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sleeping with open windows
February 15, 2006 1:37 PM   Subscribe

Why is it that when I sleep with an open window at night, I wake up way more energized?

I try to sleep most of the time with a cracked window to circulate air. I notice that if it gets really cold outside and I decide to close my window at night, I feel groggy and lethargic the next morning. Why could this be? What are the properties of fresh air that could contribute to a better sleeping process?

Could there be something in my house that is toxic, even if the house was built in the past decade (should I test the air quality in my house... and how)? Or, do others also expereince this phenomenon? Is carbon dioxide slowly killing me, or do the plants that I have in my bedroom have something to do with this?
posted by |n$eCur3 to Health & Fitness (23 answers total)
 
I sleep much better if my room is moderately cold. Is it possible that your room is colder with the window open than when it is closed?
posted by pombe at 1:39 PM on February 15, 2006


Maybe your room is just too warm? I tend to sleep better when it's slightly chilly.
posted by kickingtheground at 1:40 PM on February 15, 2006


Before you ask: Why is it that when I sleep with an open window at night, I wake up way more energized? you'd have to actually make damn sure that is actually the case.

If you don't keep records, it's really easy to simply confirm your bias. That is, when you wake up feeling groggy, you notice if the window is closed, but don't otherwise. Most people dismiss this possibility of their view of the world, but such confirmation bias is much more powerful than most realize. (It's the reason many people will swear that folk remedy X cures their cold, yet careful clinical trials show nothing of the sort).

A lot of people get defensive when I say something like this. Please don't. Just recognize that if you have not tried to be extremely methodical about this (which really means keeping written records over a period of time), it's entirely possible the pattern you think you see simply does not exist. The human mind seems to naturally behave in a way quite antithetical to good statistical analysis.
posted by teece at 1:48 PM on February 15, 2006


I agree with teece, but have also noticed that I too tend to sleep better with fresh air.
posted by shoepal at 1:53 PM on February 15, 2006


teece, I realize that as of now, i have no proof (and I fully accept that conirmation bias or placebo could be a factor). For the sake of my question, i'd like to assume that this is not the case (and i will try to take records during the next month to confirm or negate this).

pombe, and kickingtheground... well, I would say that it is fairly season independant. I sleep better in the winter than in the summer (because of temps) but I sleep even better when it's cold AND the window is open.
posted by |n$eCur3 at 2:01 PM on February 15, 2006


because if we assume that confirmation bias is the case, then we might get stuck assuming that nothing else could be a contributing factor...
posted by |n$eCur3 at 2:03 PM on February 15, 2006


What are the properties of fresh air that could contribute to a better sleeping process?

Seems pretty straightforward to me. The air in a closed room is inhaled and exhaled repeatedly, leading to higher and higher concentrations of carbon dioxide. When you open the window, you let the carbon dioxide out and allow air with a higher proportion of oxygen in. The oxygen circulates throughout your body, enhancing mind & body efficiency.

As an extreme example, if your room was sealed airtight, you would get more and more lethargic until you eventually died of oxygen deprivation (after a few days, probably). Oxygen = good for you.
posted by designbot at 2:15 PM on February 15, 2006


... and lack of oxygen while sleeping can cause a turtle headache.
posted by Rash at 2:27 PM on February 15, 2006


rash, best website ever.
posted by |n$eCur3 at 2:48 PM on February 15, 2006


Another vote for cooler temperature (in addition to confirmation bias).
posted by PurplePorpoise at 2:51 PM on February 15, 2006


I find when I sleep in a room with dry heated air my mouth and nasal passages get dry and my breathing is raspier (when I awake). Maybe the irritation of breathing over dry membranes prevents me from sleeping as deeply.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:00 PM on February 15, 2006


It's a medically-proven fact that people sleep better when the temperature drops. One of the first pieces of advice given to people who can't sleep is "make sure you're not too warm".

But yes, of course, Oxygen is a factor.

