Fans are a cost-effective, convenient way to create a cooling effect in the bedroom to make a more comfortable sleep environment. However, fans can dry the air, causing mild, yet bothersome symptoms in some people. They can even trigger more significant symptoms in people with conditions like asthma or skin disease and should be thoughtfully considered before being used regularly.
By circulating air in the bedroom, fans can create a cooling sensation.
Cooler air temperature is tied to healthier, more restful sleep.
Fans can potentially dry the air, leading to symptoms of cough, congestion, and even nosebleeds for some.
Fans may circulate dust and other allergens which can potentially worsen allergy symptoms.
This article evaluates the benefits and risks of sleeping with a fan on.
Benefits of sleeping with a fan
For good sleep, you should keep the bedroom cool at night. The CDC recommends a temperature of 65–68ºF (18–20ºC) to get the most restful sleep possible.
For a number of people, this is achieved by turning on a fan before bed, especially during warmer months. Through air circulation, fans create a cooling sensation in the bedroom to help achieve an optimal sleeping temperature. A study published in 2021 found that mechanical air ventilation reduced sleep disturbance in subjects. Another 2019 study also found that the application of a fan at night for elderly patients was tied to better sleep quality.
Some people also like the white noise effect of fans, which can help with sleep too. Further, fans are relatively low-cost which makes them an even more convenient option.
Risks of sleeping with a fan
Fans are generally harmless to human health. However, some people should consider the following risks of sleeping with a fan at night.
If you have asthma, allergies, or skin problems, you may want to think twice before using a fan to sleep. While the air movement caused by fans cools the bedroom, it can also kick up allergens and dust into the air. This can trigger asthma or allergies if you are sensitive to these things.
If you suffer from dry skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis, fans might not be a good choice for you either. The air movement over the skin can cause additional dryness and can worsen symptoms. Similarly, dry eye sufferers may feel their symptoms worsen with prolonged fan use at night.
The drying effect of fans can also affect your upper airway in your throat or sinuses, leading to congestion, cough, and even nosebleeds.
Children and fans
Although some research exists pointing towards the benefits of fans for infant sleep and reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), there are no recommendations for or against the use of fans for young children according to the National Institutes of Health Safe to Sleep Campaign.
Always double-check with your child’s pediatrician if you have questions about fan use for sleep.
Alternatives to fans
If a fan doesn’t feel right for you, how else can you cool the bedroom at night? Luckily there are some other options to consider.
Open your windows
Another easy, cost effective way to cool the bedroom is by simply opening a window at night to let in cool air. However, like fans, open windows may be helpful for some but can trigger bothersome symptoms in others.
While an open window can help decrease air stuffiness and provide natural ventilation, it can let in outdoor allergens and trigger asthma or allergies. It can also cause similar drying effects on the skin and eyes.
An air conditioner may also be used to cool the bedroom at night. Air conditioners lower the overall temperature of the bedroom and can dehumidify the air, making them very effective machines to cool the bedroom.
However, air conditioners can be costly, loud, and difficult to install.
Other ways to keep cool
You can also try a few other strategies to keep cool at night, including:
- Sleep in lightweight breathable clothing like wool or cotton.
- Use breathable bedding for sheets and blankets.
- Apply cool compresses to the back of the head or neck.
A cool sleep environment is tied to healthier, more restful sleep. Fans are a cost-effective option to achieve a cooling sensation in the bedroom. However, fans can be particularly drying and worsen certain conditions like dry eyes, allergies, and some dermatological diseases. Parents should always check with their child's pediatrician for advice on whether to use a fan to help with sleep. Alternatives to fans include opening the window, using an air conditioner, and sleeping in breathable material.
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