Is Sleeping With a Fan On Safe? – Can It Make You Feel Sick?

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For some people, having a ceiling or floor fan in the room helps them fall asleep and stay cool at night. For others, it can keep them awake, trigger asthma attacks, or dry out their eyes.

If you’re in a hot or closed-off room, the thought of sleeping without one can be unbearable, and for those of you with noisy neighbors, its hum can help drown out music and other sounds.

So, the more thorough answer to this question is yes; in many cases sleeping with a fan on is good for you. In this article, we’ll dive more into why, as well as discuss some of the reasons to either avoid having one in the bedroom or at least how to use one properly to achieve maximum health and sleep benefits.

Why Use a Fan While Sleeping

Sleeping with a fan on can be beneficial for certain people and situations. These benefits can help lead to a better quality of rest, and because sleep is so important for your physical and mental health, this is vital for your overall well-being. The pros of using a fan include white noise, cost-effective temperature regulation, and air circulation. 

View Our Guide: Best Fans for Sleeping

White Noise

The sound a fan makes is similar to white noise. White noise combines all sound frequencies, generating a hum that can help people fall asleep. Using a fan is kind of a low-budget, DIY white noise machine.

People are attracted to the idea of white noise to help with sleep1 because it drowns out background noises and dulls jarring sounds like car alarms, yelling neighbors, slamming doors, and sirens. They’re also helpful if you sleep with a partner who snores and you want to drown out the sound. In some cases, people have difficulty sleeping in complete silence and may feel more at ease with white noise from a fan.

Control Temperature

illustration of a woman having hot flashes and night sweats

Fans are a low-cost way to cool a warm room. If you tend to run hot when you're in bed, they can help keep you comfortable. While they won’t keep you as cool as an air conditioner, we found a way to turn a basic fan into a makeshift air conditioning unit.

Here’s how:

  1. Get a few bottles of water, about four to six.

  2. Add two to three tablespoons of salt to each bottle.

  3. Put the bottles in the freezer.

  4. When you’re ready for bed, put the frozen bottles on a tray. The tray is there to collect condensation and prevent a watery, leaky mess.

  5. Put the tray of frozen bottles in front of your fan.

  6. Turn it on. As the air blows by the frozen water, you’ll feel a cool breeze.

Refreeze the bottles each day and enjoy this DIY air conditioner every night. No tools or equipment are required.

Memory Foam Mattress Comfort Without Overheating

A memory foam mattress works great for those who crave a “deep hug” experience. However, they tend to make even the most temperature-neutral sleepers feel hot and sweaty, and while this isn't as big an issue during colder months, it's a nightmare during those hot and humid summer months.

As mentioned previously, running a fan is less expensive when compared to blasting your air conditioner. If you're looking to stay cool and enjoy the numerous benefits of a memory foam mattress, then a fan is probably your best bet. That said, sometimes air conditioning or a fan won't make a memory foam option work—some people simply sleep too hot. Even though the fan or cool air hits their body, it's not enough to cool down the areas cradled by the hugging memory foam—those areas will continue to sweat. If you’re a hot sleeper who loves memory foam, though, the good news is many companies have implemented cooling features into their memory foam beds to help them sleep cooler. Therefore, it’d be wise to look at memory foam beds with these cooling capabilities as well.

Air Circulation

A closed-off room feels stuffy, and the air can get stale during the night. By circulating air, you boost the room’s freshness and battle stagnancy. Fans also help combat odors. Have you ever walked into a bedroom where people have been sleeping all night and been put off by a stale and heavy smell? Adding a fan to the room to promote airflow will prevent that icky stench in the future.

Additionally, some studies2 suggest fans can help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). High temperatures and increased CO2 levels put babies at risk, and running a fan lowers the temperature and decreases the air’s concentration of carbon dioxide.

View Our Guide: Best Fans for Sleeping

Downsides of Sleeping with a Fan

Despite the advantages of using a fan, they’re not for everyone. In some cases, you may need to avoid sleeping with a fan on for specific health and environmental reasons. The potential downsides of using a fan can include allergic reactions, dry air, sinus irritation, and sore muscles. If you experience a negative side effect like these, you should discontinue using a fan immediately.

Allergic Reactions

As a fan moves air around the room, it causes flurries of dust and pollen to make their way into your sinuses. If you’re prone to allergies, asthma, and hay fever, sleeping with a fan on could have negative side effects. 

Also, take a close look at your fan. If it’s been collecting dust on the blades, those particles are flying through the air every time you turn it on.

Illustration of a Woman Suffering from Allergies

Dry Air

A constant blast of air on your body may cause dry skin. Lotions and moisturizers will help prevent this, but if your skin is dehydrated, use caution and monitor your skin to make sure you’re not overdrying it.

Another thing to consider is that some people sleep with their eyes partially open. This might seem strange, but it does happen. Again, a steady airstream will dry your eyes3 and may cause major irritation. If you wear contact lenses when you sleep, this is particularly problematic.

Some people also sleep with their mouths open, and the excess airflow will potentially dry out their mouths and throats. Keeping a glass of water nearby can help, but do you want to be woken up because of a dry mouth?

Sinus Irritation

The constant stream of air also has a tendency to dry out your nasal passages, which could affect your sinuses. If the dryness is particularly extreme, it can result in your body producing excess mucous to try to compensate. Then, you’re more susceptible to blockage, stuffiness, and sinus headaches4.

Sore Muscles

People who sleep with a breeze directly on them may wake up with stiff or sore muscles. This is because the concentrated cool air can make muscles tense up and cramp. This problem is especially common for people who sleep with it near their face and neck. If you’ve been waking up with a stiff neck in the morning, it might be because of the constant breeze.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it okay to sleep with a fan on if you’re sick?

Sleeping with a fan on probably won’t make your illness worse, but you’re not doing yourself any favors. The blast of air could irritate your sinuses, make you feel stiffer and sorer, and spread germs around. If you’re sharing a bed with a loved one, you’re increasing the chances of making them sick, too.

Woman sleeping while fan is cooling her off

Will it have negative side effects on the ears?

If the fan sounds like a Mack Truck, then yes. A loud, repetitive piece of equipment droning on and on close to your ears all night isn’t good for them. If you are using this in your bedroom, make sure that it has a relatively quiet hum.

Can you get a sore throat or stuffy nose from sleeping with a fan on?

Yes, you could get a sore throat or stuffy nose from sleeping with a fan on. The constant stream of air might dry out your throat, especially if you sleep with your mouth open. The air also dries out nasal passages. One way to minimize this risk is to use a fan that rotates rather than one that blows a steady and unrelenting flow in one concentrated area all night.

Conclusion

Whether you’re trying to keep cool or fall asleep faster, a fan is probably the most cost-effective piece of equipment you can use to improve your sleep quality. There are a lot of upsides to having one in the room, and most of the downsides can be eliminated by using something quiet that rotates and has a timer.

Sources:

Our team covers as many areas of expertise as we do time zones, but none of us started here as a so-called expert on sleep. What we do share is a willingness to ask questions (lots of them), seek experts, and dig deep into conventional wisdom to see if maybe there might be a better path towards healthy living. We apply what we learn not only to our company culture, but also how we deliver information to our over 12.7M readers.

Sleep research is changing all the time, and we are 100% dedicated to keeping up with breakthroughs and innovations. You live better if you sleep better. Whatever has brought you here, we wish you luck on your journey towards better rest.

Sleep Advisor