If you have ever thought that keeping a running humidifier in your room helps you sleep better, it might not be your imagination.
Humidifiers can make for excellent sleep aids given that they can help you get to sleep faster, sleep more soundly and feel more refreshed in the morning.
But how exactly can this device help you as you sleep?
There are many amazing benefits to sleeping with a humidifier. Keeping this device running throughout the night can help you
- Breath easier throughout the night
- Prevent influenza
- Reduce snoring
- Keep skin from drying out
- Fall asleep faster
- Create a cozier sleeping environment
As you might find, it’s amazing that using such a simple device can be so good for you as you get your Zs.
Easier breathing throughout the night
Without a little bit of humidity in the air, the simple act of breathing can be quite unpleasant.
There is nothing worse than getting all snuggled up in bed only to fight the discomfort of breathing in cold, dry air as you drift off to sleep. In fact, dry air can lead to an itchy and irritated throat, which can make it much harder to go to sleep1.
Not only that but dry air can also dry out your sinuses and increase mucus production as well which is no fun for anyone2.
In addition, the cold winter temperatures coupled with the arid air can be especially irritating.
However, with the added moisture in the air that a humidifier can provide, simply breathing can be much more comfortable. The proper balance of humidity can help keep your nasal cavity and throat pleasantly moist, allowing you to drift off to sleep without any discomfort as you breathe.
The flu is undoubtedly unpleasant and unfortunately, many people find that they seem to get the sickness overnight as they sleep.
However, there is a theory that certain humidity levels may prevent the spread of the flu virus.
Various studies have tested how humidifiers can create these favorable humidity levels. In one study3 conducted in two grade schools without central humidification, various classrooms were equipped with humidifiers that ran when school was not in session. As a result, over the course of just 4 hours, the classroom humidifiers increased indoor humidity enough to “decrease projected 1-hour virus survival by an absolute value of 30% during winter months”.
In other words, simply by using household humidifiers for a relatively short amount of time, the experimenters were able to bring the humidity levels up to the point where the flu virus would be less likely to survive. All the while the classrooms were not overly humid, and still perfectly comfortable, without feeling hot or sticky.
As a result, simply by creating more moisture in the air with your humidifier as you sleep, you may be able to reduce the chances that you will be affected by the sickness overnight. Given that you spend such a large part of your day sleeping, maintaining proper humidity levels to avoid sickness is important.
Without a humidifier in your room, particularly dry air commonly causes snoring. But how?
Dry air means your nasal cavity and the back of the roof of your mouth are more likely to get dried out. In turn, the air your breath in can get trapped inside your airway more easily which can cause vibrations as you breathe in and out. These vibrations that come from breathing, of course, is what causes the snoring sound4. In addition, a dry nasal cavity and soft pallet can cause thicker mucus to build up with can increase the intensify snoring5.
Humidifiers, however, can alleviate this problem. Given that humidifiers bring moisture into the air, as you breathe in this relatively humid air, your throat and the nasal cavity are less likely to get dried out. In turn, this moisture in your throat and nasal cavity allows for air to move more freely as you breathe which makes snoring less likely to happen.
There is also research to suggest that relatively higher levels of humidity may also help with sleep apnea as well 6. Sleep apnea is a condition in which your breathing repeatedly starts and stops. However, given that this condition is relatively more severe than just snoring, equipment other than a just a humidifier is often required.
Keep skin from drying out overnight
There is nothing worse than waking up with scaly, flakey skin that seems to never stop itching no matter how much you scratch it. However, sleeping in a room with dry air can certainly make your skin this way.
Sleeping with a humidifier is an excellent way to prevent your skin from drying out as you sleep.
Of course, staying hydrated and moisturizing with lotion also prevents dry skin but people often forget that the many hours spent sleeping in a room with the proper humidity level is quite important as well. The moisture in the air created by your humidifier can significantly help to keep your skin hydrated so that you can wake up feeling rejuvenated instead of itchy and irritated.
Not only will you likely wake up feeling more rejuvenated but you will probably sleep more soundly throughout the night as well. By sleeping with dry, flaky skin that can come from dry air, you are more likely to wake up periodically throughout the night due to irritation. Maintaining the proper humidity levels with a humidifier can help to avoid this.
Fall asleep faster to the soothing white noise
For some people, having a gentle background noise playing in their bedroom helps them drift off to bed much more easily.
Whether it’s a small fan, a white noise machine, or… you guessed it… a humidifier, simple devices like these can mean falling asleep in minutes. A humidifier can sound particularly calming. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t feel relaxed listening to the device’s soft hum and the occasional drip-drop of water.
But how exactly does white noise help sleep?
When sudden disruptive sounds such as the honk of a car horn or a barking dog happen spontaneously as you are trying to go to bed, these noises can prevent you from falling asleep. They might even wake you up after you do finally fall asleep. However, with gentle white noise playing in your background, these disruptive noises can be drowned out. In turn, with gentle white noise playing, you essentially become desensitized to the disruptive world around you.
Research shows that not only can white noise help you fall asleep more easily but actually stay asleep as well7. In turn, although using humidifiers for white noise is not their intended purpose, their calming hum certainly is a nice bonus.
Create a cozier sleeping environment
If you like your bedroom to feel warm and cozy, using a humidifier might help to achieve those ideal sleeping conditions.
“How?” you might ask.
Really, a humidifier won’t do much to actually raise the temperature of your bedroom. After all, even warm mist humidifiers do very little to make your room warmer.
However, it is no secret that environments that have more humidity will feel warmer than the same temperature environments with less humidity. For instance, 80 degrees in the arid climate of New Mexico certainly feels less hot than 80 degrees in the oppressively humid climate of southern Louisiana.
In turn, keeping your humidifier running in your bedroom can make your room feel slightly warmer. This may save money on heating, which is great. However, arguably a greater benefit is that your bedroom will be cozier for sleeping, especially in the winter.
Unbeknownst to most, there are numerous benefits of sleeping with a running humidifier.
However, it is important to keep in mind that although humidifiers might sound like the ultimate sleep aid, you only need to use your humidifier when necessary. Depending on where you live, your summer months may already be quite humid and consequently, a humidifier might not be necessary.
On the other hand, the dry air of your winter months may demand a little bit of extra moisture in the air for better sleep.
- “How Humidity Impacts Sleep.” sleep.org, https://bmcinfectdis.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2334-13-71
- “Sinus Health & Dry Air.” nycfacemd.com, https://www.nycfacemd.com/sinus-health-dry-air/
- “Predictors of indoor absolute humidity and estimated effects on influenza virus survival in grade school” bmvinfectdis.biomedcentral.com, https://bmcinfectdis.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2334-13-71
- “Snoring.” mayoclinic.org, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/snoring/symptoms-causes/syc-20377694
- “Influence of breathing route on upper airway lining liquid surface tensions in humans.” ncbi.nlh.nim.gov, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16690717
- “Impact of a controlled heated breathing tube humidifier on sleep quality during CPAP therapy in a cool sleeping environment” erj.ersjournals.com, https://erj.ersjournals.com/content/31/4/830.full
- “The influence of white noise on sleep in subjects exposed to ICU noise” sciencedirect.com, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1389945704002242