Charge at your own risk
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Some people share the bed with their partner, some people share it with their pets, and some people (like me) share it with their phone. And apparently, I'm not alone. A recent study found that as much as 62 percent of adults confess to sleeping with their phones within arm's reach.
Whether it's because you fell asleep in the middle of texting your mom or because you use your phone as an alarm, keeping your device on your bed overnight is a pretty common practice.
But that practice could actually be dangerous, according to some experts—and some "it-happened-to-me" stories—who report that charging your phone or tablet by your side while you sleep is a fire hazard that most people don't know about.
Your phone generates a lot of heat when it's running, which it constantly releases to keep it cool and prevent it from overheating. "When everything is working correctly, there's not much risk, but if you're leaving your phone, laptop, or charger where it can't cool properly that heat can build up and damage components," our Exec Editor TJ Donegan explains.
Essentially, when your phone (or tablet) is laying under your pillow or blankets, the vents are blocked, so the hot air can no longer escape. That buildup can cause your device to overheat and, in some extreme cases, get hot enough to burn you or even catch fire.
First, follow the manufacturer's instructions and charge your device on a flat, open surface. For instance, Apple advises customers "to keep iPhone and its power adapter or wireless charger in a well-ventilated area when in use or charging," like a nightstand or side table. "If your charging cable can't reach a safe spot, just buy a longer cable—they're not expensive," Donegan says.
You'll also want to keep an eye out for any frayed or exposed wires—or any signs that your phone's battery isn't functioning properly. "Frayed cables are definitely worrisome, but the biggest deal is a damaged battery," Donegan warns. "If you have a phone or laptop battery that is swelling or warped, you should not charge it—it could easily rupture and catch fire."
And in that worst-case scenario? "If your Lithium-ion battery does catch fire, a fire extinguisher is your best bet, though dousing it in water will be effective in most cases," Donegan recommends. Moral of the story: Don't charge your device in bed.