I like to sleep with a window slightly open, year round. I have no scientific basis for such behavior, it’s just a gut feeling that there’s something healthy about having the window open.
Well, when I saw a headline in today’s Wall Street Journal: “Is It Healthy to Sleep With the Window Open?“, I thought I would find an official answer.
Unfortunately, there was no definitive answer to the question.
Douglas Kirsch, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the medical director of Sleep Medicine at Atrium Health, describes the ultimate scenario for restful sleep as a room that is 65 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit and very dark.
When it comes to fresh air in the bedroom, Dr. Kirsch says that there is limited science to suggest that it improves sleep. One recent study in the Netherlands tested 17 patients across five nights and found those who slept with the window open had better rest—a result, the researchers claim, of lower carbon dioxide. A similar study tested air quality in dorm rooms and the impact on sleep and next-day performance, which was stronger when the carbon dioxide was lower, thanks to an open window or the use of a fan.
But these studies lacked a large amount of quantitative and as a result could not be considered to offer definitive results.
Dr. Kirsch says that if the weather is right and a bedroom window is available to open, that can be great for circulation of air, pleasant sounds of nature stirring in the morning and sunlight at dawn to align with one’s circadian rhythms. However, in the dead of winter, in the height of summer or in an urban setting, “The draft is just not comfortable, the outdoor air will change your body temperature too much or the loud noises may disrupt sleep,” he says. Those with allergies may also be better off leaving the windows closed when the pollen count is high, especially in spring.
He believes an alternative way to achieve a cozy sleep setting year-round is to allow for some air circulation through an open door or a fan. He concludes that in general, one should strive to keep out the light, maintain a cool temperature, make sure the bedroom isn’t hermetically sealed to allow for some air flow, and try to stick with the same sleep schedule every night of the week, no matter what. Under those circumstances, whether or not a window is open likely won’t make much of a difference.
So my takeaway from reading the article is that there is no evidence to support keeping a window open or closed. It seems to boil down to personal preference, and as long as keeping a window open (or closed) doesn’t cause a fight in the bedroom, then the best solution is to just go with what you perceive to be what helps you sleep best.
In my case, that means keeping the window open since my wife also enjoys having the fresh air. I’ve also felt one of the keys to getting a good night’s sleep was committing to getting up about the same time each day and to getting six to eight hours of sleep per night.
That being said, it’s time for me to open a window and hit the sack.