Doing This One Easy Thing Before Bed Could Save Your Life, First Responders Say

It may end up being the most important part of your pre-sleep preparations.

Even if you've had a long day and can barely wait for your head to hit the pillow, there are still plenty of necessary steps you need to take before you get into bed. Of course, everyone knows that brushing your teeth is essential, while others might take a shower before lying down. And even besides grooming and health-related tasks, many people will do a quick check to make sure no appliances are left running, the stove has been shut off, and their home's doors and windows are closed and locked. But when it comes to safety, there's one easy thing first responders say you should always be sure to do before you get into bed that could save your life. Read on to see which simple task should be on your nightly to-do list.

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Certain hazards can put your safety at risk while you sleep.

Woman sleeping
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Even if they're exhausted, no one will put themselves to bed if they know they're in any potential danger. But the world around you doesn't stop while you're dozing: Certain hazards like house fires can be especially dangerous if they start when you're most vulnerable. According to the New York City Fire Department, more than half of all home fire deaths occur between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Unfortunately, it's becoming harder to protect yourself and your loved ones from an unexpected blaze, even if you're well prepared. Fire safety tests conducted by Underwriter Laboratories (UL) concluded that most homes have just three minutes or less for everyone to make it outside safely in the case of a fire, The Washington Post reported. This figure compares to previous UL estimates from 30 years ago of 17 minutes, which they attribute to an increase in the use of synthetics in building materials and furniture in recent decades.

With such a short time frame to get yourself and your loved ones to safety, experts caution that every second counts.

First responders say there's one thing you should always do before bed that could save your life.

house on fire
Shutterstock/Gorb Andrii

The last few tasks you do before you go to bed are likely a part of your muscle memory, like setting your alarm and shutting out the lights. But according to experts, making sure to close your bedroom door while you sleep could be a lifesaver.

In a recent viral TikTok video with more than 8.2 million views as of Oct. 5, a firefighter who goes by the username @smokemedic shows a seemingly ordinary children's bedroom with a neatly made bed and a tidy dresser. However, as the camera turns around, it reveals a hallway and room that a major fire has scorched. The person filming explains that the only reason the room is unscathed is that the door was closed, In The Know reports.

"Remember to close bedroom doors before sleeping for the night, it could make a big difference," the video's caption reads.

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Only four in 10 people perform this easy safety step every night.

smoke detector of fire alarm in action
nikkytok / Shutterstock

Besides showing firsthand how effective sleeping with your door closed can be at protecting against a fast-moving fire, the video also draws attention to UL's Close Before Your Doze safety awareness campaign in its caption. The program points out research that says "a closed door can mean the difference between 1,000 degrees and 100 degrees in the event of a fire" and "can keep carbon monoxide levels at 1,000 PPM verses 10,000 PPM" compared to an open door.

Experts say the everyday act is effective because it helps keep a fire from growing. "Closing the door limits smoke spread and limits the oxygen that is available for combustion," Daniel Madrzykowski, PhD, director of research for UL's Fire Safety Research Institute, told The New York Times in an interview this past January.

Unfortunately, the simple safety technique does not appear to be the norm. According to a survey conducted by UL, roughly 60 percent of people sleep with their bedroom doors open, Good Housekeeping reports.

First responders urge everyone to ensure they're taking all the necessary steps to protect themselves from a fire, including closing their door.

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With such a short time to get to safety, it's crucial to ensure you're taking all the steps necessary to protect yourself against a house fire. Installing smoke alarms on every floor of your home and inspecting them twice a year can be the best way to get an early warning, according to UL. It's also best to have a fire escape plan practiced and memorized by members of your household, including knowing how to react when normal exits become unpassable.

But on a daily basis, experts still point out that the pre-bedtime practice of closing off your room can be hugely beneficial.

"As fire service researchers and professionals, we encourage people to take several precautions and have an evacuation plan but closing doors at night is one simple and quick routine that anyone can adopt right now," Steve Kerber, director of the UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute, said in a 2018 press release. "It is a very simple behavior change that can help save your life and your loved ones."

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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