But what about the "what you're used to" or "what you grew up with" factor?

MrsChapel loves to sleep with a bit of a breeze, and visiting her childhood home I could see why. It was, to me, very drafty indeed.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 3:03 PM on February 15, 2006


For the sake of my question, i'd like to assume that this is not the case

That's fair enough. One thing to know about newer houses -- they are much more air-tight. The benefit you see in your heating bill sometimes comes at the expense of air quality.

But I'd be surprised if air had much to do with it. It might just be habituation, too. I can't sleep on my back or without a fan, simply because I'm used to it.

Googling air quality and sleep brings some interesting (but hard to ascertain) stuff. Temperature seems like a culprit, too.

But I'd lean toward benign explanations until they have been eliminated.
posted by teece at 3:30 PM on February 15, 2006


fine, maybe it was a dumb question. thanks for all of you great responses
posted by |n$eCur3 at 5:03 PM on February 15, 2006


In the chapter: How I Discovered, and Perfected, My System of Super-Health of Young at 73 and Beyond, by Frederick Tilney, Fred explains how sleeping with the windows shut is detrimental to health, and that sufficient fresh air is an important aspect of sound health.

It's a great read, if you enjoy it you'll probably end up sleeping on the roof.
posted by MetaMonkey at 5:09 PM on February 15, 2006


I don't think it was a dumb question, as Fred's story makes clear, it is easy to forget the importance of air and sunshine in this crazy modern world.
posted by MetaMonkey at 5:11 PM on February 15, 2006


dances_with_sneeches you can remedy that hotel heat thing by placing a damp towel over the heater before you go to sleep. I also heard that if you rub vaseline on the inside of your nostrils it will keep them from drying out and letting all those nasty foreign substances into your throat and sinuses. Never tried it but seems like it makes sense.
posted by any major dude at 5:15 PM on February 15, 2006


do the plants that I have in my bedroom have something to do with this?

I recently did a minor amount of research on this, and it seems the general consensus is that it's not the best idea to have most types of plants in the room you sleep in, because while they use carbon dioxide and give off oxygen during the day, they do just the reverse at night. The exceptions apparently include aloe, orchids, snake plants and bromeliads, which are said to work the opposite way - they will use CO2 and give off O2 at night.

You might also google "sick building syndrome" for more info on how indoor air circulation can affect your health.
posted by attercoppe at 5:52 PM on February 15, 2006


if you rub vaseline on the inside of your nostrils it will keep them from drying out and letting all those nasty foreign substances into your throat and sinuses.

This may be true, but they also make saline gel products specifically for this. I've got one called "Ayr" sitting next to me (my apartment's so dry in the middle of winter). Vaseline might work, but I can vouch for this.
posted by booksandlibretti at 6:45 PM on February 15, 2006


It's either the illusory correlation (which has to do with confirmation bias), or possibly an increase in oxygen.
posted by mojabunni at 7:00 PM on February 15, 2006


Where do you live? I live in an area with good air quality, so when I open the window I breathing is much improved. I'm also mildly allergic to dust and such, so being cooped up all winter doesn't help my sleeping. Opening a window helps with that.
posted by Loto at 7:28 PM on February 15, 2006


I'd agree that confirmation bias is possible, but this seems well corroborated. I think that the "dry heated air" creating a negative sleeping environment is more likely as a straightforward explanation of how people come to this conclusion, though.

For what it's worth, a continuous diet of air conditioning during the summer also irritates my sinuses and impairs sleep.

In the musical 1776, there is a scene where Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin, sharing a hotel room (and bed!), argue over whether the window should be open or closed.
posted by dhartung at 12:26 AM on February 16, 2006


In the musical 1776, there is a scene where Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin, sharing a hotel room (and bed!), argue over whether the window should be open or closed.

John Adams and Ben Franklin had this argument. Franklin was exeedingly fond of fresh air. (Extra credit: Google air-bathing.)
posted by desuetude at 6:20 AM on February 16, 2006


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