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Side Effects of Sleeping with a Fan On

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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. 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.

But are there downsides to using one at night? We’ll cover the potential side effects of falling asleep with a fan on.

Sleeping With a Fan
Do you sleep with a fan on?
Have you gotten sick from sleeping with the fan on?

Why Use a Fan While Sleeping?

Sleeping with a fan on can be beneficial for certain people and situations. The reasons why someone might use a fan at night can vary, but the goal is usually the same: better sleep.

  • White noise – The sound a fan makes is similar to white noise. 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, a snoring partner, yelling neighbors, slamming doors, and sirens. In some cases, people may have difficulty sleeping in complete silence and may feel more at ease with white noise from a fan.
  • Cooling – Fans are a low-cost way to cool a warm room. If you’re a hot sleeper, 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:
    • Get a few bottles of water, about four to six.
    • Add two to three tablespoons of salt to each bottle.
    • Put the bottles in the freezer.
    • 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.
    • Put the tray of frozen bottles in front of your fan.
    • Turn it on. As the air blows by the frozen water, you’ll feel a cool breeze.
  • Air Circulation – A closed-off room can feel stuffy. By circulating air, you boost the room’s freshness and battle stagnancy or odors.

View Our Guide: Best Fans for Sleeping

Side Effects of Sleeping with a Fan

Despite the advantages of using a fan, you may need to avoid sleeping with a fan on for specific health and environmental reasons. If you experience a negative side effect like these, you should discontinue using a fan immediately.

Allergic Reactions

Despite the advantages of using a fan, you may need to avoid sleeping with a fan on for specific health and environmental reasons. If you experience a negative side effect like these, you should discontinue using a fan immediately.

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.

Check out our picks for the best mattresses for allergies.

Dry Air

Fans can dry out the air3 around you. Breathing in dry air can cause unwanted side effects4 such as asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis, nosebleeds, and dehydration. A steady dry stream of air can also dry out your eyes5, and for those who sleep with their mouth open, the dry air could also lead to a sore throat.3

To prevent the fan from drying out the air, people may want to consider using a cool mist humidifier or regular humidifier

Sore Muscles and Joints

People who sleep with a breeze directly on them may wake up with stiff or sore muscles. This is because the cool air6 can make muscles and joints feel stiff and, sometimes, painful. If you’ve been waking up with a stiff neck in the morning, it might be because of the constant breeze.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can sleeping with a fan on paralyze you?

There is a rumor in some parts of the world that exposure to cold can cause Bell’s palsy7, a condition in which part of the face becomes paralyzed. Part of this myth is that the constant moving air from a fan may cause this disorder. However, there is no scientific evidence that exposure to cold– be it from a fan, air conditioning unit, outdoor temperature, or other source– can cause Bell’s palsy or any other type of paralysis. Bell’s palsy is a neurogenic disorder; not a vascular disease.7 

Do fans help with sleep apnea?

There is no evidence that sleeping with a fan on will help improve your sleep apnea symptoms. If anything, a fan pointed directly at your face will likely dry out your mouth, throat, and nostrils, which could make sleep apnea symptoms like snoring worse. 

In fact, for those with sleep apnea who use a CPAP machine, almost all machines come standard with a humidifier to help improve breathing and rescue dry air.

Final Word of Advice

Whether you’re trying to keep cool or fall asleep faster, a fan is a cost-effective solution for many people. While many people find that using a fan helps them sleep better, there are some potential side effects to consider as well. 

For those experiencing these unwanted side effects, we recommend trying a different solution based on the reason why you need a fan in the first place. If it’s for white noise, use a white noise machine instead. If it’s for temperature regulation, consider cooling sheets or a cooling pillow to help you keep cool.

Jill Zwarensteyn

Jill Zwarensteyn

Editor

About Author

Jill Zwarensteyn is the Editor for Sleep Advisor and a Certified Sleep Science Coach. She is enthusiastic about providing helpful and engaging information on all things sleep and wellness.

Combination Sleeper

Education & Credentials

  • Certified Sleep Science Coach

References:

  1. Ebben, Matthew R., Yan, Peter., Krieger, Ana C. “The effects of white noise on sleep and duration in individuals living in a high noise environment in New York City”. Sleep Medicine. 2021.
  2. “Environmental Allergies”. Cleveland Clinic. Last modified April 25, 2023.
  3. “Can You Get a Sore Throat From Sleeping With Your Window Open?”. Cleveland Clinic. 2019.
  4. “How Dry Winter Air Can Cause Respiratory Problems— From Bronchitis to Nosebleeds”. Cleveland Clinic. 2019.
  5. Hertz MD, Natasha L. “How Can I Tell What’s Causing My Dry Eye?”. American Academy of Ophthalmology. 2017.
  6. “How Changes in Weather Affect Joint Pain”. Cleveland Clinic. 2023.
  7. Mansoor, Sahibzada Nasir., Rathore, Farooq Azam. “Myths and misconceptions regarding facial nerve palsy management: Interesting perspectives From a developing Country”. Journal of Neurosciences in Rural Practice. 2015.