How Humidifiers Help You Sleep

by Kristina Brooks Editor

Using a humidifier when you sleep can go a long way toward reducing dryness and congestion. It does so by helping the tiny hairs in the nose to move freely and do their job of filtering out bacteria that may cause colds or trigger allergies. Humidifiers also prevent dryness that can lead to bloody noses and irritation.

Here are some benefits of using a humidifier to help you sleep.

Sleep apnea and snoring

If you are on sleep apnea CPAP therapy, adding a humidifier can enhance airflow quality better than your body can humidify on its own. Humidifiers also can reduce or even eliminate the number of times you wake up from a dry, burning sensation in the nose. Intense snoring also is a common symptom of sleep apnea. Low moisture levels in the nose and a soft palate (the roof of your mouth, toward the back) promote snoring because air cannot move freely due to dryness and gets trapped. As a result, air starts to bounce around in the sinuses causing, a vibration, or snore, that helps loosen moisture and promote airflow. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day and sleeping with a humidifier at night can bring moisture back to the sinus membranes and reduce snoring intensity. If you have sleep apnea, you may want to consider a heated vapor option. This better stimulates the sinuses to make their own moisture.

Sleep for children

If you have infants or small children, their nasal passages are more sensitive and can easily be disrupted by dust or dryness. This can cause them to toss and turn while sleeping, and even wake up more frequently at night. Adding humidity to their environment can help reduce disruption or irritation, which means extra sleep for the whole family. However, be aware that too much moisture can excite dust mites. Try to keep humidity levels between 30 and 45 percent.

Disruptive sleep

If you don’t like sleeping in the cold, adding moisture into the air can trap warmth and make it feel warmer in your room. Humidity makes the surrounding air closer to the temperature it actually is, instead of feeling colder and causing you to turn up the heat. If the heat is set to 70 degrees, but humidity levels are at 10 percent, your home will feel like it is 67 degrees. However, at 50 percent humidity, it will feel like 69 degrees.

Humidifiers also help prevent you from waking up with a dry, scratchy throat. As you sleep, the vapors circulate in your airways and work to lubricate the mucous membranes in your nose and throat. This prevents airways from becoming clogged or dry, which can cause you to wake up with that scratchy feeling, or waking up in the middle of the night.

Lastly, humidifiers can make a big difference in your skin’s ability to retain moisture. The vapors work to keep skin hydrated and can prevent you from waking up feeling itchy or dry. This also may reduce the amount you toss and turn from irritated skin.

It’s important that, when using a humidifier, you keep track of moisture levels in your home. Dirty mist or too much vapor can work against you and trigger allergies or cause respiratory problems. It might be helpful to buy a small humidity monitor. Finally, be sure to follow your humidifier’s cleaning directions to avoid mold, and use filtered water if you can.

Kristina Brooks
Meet Our Writer
Kristina Brooks

Kristina Brooks was a digital editor at HealthCentral with a background in animal biology, ecology, and health science. While studying broadcast journalism, she discovered the great need for health reporters that could translate research to the public. In her work, she hopes to use research to help consumers make smart decisions about their healthcare, and empower patients to stay confident and in charge of their chronic conditions. She helped launch HealthCentral's inaugural MythWeek.