With Your Head Inside a Sleeping Bag

The main reason you shouldn’t sleep with your head inside your sleeping bag is not that you might suffocate. Instead, it is because when you sleep with your head inside a sleeping bag, all of the moisture in your breath will make your insulation damp which in turn will make you colder.

I remember getting cold one-time camping in a remote forest when I was much younger, and so I decided to breathe as much hot air inside my sleeping bag as possible to try and warm up. I felt warm again within a minute and almost got back to sleep. Instead, I started to get colder than I was before because now I was partially wet. Of course, I kept blowing hot air in to patch the problem until things got too bad, and I had to get the emergency foil blanket out!


Thanks for reading this article. Now, if anyone asks you, can you suffocate in a sleeping bag? You will know what to say and need not worry about it.

Gear Assistant
Gear Assistant

This article has been written and/or edited by Andrew N. 20+ years of hiking, mountaineering, and camping experience, with access to all the latest outdoor gear.

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