11 June 2011
A while ago we were doing some work on reducing our power consumption and generally working our way through appliances to see if we could eliminate them or come up with another way of doing what it was they did for example a hand can opener to replace an electric one. It is coming up to winter here in Aus and we have a double electric blanket and while the power drain of an electric blanket may not be huge at around 200 watts for a double, they are a power drain. If you use them as intended, to warm up the bed before you get into it then turning it off this is not really a problem, but we would not only leave the damn things on all night, they would sometimes be left on all day as well when we forgot to turn them off.
After a while this sort of power drain could add up and not only that but weight placed on the bed that has an electric blanket left on high on it can cause a fire and there is also another hazard. Any electrical appliance will emit an electromagnetic field or EMF and these can affect the body in negative ways. The EMF produced by an electric blanket is emitted very close to the body, penetrating 150mm or more into the body and you can be exposed for 8-10 hours a day in winter. Epidemiological studies have thrown up a possible link between exposure to electric blanket EMF and childhood leukaemia as well as miscarriages.
Take it for what it is worth, we decided to get rid of our electric blankets. OK so call me a wimp but I don’t like being cold, especially when I am trying to sleep and we can get down to -2°C out here in Western Sydney so we needed to do something. We cast around for some old ideas (they didn’t always have electric blankets) as well as some new ones and this is what we came up with.
It is hardly a new idea but one of the first things we tried was the old flannelette pyjamas and nightgown. I gave up wearing pyjamas to bed when I got married and with the exception of a couple of hospital stays haven’t used them since, I find they get caught up and wake me up. So if I can’t apply some insulation directly to me (Linda wears them OK) I needed to do something else.
One new thing was to introduce microfleece sheets. These sheets are warm to the touch, even warmer than flannelette sheets, and help you over that first plunge into a cold bed. They also keep you warmer through the night. They are available from Manchester shops but if not you could always get hold of some polar-fleece fabric as wide as you can and sew them together to form a sheet. They have a different feel than every other sheet we have used but they are very warm. We have always had a pair of woollen blankets but added a feather doona in between and a synthetic comforter on top and that with the microfleece sheets and man, we were starting to sleep WARM!
There is an old saying when sleeping rough – to keep the feet warm, put on a hat – and seeing as 10% of the body’s heat can be lost through the head this advice makes sense. A nice soft beanie or other form of cap can help keep you warm throughout the night by stopping the heat loss through your head.
You can get those reflective “space blankets” that you find in first aid kits and camping shops. They are very thin silvered plastic and the idea is that they reflect body heat back onto the person wrapped in them and I wondered how they would work in a bed. Being plastic they would not be good in direct contact with the skin but if placed on top of the sheet they should do OK. I had a bit of difficulty finding one in our local shops but I was able to buy a couple of rolls of foil gift wrapping quite cheaply, one side was printed but the other was a plain silver reflective surface. I unrolled it and placed it on the bottom half of the bed to see how effective it was compared to the top half, which did not have any foil blanket. It seems to me that there was an increase in the feeling of warmth where the foil was and that part of the bed stayed warm longer if you had to get out for any reason. The downside was increased noise in the room do to the foil making a resulting noise when anybody moved, although it was not loud and certainly did not cause any problems with sleeping. It is a cheap easy way to get more thermal comfort from your existing bedclothes.
Keeping the heat in is one thing but it helps if you can generate some heat as well so at this point I want to introduce you to that most perfect biologic heater known to man – woman! But seriously folks, sleeping with your significant other shares body heat and can be a great way to keep warm.
We also have two cats and they sleep on the bed when winter comes so we can all keep warm together and you could do the same with your dog(s), we have friends who do. The one thing that does bug me is that I can’t understand why on earth a cat would want to have a bath at 3:00am, and in the process vibrate the bed and wake me up (I’m a light sleeper). Drives me crazy!
The classic way to introduce heat into the bed comparatively safely is the old standard, the hot water bottle. They are still available and even come with nice fluffy covers so that your skin doesn’t come into contact with the hot rubber. I’ve never had one leak or bust, which is just as well because I don’t think either of us would enjoy that, but if you don’t have a hot water bottle or don’t trust them there are some other options.
Wheat bag – this is simply what it says on the tin, a cloth bag with or without quilting to ensure the wheat stays distributed that you heat up in the microwave for a minute or two and then put down the bottom of the bed to keep the feet warm. They are commercially available but it seems that they are ridiculously easy to make with even rudimentary sewing skills and if you could fill the bag with home grown wheat, how good would that be? They are usually used to reduce pain in sore muscles but there is no reason why you couldn’t use them as a sleeping aid.
Warm brick – You may not have thought of this one and certainly it is not all things to all people but if you are caught short it can be handy to know about. If you want to be a bit techo make yourself a cover or even a cloth (flannelette, why not?) bag to keep your feed off any sharp edges, then heat the brick next to your heater (wood fires work really well) or heat it in the oven making sure you don’t get it too hot. Once it is nicely warmed put it back into tis bag and place in the bed. Instant warm feet!