Posted by Pam Johnson - Head of Buying on 1st Jan 2021

Are bunk beds safe for your children?

If you’re on the hunt for a new bed for your little one’s bedroom then you might well be considering bunk beds. After all, there are lots of reasons to love bunk beds – kids adore climbing the ladders to bed or else cosying up to read a book on the bottom bunk. Plus they help to maximise floor space in the bedroom, making them ideal if you have two siblings sharing a room.

You may be wondering about whether bunk beds are safe for your children to sleep in.

In this article we take a closer look at just how safe bunk beds are so that you can decide if these are the right types of bed for your children.

What are the bunk bed safety standards in the UK?

The good news is that you don’t need to worry about finding out more about the safety of bunk beds as we’ve done all the hard work for you. In short, all bunk beds which are sold in the UK must conform to the current safety standards, British Safety Standard number BS EN 747:1993.

Here at Bensons for Beds we take bunk bed safety very seriously and of course, as you would expect, all of our bunk beds adhere to the above British Safety Standards.

Here are some of the safety checks that are carried out on bunk beds before they can be sold in the UK:

  • The mattress should fit the bunk bed securely
  • The slats on the underside of the bed should sit no further than 7.5cm apart from each other
  • All rails should be at least 16cm taller than the mattress
  • The bunk bed should be solidly constructed
  • There should be no sharp edges on the bunk bed
  • The top bunk should have guardrails on both sides
  • The gap at the top of the ladder should be 300mm.

What are the dangers of bunk beds?

We’re not trying to be killjoys here – we know first-hand how much fun bunk beds are! However, it is worth remembering that bunk beds should be used for the purpose for which they were intended i.e. sleeping, rather than for playing or climbing.

Why is this important? Well, misuse of bunk beds can result in legs and arms getting trapped or even falls. And generally speaking, these events tend to happen if a bunk bed hasn’t been assembled properly, weight limits aren’t observed or if bunk beds are used for activities other than sleeping.

The best way to keep your children safe on bunk beds

The fact that your bunk bed has passed the necessary legal safety requirements should help to put your mind at rest. However, there are some things that you can do yourself to help minimise any further risk and keep your child safe on their bunk bed.

Follow the assembly instructions

For some of our beds, we offer assembly, but with others you’ll need to put the bed together yourself. But don’t worry, putting together a bunk bed is not as difficult as it sounds!

It’s a well-known joke that when it comes to assembling furniture, many of us often throw away the instruction manuals and try to figure things out for ourselves. However, with a bunk bed, it can pay dividends to follow the assembly instructions closely!

Avoid cutting corners when you’re assembling the bunk bed as not following the instructions properly could result in it not being structurally sound, which could make it unsafe for your children to sleep on.

Bunk beds are not climbing frames

It’s important to remember it’s a bunk bed and not a climbing frame and that climbing on it can often result in falls. Be sure to speak to your children about this in advance and set ground rules to avoid any mishaps.

A bunk bed is a great way to encourage your child’s imagination – they will love making dens and houses and playing games on their bed but just let them know that they must never swing or climb on their bunk bed. The only part of the bunk bed that is designed to be climbed on is the ladder itself.

One child on the top bunk

The general safety advice here is to only let one child go on the top bunk at a time. This is because bunk beds are designed for sleeping rather than playing and if games get rough they could result in preventable accidents.

Avoid hanging anything from the bed

Don’t hang clothes, bedding or anything else off the bunk bed as this could be a hazard. If your children want to decorate their bunk bed to make it feel more personalised then encourage them to do this with their bedding and pillows, adding extra cushions if they’d like to.

They could even add stickers to the bunk bed – preferably ones which are easily removed!

Place a rug under the bunk bed

If the bedroom isn’t carpeted, then you may want to consider placing a rug underneath the bunk bed. That way, in the unlikely event that you child falls from their bunk bed, this might help to reduce the chance of serious injury.

Not just functional, a rug is a great way to tie together the décor of a child’s bedroom. You could add a pop of colour for a boho feel or keep it beige if you prefer neutral tones.

Choose the right mattress

Bunk beds come with safety rails on both sides of the top bunk and you must make sure that these are installed at the right height. Although you don’t need a “special” type of mattress, these safety rails mean that you need to ensure that your mattress is no thicker than 15cm to keep your bunk bed as safe as possible.

Your bunk bed should also have a headboard and footboard for added safety at each end.

Ensure your child knows how to get in and out of the bunk bed safely

This might sound obvious but going through it step by step will help to ensure that your child knows how to climb down the ladder in the right way. There’s no harm in showing them how to get in and out of a bunk bed a few times.

Tell them to lie on their tummy at the top and put their feet out. Let them know to wait until they can feel the ladder with their feet before starting to go down, one rung at a time.

What age are bunk beds suitable for?

You might be wondering if toddlers can sleep in bunk beds. After all, they’re a great way to save space, if your toddler shares with an older sibling.

However, you may want to avoid bunk beds until your children are a little older. Bunk beds are considered suitable for children from ages four and upwards. However, current guidelines recommend that children under the age of six should sleep on the bottom bunk.

Save arguments and give the top bunk to the oldest child to make sure that both kids get a great night’s sleep. They can always swap over when the younger sibling gets older!

Are bunk beds safe for adults?

Yes, generally bunk beds are pretty safe for adults, especially as adults tend to be more sensible than children (well, sometimes!). However, check the weight limit that a bunk bed can take before sleeping on it as an adult (1). Some bunk beds may have been made specifically for children and will not be designed to take the weight of an adult.

Be sure to keep checking the weight capacity of the bed as your child grows, especially as they grow into a teenager. It may be that their bunk bed isn’t suitable for them as they get older.

If all is well with your bunk bed’s weight capacity then it could work well as an impromptu guest bed, which is especially useful if you haven’t got a dedicated guest room or sofa bed. If you’ve ever slept in a hostel or a family hotel room, you’ll know that bunk beds can be great fun for all the family!

Of course, if you’re worried about climbing the ladder or even rolling out of bed, the bottom bunk is usually a safer bet!

What’s the weight limit for bunk beds?

The weight limit for bunk beds varies between each bed frame. Each bunk bed will have a weight capacity which is provided by the manufacturer and this denotes the maximum weight that a bed frame can take. Remember that this will include the weight of the mattress too.

Check out our guide to bed frame weight capacities if you need more advice.

What is the standard height of a bunk bed?

Bunk beds vary in height but they are often between 5 feet 6 inches and 6 feet tall. Check the measurements of your chosen bunk bed to make sure that the height works for your space.

Before buying new bunk beds, measure your bedroom ceiling height to make sure that they’ll fit. Be sure to include enough space in your measurement for your child to get into and out of bed easily and sit up in bed so that they can read. You don’t want them to bang their head on the ceiling when they get up!

How much clearance do you need for a bunk bed?

There’s no hard and fast rule for this but a good guideline to stick to is to maintain 33 to 36 inches of space between the top of the mattress and the ceiling (2)

You should also think about the amount of clearance between the two bunks. The child sleeping in the lower bunk will need space to get into and out of bed too. Again, this should be around 33 inches to allow them to sit up in bed comfortably.



authors profile
Pam Johnson
Head of Buying
Pam has worked within Bensons for Beds for 16 years and has a great deal of experience in both developing and sourcing new product ranges. As Head of Buying specialising in mattresses, divans and headboards, Pam is dedicated to providing solutions that help customers to get a great night’s sleep.
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