Is It Bad to Sleep with an Ice Pack on Your Head? (Safety Precautions and Advice)

If you suffer from serious migraines or persistent headaches you will probably do just about anything to relieve the throbbing and agonizing pain.

Ice packs are very effective at relieving migraines and headaches for some people. They will almost certainly reduce the pain you’re feeling if you place one on your head.

If you use ice packs to help you get to sleep this brings up a couple of important questions.

Is it bad to sleep with an ice pack on your head?

And, what are the risks of sleeping with an ice pack on your head?

Ice packs come in different shapes, sizes, some are filled with ice, some are filled with a gel, they might have a thick or thin layer of plastic, and so on.

So, while you should pay particular attention to the type of ice pack you’re using, in this article, I cover some important safety guidelines highlight some of the potential risks to sleeping with an ice pack on your head.

Why Use An Ice Pack on Your Head?

Ice packs are an easy and inexpensive way to help with a couple of issues. Firstly, they can be very effective at relieving a headache or a migraine.

Cold therapy constricts the blood vessels and decreased the blood flow which lessens the pain and symptoms of a migraine.

Cold also numbs the area being treated and reduces the amount of pain you feel. Cold packs and patches also feel soothing and relaxing helping you to de-stress.

Secondly, ice packs or cold therapy, in particular, can help you sleep better. There have been several studies carried out measuring the effects of cooling the brain and curing sleep issues.

The results are always positive. Our bodies naturally lower in temperature in the evening as our circadian clocks synchronize with our sleeping schedule and our melatonin levels increase.

When we are stressed our brain activity levels increase, causing our temperatures to rise. This is part of the problem with falling asleep.

So, an ice pack can help you relax and sleep better if you’re stressed, have insomnia, or are struggling to sleep for a range of other issues.

Is It Bad to Sleep with an Ice Pack on Your Head?

It is potentially dangerous to sleep with an ice pack on your head, yes.

While it might seem harmless, and you may have slept with an ice pack on your head before without any problems, there are some risks you should be aware of.

You Can Wake up with Frostbite or Ice Burn

If you thought frostbite or ice burn was something you could only get from spending days outside in subzero conditions, you’re wrong.

It’s actually very possible to get one of these painful conditions from an ice pack if it’s left on your skin for too long.

Ice burn starts when something cold has been in contact with the skin for so long that water in the skin cells starts to freeze.

This reduces blood flow to the area and can cause considerable damage. The symptoms include blistering, pain, numbness, a tingly feeling, pain, and a headache.

As far as safety precautions against ice burn and frostbite go; while most manufactured ice packs should be safe it’s not worth the risk of leaving it on your head when you sleep.

If you’re making your own ice pack never let the ice come into contact with your skin. Wrap the ice in a layer or two and move it at regular intervals.

How Can You Keep Your Head Cool When You’re Asleep?

There are a couple of options to keep your head cool overnight that are a lot safer than using an ice pack.

Use a Bedroom Fan

Bedroom fans may not be as effective as an ice pack for injuries but they can help reduce your core temperature and keep you cool.

My advice is to pick a silent bedroom fan so you’re not disturbed by the whirling or spinning noise of the fan.

Use a Cooling Pillow

Cooling pillows are great. I have one myself that I use in the summer or if I have a headache and want to soothe it as I drift off.

There are a few different types, but most have a cool gel section that stays cool while being completely safe to lay on.

Final Thoughts

Safety first! Headaches and migraines are a nightmare to deal with, especially when all you want to do is get a good night’s sleep.

If ice packs are the best way to soothe the symptoms of a headache for you then use them – but don’t sleep with an ice pack on your head.

No matter how much it’s helping, you could wake up in even more pain than when you want to sleep!