Can You Leave Incense Burning Overnight? (Explained for Beginners) 


Burning incense can be a relaxing experience. There are even certain scents that can help you sleep at night, but does that mean that it’s okay to keep incense burning overnight?

You should never leave incense burning while you’re sleeping. This is an unsafe practice that can prove hazardous for you.

There are ways that you can enjoy the essence of incense as you sleep. Keep reading to learn how to safely use incense as a sleeping aid. 

Can You Leave Incense Burning Overnight

Hazards of Leaving Incense to Burn Overnight

It can seem harmless to leave incense burning overnight. How can that narrow stream of delightfully smelling smoke cause problems? You might wonder. 

Potential Fire Hazard

Well, you can pose that question to the owner of this Arizona guest house.

Incense that was burning in the corner of a room set this house ablaze to the extent that twenty-four firefighters from ten different firehouse units were needed to extinguish the fire. It took them eight minutes and fortunately none of them were injured. 

Eight minutes may sound like a short amount of time but it only takes about five minutes for an entire house to be filled with smoke and flames.

When it comes to house fires, seconds are equivalent to an eternity in terms of the rate at which the fire spreads and the amount of damage it can potentially cause. 

And this is the primary reason not to leave incense to burn unattended. Within seconds, you can go from experiencing peaceful sleep to being abruptly awakened by the sound of a smoke alarm. If you’re fortunate, there will be a rapid response and no one will be seriously hurt.

Potential Environmental Risks

Newer research studies are suggesting that incense burning might create toxicity within the environment.

Unlike past studies, this one considers the global use of incense in all its various forms, frequency, and brands. Various chemicals can be released into the air during the combustion process. 

For instance, carbon monoxide is produced as incense burns and can prevent your blood from properly distributing oxygen throughout your body. 

Reduced oxygen flow can cause dizziness, nausea, headaches, and weakness. With prolonged exposure more severe illnesses can result. 

To prevent illness, you might want to reduce the frequency and intensity of incense burning in general and especially as you sleep at night. 

As you’re sleeping, you’ll be less likely to notice if you begin to feel ill. Subsequently, you won’t be able to respond as quickly or at all in some cases.

This is another reason why it’s best to burn incense when you’re lucid and can take corrective action when necessary.

Potential Health Risks for Infants

And keeping incense lit for an extended period of time might adversely impact the health of others within the home. 

More specifically, in this study, persistent incense burning posed neurodevelopmental challenges for Taiwanese infants. They didn’t meet all of their gross motor neurodevelopmental milestones.

Some examples of these milestones include movements like lifting their arms, rolling over, crawling, walking, bouncing, or jumping. If there are occasional developmental delays, it may not severely impact an infant as it grows. But persistent delays as an infant will create more developmental challenges during childhood, including decreased learning capacity and unhealthy interpersonal behaviors.

Note that infants would have to be exposed to excessive amounts of incense smoke in order for there to be developmental concerns. But if there’s an infant or child in your bedroom or home, you’ll want to limit their exposure to incense smoke.

How to Safely Burn Incense Before Bed

If you enjoy falling asleep to a nice aroma, you don’t have to forego burning incense before bed. There are safe ways that you burn incense at night.

Burn Natural Incense

In order to have peaceful, enjoyable sleep, it would benefit you to burn the most natural incense that you can find.

Excessive exposure to some brands of incense can lead to poor health outcomes. Contrary to popular belief, incense has not been found to be directly linked to terminal illnesses like cancer. But with prolonged exposure, it can agitate pre-existing lung conditions, like asthma.

The safest thing you can do is burn incense that hasn’t been dipped in fragrance chemicals. And regardless of which brand of incense you use, always burn it in a well-ventilated area. 

Sturdy Incense Holder

Always choose an incense holder that’s compatible with the incense that you’re burning. Long incense sticks require heavy incense holders that won’t tip over. These are usually made of metal, ceramic, concrete, or wood. 

Lighter ceramic or wood holders are sufficient for short sticks or cones that are three inches or shorter.

The holder should also be long or wide enough to catch the ashes that will fall from your incense. 

Safe Surface

You want to place your incense holder on a sturdy, flat, heat-resistant, and non-flammable surface before lighting it. This prevents tip overs and fires. You might be surprised how much heat can be contained in incense holders. You want it to sit on a surface that won’t get damaged or ignite.

Also pay attention to where ashes are falling. Sometimes hot embers fall with the ashes and this can cause a fire if the surface beneath your incense holder is something flammable, like carpet. This is another reason why it’s important to have the appropriate incense holder that will catch the ashes.

Prepare for Bed

The length of time that the smell of your incense will last after burning will vary widely. It depends on what kind of incense you’re burning, its length, the quality of the ingredients used to make it, the temperature within your home, and so forth.

If you’re familiar with the incense you typically burn, then you have an idea of how long it will last. Oftentimes you can find this information on the incense packaging as well.

General rule is that you should light your incense 10 to 30 minutes before going to bed. 

Remain in the Room

Only light the incense if you plan to remain in the room as it’s burning. Leaving it unattended even for a few seconds can pose a fire hazard.

Make sure there’s nothing flammable hanging over or nearby the lit incense. You’ll want to avoid placing burning incense near window treatments, clothing, and reading materials. Also avoid flammable liquids like alcohol or chemicals.

If there’s an open window and strong winds blowing in, relocate the incense to prevent it from getting blown over.

Extinguish Your Incense

Before going to sleep or leaving the room, make sure that the incense is fully extinguished. 

If its tip is still glowing, then you can run it under cold water to fully snuff it out, or you can press it into sand or against concrete until it’s no longer lit.

Test Your Smoke Detector Monthly

Periodically testing your smoke detector is essential when you burn incense or light candles on a regular basis. You don’t want to accidentally forget to extinguish either of them, and then learn that your smoke detector isn’t working.

All smoke detectors have a “test” button that you can press to ensure that it’s still working. If it is, you will hear a loud noise for a short period of time. Supposing that there isn’t a noise, you’ll want to immediately replace the battery.

Best Incense to Burn Before Going to Sleep

If you remember from this post some incense fragrances, like rose or lavender, can actually help you fall asleep. 

In addition to that, Nippon Kodo’s Premium Hana-no-Hana incense is designed to linger longer than what’s typical for most natural incense.

These sticks are under three inches long, and will burn for ten minutes. Such a short burn time is ideal right before bed. And you’ll experience the benefits of a deep and lasting sleep that will help you to feel more well rested in the morning. 

An Alternative to Burning Incense Overnight

On the occasion that you’re uninterested in having to monitor burning incense, but would still like for your room to have a relaxing aroma before bed, there is an alternative.

If you must sleep while inhaling a calming fragrance, then diffuse essential oils instead. 

This is a safer and healthier alternative because you can operate a diffuser overnight, and essential oils are 100% plant matter.

All or most electric diffusers have a timer and/or an automatic shut-off valve. Once water levels get below a certain point, the diffuser will shut off, which prevents it from overheating and potentially causing a fire. 

In Closing

If you want to inhale the essence of natural incense ingredients as you drift off to sleep, you can safely do so by burning the incense close to your bedtime, and then making sure it’s fully extinguished before you go to bed.

It’s not worth it to leave incense burning as you fall asleep. Doing so can be detrimental to yourself and others.

The safest aromatherapy option to have on as you sleep is an essential oil diffuser.

Grace Young

I love candles! I have personally tried over 100 brands of candles. The total burn time of these candles is over 5000 hours. I also talk about essential oil diffusers and reed diffusers. Essential oil diffusers and diffusers are also an important part of the scent in my home.

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