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What are the cheapest and best ways to keep warm in bed? 

Feeling the chill when you rest your weary head? Here’s how to stay warm overnight when you're on a budget.

Last updated: 29 May 2024


Checked for accuracy by our qualified fact-checkers and verifiers. Find out more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

There are different types of sleepers: those who kick off the blankets and run hot and sweaty through the night, regardless of the temperature outside, and those who are perpetually freezing, requiring an arsenal of flannel, heated blankets and copious layers to get their frosty extremities cosy in winter and comfortable enough to drift off. 

If you skew more icy than toasty, the prospect of the chilly months ahead is probably not a cherished one. Even worse if the soaring cost of energy has you cringing every time your bill lands in your inbox. 

Since more than two-thirds of people we surveyed are worried about paying their 2024 heating bills, we're looking at some of the best budget-friendly ways to stay warm and toasty overnight.

Here are some ideas to try, starting from free (if you already have some supplies in the cupboard) and getting more expensive, depending on how much extra warming you need. 

Before you start: Chill-proof your bedroom

Ensuring your sleeping space is well-insulated and free from nasty, chilly drafts goes a long way towards keeping you warm at night. Before you go to bed, close your curtains, blinds and doors – this doesn't cost you a thing, but can make a big difference to the chill factor in your bedroom.

If you have hard floors or gappy floorboards, a rug can also help keep the cold air out. See more easy and cheap tips to keep warm this winter.

Rugging up

Let's start with the basics. The cheapest and easiest way to keep warm is of course piling on the blankets and layers. Even better if you have a cuddly pet or a partner who runs warm that you can share body heat with. 

There's also a lot to be said for cosy flannelette pyjamas and sheets and a good pair of fluffy bed socks for frosty feet, even better (and cheaper) if you already have them in your cupboard so you don't have to rush out and buy anything when the temperature drops.

There's also a lot to be said for cosy flannelette pyjamas and sheets and a good pair of fluffy bed socks

Thick, heavier blankets made of natural materials such as wool, cotton and cashmere are often the warmest and most breathable. There are also blankets made from synthetic materials such as fleece or faux fur which can trap warmth in the fibres to keep you cosy but which are less breathable (and could leave you in a sweat).

Linen sheets are another warming option. Although you may associate the cool and light material more with summer, they're actually good for winter too. Linen sheets help regulate your body temperature and they absorb moisture, so they're great for layering under heavier blankets, saving you from sweating and overheating.

Hot water bottle

If you've layered every blanket you own onto your bed and you're still freezing, hot water bottles are a budget-friendly option that'll apply instant gratifying heat to your body. They're cheap (we've found many options under $10) and the only ongoing cost is for hot water from the tap.

Depending on a few factors, such as the size of the bottle, the temperature of the hot water used, and the quality and type of the material, a hot water bottle can stay warm for a couple of hours or more. Which is great if you just need something warm to help you doze off, but not much good if you're likely to wake up freezing when your bedroom turns Arctic in the middle of the night (by which point your hot water bottle will be stone cold).

Hot water bottles are a budget-friendly option that'll apply instant gratifying heat to your body

A few safety tips to keep in mind: ensure you don't overfill (and use water from the hot tap rather than boiled water from a kettle), check to ensure the bottle is free of leaks and doesn't have any cracks or damage, and  wrap the hot water bottle in a towel or use a cover to avoid direct contact with the skin.

There are other heating devices now being spruiked alongside hot water bottles, including this $140 cordless electric bottle promising cosy comfort on chilly nights. But not only is its price tag hefty, our testers found that it wasn't as warm as a regular hot water bottle. 

Electric blanket

In the spirit of heating the human and not the room (which is usually cheaper), electric blankets and heated throws are another popular and cost-effective option. 

CHOICE experts have tested 30 electric blankets in our labs, giving them scores on their performance and how easy they are to use. We've found options for all budgets, with some blankets costing as little as $60, although blankets with premium features such as different body zones and Wi-Fi connectivity can cost up to $400 or more.

And we've calculated that it will likely only cost you around $60 to run one overnight over the three months of winter. Our electric blanket reviews list price and running costs for each model.

To be on the safe side, we advise against all-night use, even if the blanket has an all-night mode, so running costs should be even less (some blankets we've tested specifically advise against all-night use, so we only calculate pre-heating costs for those models). 

Reverse-cycle air con

If your fluffy socks and blankets aren't cutting it, and you really need to run an appliance while you sleep to stave off the chill, a reverse-cycle air conditioner is the cheapest and most efficient option.

Depending on the model and how you use it (and how cold it is outside), running an air conditioner over the three months of winter could cost you around $130 in an average climate zone. 

Of course this relies on you already having it installed, or being able to afford the high installation costs if you're the property owner.

If you do have air conditioning installed, our estimates show that running a reverse-cycle air conditioner for the entire year can cost less than running an electric heater for just three months over winter (read more below).

Read our tips for how to save money on running your air con .

Electric heater

Although they can be relatively cheap to buy, and are convenient and portable, electric heaters are the most expensive way to keep warm overnight.

They can cost up to around 80c per hour to run, depending on the type and model (which could add around $400 to your energy bills if you run for 6 hours per day over the three months of winter – view the running costs for different models in our electric heater review).

CHOICE experts also advise to take care if running them while you sleep."Most heaters – particularly convection, panel and oil column heaters which don't have exposed heating elements – are safe to leave on overnight on a low setting, as long as they are well clear of any furniture, curtains and so on, as per the 'leave a metre for heaters' rule," says CHOICE heating expert Chris Barnes.

But it's best not to leave a heater on a high setting overnight, particularly in a child's bedroom or if you have pets. Also, check that the heater has a thermal cut-out feature (so it switches off if it gets too hot) and a tilt switch (so it turns off automatically if knocked over). 

Verdict: The cheapest and best way to keep warm in bed?

Heating your body rather than the whole room is usually a more efficient and cheaper way to stay warm in bed. Once you've done everything you can to minimise chilly draughts in your room itself, start by layering blankets and rugging up, and try adding a hot water bottle if that's not enough. If you still aren't warm, shelling out for an electric blanket might be worth the cost.

The only drawback of heating the person instead of the room is that hot water bottles and electric blankets can't keep you warm all night long (if you follow our recommendation not to leave your electric blanket switched on overnight). 

Heating your body rather than the whole room is usually a more efficient and cheaper way to stay warm

So if you find you're still waking chilly in the middle of night, you might need to look at warming the room too.

If you already have air conditioning installed, running your air con overnight is the most efficient way to keep your bedroom warm. Some air con units will also have timers so you can program them to turn on in the morning and heat the room before you jump out of bed. 

Finally, the most expensive option (but possibly a necessary last resort for many) is an electric heater. If you don't have air con installed and the options for warming your body just aren't cutting it, you might have to accept the extra cost. 

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.