By Meg Walters - Live Science
Can dehumidifiers help with snoring and improve your sleep quality?
We’ve all experienced those sticky, hot summer days when the air feels so thick and heavy it’s almost impossible to breathe. Luckily, dehumidifiers can help to remove moisture from the air and make your home feel a little more comfortable. But can dehumidifiers also help with snoring?
Dehumidifiers are electrical appliances that extract water molecules from the air and help to maintain a lower moisture level. Essentially, a dehumidifier can make the air in your home drier. For families who live in areas with high humidity levels, these machines tend to become essential during the summer months.
While just about everyone can benefit from less stifling air on humid days, there are some people who may especially benefit from these machines - year-round snorers! Here, we’ll be discussing why the best dehumidifiers can help to reduce snoring and give you a few tips on how to keep your home’s humidity at an optimal level for sleep.
According to the Indian Journal of Community Medicine, snoring is what occurs when the breath causes vibrations in the tissues that line the throat while we sleep. These vibrations can cause an audible sound. While snoring can happen to anyone from time to time, for some people it is a chronic and frustrating condition. Snoring can be caused by a variety of factors, including the anatomy of your throat and nose, congestion, sleep disorders, sleep position, or over-consumption of alcohol.
So, can dehumidifiers help with snoring? According to the experts, sometimes. Dr. Carleala Weiss, a scientific advisor at Aeroflow Sleep, explains, "Using a dehumidifier will maintain the room with normal humidity levels, reduce irritation of the upper respiratory tract, and support breathing."
As Phil Lawlor, sleep expert at Dormeo, explains, this is because both overly dry air and excessively humid air can cause irritation to the airway — and some cases of chronic snoring are actually caused by or exacerbated by this type of irritation. As one study in Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology showed, for instance, hot humid air can cause irritation and a cough in people with allergic rhinitis. Using a dehumidifier can help to reduce this irritation and in turn, reduce occurrences of snoring during the night for certain people.
However, for people who snore due to physical or medical reasons, a dehumidifier probably won’t make much difference. As one 1999 study published in the journal Thorax showed, for instance, for people with obstructive sleep apnea (an anatomical condition that can cause snoring), heightened humidity has no negative or positive effect on snoring.
Excessive humidity doesn’t just affect snoring — it can also impact negatively on the quality of your sleep.
A 1999 study in the journal Sleep showed that high humidity can reduce the length of time the body spends in REM sleep. These are the stages of sleep where you get many of the benefits of sleep, such as tissue repair, brain development, and physical recovery from the previous day.
If these stages of sleep are reduced, you may find yourself waking up feeling tired and unrefreshed. In the long term, the lack of REM sleep can have more serious health consequences, as your body will not have the chance to repair itself overnight.
Some studies indicate that high humidity levels can also increase the chances of delayed sleep onset and wakefulness. A 2005 study published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, for instance, found that insomnia was more common in damp buildings, while a 2012 study in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology found that high humidity can result in increased wakefulness throughout the night. When your body is struggling in the heat and the air feels too thick to breathe, it is much harder to relax into a state conducive to sleep. In other words, high humidity will likely leave you tossing and turning far more than usual both as you try to fall asleep, and throughout the course of the night.
Because both dryness and humidity affect snoring, a dehumidifier can be used to keep the bedroom at an optimal relative humidity level, which, according to Weiss, is usually around 40-60%. Anything outside of this range can, as Weiss puts it, can have a negative impact on the upper respiratory tract (nose and throat). This negative impact can be as simple as a feeling of irritation on the nose or throat, leading to difficulty breathing.
A dehumidifier removes excess moisture from the air. For people who are experiencing irritation due to humidity levels of over 60%, a dehumidifier may help. Lawlor adds that other measures can help you improve the air quality in your room. "Firstly," he says, "it’s vital to circulate air regularly, so make sure you keep your doors and windows open for a while every few days to ensure fresh air has a chance to replace the air that’s been trapped."
However, it’s important to remember that excessive dryness in the air can actually exacerbate the problem. In fact, dry air is a more frequent cause of snoring than humid air - so, unless your room really is too humid, a dehumidifier may actually make your snoring problem even worse than before.
There’s nothing worse than lying wide awake in bed while your partner sniffles and snorts next to you all night long. Plus, waking up after a night spent struggling to breathe is no fun either.
If your bedroom’s humidity levels consistently reach above 60% and you have a snoring problem, a dehumidifier could certainly help to alleviate your symptoms. And even if the machine doesn’t improve the snoring, it will definitely improve the air quality in your room, leading to a better night’s sleep overall.
Just remember, snoring may be an annoying distraction when you’re trying to drift off, but the whirring and humming of a dehumidifier may be even worse. So, if you’re looking for a dehumidifier to improve your sleep, be sure to choose one that can both maintain humidity levels of 40-60%, and that can hum away quietly all night long, leaving you to sleep in peace.