When winter strikes, humidity levels and temperatures plummet. It’s not surprising that so many of us get sick during the colder months for this reason, as dry air in winter tends to have a negative impact on your overall health and immunity.
According to Dr. William Schaffner from Vanderbilt University, people are more likely to get sick in the winter for two main reasons. The first is that we spend much more time indoors and in enclosed spaces, where viruses spread more easily. Secondly, the lack of moisture in the air and low humidity means viruses stay in the air for a sufficiently prolonged period of time, Healthline reports.
While going to sleep in the wintertime may be even more satisfying than other times of the year (did somebody say extra blankets and fuzzy socks!?), the dry air makes for a pretty parched predicament.
Why Dry Air in Winter is the Enemy of Wellness
Dry winter air causes more than just discomfort; it can wreak havoc on your sinuses, cause congestion, spawn nosebleeds, affect the health of your skin and hair, and even trigger asthma attacks.
Since the human body is made up of between 60-80% water, it’s extremely common for people to experience adverse bodily reactions to dry air in the winter. To function properly, it’s key to keep your home and sleep environment “moisturized” so that you don’t become susceptible to illness.
When the air in your bedroom is exceptionally dry, you might first notice it in your nose. Inside of your nasal passages are tiny mucous membranes that require moisture to function correctly. These membranes act as a protective filtration system, keeping harmful irritants (like bacteria or viruses) from entering your body.
But when these mucous membranes are as dry as the winter air, they will stop working properly, which is why we are all at greater risk of colds, the flu, and other respiratory illnesses in times of low humidity.
Furthermore, dry air can also be detrimental to the skin and eyes, which also rely on moisture to function. If the skin in particular is dry and cracked, it’s easier for allergens, toxic chemicals, and germs to infiltrate the body, causing sickness.
How Dry Air Affects Sleep
When you factor in the dry winter air, it can be that much more difficult to achieve a good night’s sleep (which is already a challenge for many adults). In a room with low moisture, breathing can become difficult at night due to a dry nose or sore throat.
Since sleep is so important to restoring your health and rejuvenating your physical wellness, dealing with any disruption during the night can actually make you more susceptible to getting sick.
Already, your body naturally loses moisture during the night through the processes of respiration and perspiration—which is why it’s so common to wake up feeling thirsty. But add the dry winter air to the equation and suddenly you could be dealing with extreme dehydration and fatigue upon waking.
Combatting Dry Air in Your Sleep Environment
Fortunately, you don’t have to settle for a dry and uncomfortable sleep environment in the winter months. Here are 3 key ways you can fight against the dry winter air so that you don’t lose out on any of those precious Zzz’s.
Lower the Thermostat- On those bone-chillingly cold nights, the first thing you probably want to do is crank the heat in your home. However, indoor heating dries out the air in winter even more than it already is, which creates a problematically dry sleep environment. Even though it might seem crazy, try lowering your thermostat before you go to bed and opt for flannel PJs instead. Doing so has the added benefit of helping you fall asleep more easily, as the ideal temperature for a good night’s rest is between 60 and 67 degrees.
Drink Plenty of Water - This may seem like obvious advice, but making sure that you are hydrated before hitting the hay (and all winter long!) is very effective at combating the effects of dry air. When the winter chill is sopping up all of your body’s moisture, drinking plenty of water will keep your skin, eyes, nose, and mouth functioning properly, which is essential to your overall health.
Invest in a Humidifier - When it comes to dry indoor air, a humidifier is the most obvious option to upping the moisture in your bedroom. Before you buy, you can first try reaping some of the benefits of hydrated air by simply filling a bowl with water and leaving it in your bedroom by a vent. You’ll be amazed to see the water evaporate in as little as a week, which is what humidifiers aid in doing over the course of the whole winter.
To battle the effects of dry air in the winter, it's essential to make sure you’re making moisture a priority in your sleep environment. While you’re at it, you can make your bedroom an even healthier place to sleep by adding these organic staples.