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When it comes to sleep, health experts recommend adults get about 7 to 9 hours of it each night. That’s a fairly universal rule. But how we prefer to get optimal sleep can really run the gamut, and people often feel pretty passionate about their sleeping habits. Socks or no socks? Comforter or duvet? Feather or down pillows?
For the most part, these nuances are mostly preferences and won’t impact the quality of your Zs much from a scientific perspective. But there’s one popular sleep habit that holds some significance: Whether you should sleep with a fan on.
Fortunately, sleep experts have some answers about whether its OK to sleep with a fan on and how it might affect your sleep as well as your health.
Pro: Running A Fan Can Be Better White Noise Than A TV
Sleeping with a fan blowing can be helpful if you find your sleep is often disrupted because of noise, like traffic or a neighbor’s barking dog, explains Martin Reed, a certified clinical sleep health expert and founder of Insomnia Coach.
“The white noise fans generate can help mask these sounds,” says Reed, who is also an affiliate member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
Also, it’s much better to fall asleep to the sound of a fan than dozing off in front of a television, he says.
“The changes in volume and varying sounds that occur during a TV show are far more likely to disrupt your sleep, even if you don’t notice yourself waking during the night in response to these volume changes,” he says.
Another option is to use a white noise machine, he suggests. Watch out for the settings that play nature sounds, though, because, while they seem relaxing, they can actually make it harder to fall and stay asleep because of the unpredictable sounds, he says. (Think: Crashing waves on the ocean setting or chirping bugs making cameos.)
Con: Your Fan Could Be Drying You Out
If you’re prone to dry skin, the constant blowing of air could cause further irritation, says Rebecca Park, a registered nurse and founder of Remedies For Me, a site that provides information on benefits of natural remedies for different ailments.
A fan can also cause dry eyes, especially with people who wear contact lens, she says. “The constant blowing of air can also cause dry eyes for people who sleep with their eyes partially opened,” Park explains.
Air conditioners can have a similar effect because they blow cold and dry air, Park says, which can cause your skin, eyes, mouth and throat to become dry.
Pro: Fans Can Keep You Cool, Which Is Critical For Good Sleep
In addition to acting as a white noise machine, fans can, of course, keep a bedroom cool, says Dr. Alex Dimitriu, who is double board-certified in psychiatry and sleep medicine and is the founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry and Sleep Medicine. “Having a cooler bedroom can help deepen sleep,” he says.
When you’re in bed trying to sleep, decreases in your body temperature help initiate sleep, and having a cooler room can assist in that process. The ideal temperature for sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation, is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. But if your room is cooler or hotter than those optimal temperatures, it could translate to restless sleep and prevent you from falling into deeper sleep stages.
Another advantage: Simply turning a fan on every night can be a cue to your body that it’s time for sleep, says Dr. Nathaniel Watson at SleepScore Labs. “Consistency in bedtime routines and the sleeping environment are key to healthy sleep,” he says.
Con: Your Fan Could be Causing Your Sinuses To Act Up
On the upside, air circulation is good for your health because it can help keep your room fresh, prevent molds and get rid of odors, Park says.
But, the downside? A blowing fan can dry out the mouth and throats of people who tend to sleep with their mouths open. That can lead to coughing, congestion and sinus problems, she explains.
Also, air conditioning can also cause problems if your HVAC unit isn’t cleaned regularly and properly. It could be dispersing bacteria and fungi into the room and your lungs, Park warns. Black mold can grow in AC units because of the moisture that builds up in the coils. Bacteria can cause all types of health concerns, Park says, including allergies, pneumonia and even Legionnaire’s disease, a severe form of pneumonia.
So, what is your sleep routine like? Do you have certain nighttime rituals you swear by?