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5 Bunk Bed Safety Tips to Protect Your Jumpin’ Monkey

by Pam Silvia

Those who have dealt with a bunk bed — from parents to children alike — understand the unique challenges and benefits that come with this setup. Like a bunk bed, there are two levels of appreciation. There is the optimistic attitude of “two is better than one.” And then there’s the dread-filled mentality that having a bunk bed is a recipe for “double trouble.” If you skew more toward the latter, our experts have compiled a list of bunk bed safety tips to assuage your headache and help you embrace the space-saving possibilities of a bunk bed.

Before we delve into our safety guidelines, it should be noted that injuries from bunk beds are typically worse than those sustained from sleeping on a standard bed. Cuts are the most common grievance, followed by bumps, bruises, and broken bones. The head and neck are the most afflicted areas for these injuries. Worst of all, half of all bunk-bed-related injuries occur to children younger than six years of age.

To prevent tragedy from striking, here are 5 ways to ensure there are no more monkeys jumping on the bed.

1. Use Guard Rails on the Top Bunk

kids’ bedroom with wooden bunk bed, tent, and toys

The principle behind having guard rails on both sides of the top bunk is the same as the reason for having bumper rails on both sides of the bowling track. Since most bunk-bed-related injuries occur from falls while sleeping or playing, you must ensure that there are guard rails that extend at least five inches above the mattress top to prevent children from rolling off — this minimum clearance includes any mattress pads and foundations. In addition, the gaps in the guard rails should be 3.5 inches or smaller to prevent strangulation.

2. Check the Mattress Foundation

While a box spring can make the top bunk unnecessarily high and pose a greater risk for falling, bunk bed support slats or a low-profile foundation can be used to provide optimal comfort to the sleeper. Check the mattress foundations on both bunks, making sure that they are sturdy (i.e., not weak) and that the right mattress sizes are used — so that they sit securely on the bed frames while accommodating the height and weight distribution of each of your kiddos.

3. Never Play on the Ladder

mother tries to pick up young son from bunk bed ladder

Here is a hard and fast rule to pass on to your kids: Never play on the ladder. Again, most injuries that are associated with bunk beds occur from falls while sleeping or playing, so a way to circumvent cuts and bruises is to teach your young kids how to carefully climb the ladder while discouraging its use as a playtime accessory. To prevent incidents among children younger than six years of age, we recommend removing hard-edged objects from around the bunk bed structure and not allowing children to attach belts, scarves, or ropes to the bunk bed, as these items can lead to strangulation. Lastly, do not use the bunk bed ladder if any parts are damaged or broken.

4. Keep the Top Bunk Away from Ceiling Fans

It is also a good idea to install the bunk bed in a location that is not directly below a ceiling fan. One of the biggest hazards of ceiling fans is that they can break free from the ceiling if they’re not installed properly. Not only could they fall and seriously injure the sleeper, but ceiling fans can also be obstructions if the head of the top-bunk occupant does not clear the underside. Alternatively, enclosed ceiling fans (or fans without exposed blades) are a great solution because they are safer to install over top bunks and in bedrooms with low ceilings.

5. Use a Night Light Near the Ladder

young boy sleeps on top bunk with nightlight

Climbing up and down a ladder can be especially dangerous in the dark. To illuminate the way, we recommend installing a night light near the ladder. Depending on your layout, this could mean using a plug-in version if there is an outlet nearby, or it could mean having a lamp on a nightstand. There are also cordless night lights that have become popular among young children that are a little fearful of dark rooms; if your child frequents the bathroom down the hallway at night, this portable device can light the way as they make it to and from the top bunk safely.

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