If you’re one of the millions of Americans struggling with how to get to sleep after a long day, maybe you should try cracking your bedroom window. Plenty of people across the country are using this age-old remedy to help them sleep easier, and now a new study shows that there could be scientific reasons as to why this alleviates minor sleeping ills.
The study, commissioned by a leading group of sleep experts, found that opening a window helped with temperature control, carbon dioxide emissions, and led to a more even, better sleep than those who used other means for temperature control. Carbon dioxide is a gas that we naturally exhale as we sleep, and not to be confused with the much more lethal carbon monoxide. While some carbon dioxide isn’t bad for you (indeed, it’s actually required for respiration), it’s interesting to see these effects studied when specifically tied to sleep.
The experiment tracked numerous college students, using fitness bands and sleep applications to measure the quality of their sleep. The participants were split, half using an open window as their only source of temperature control, the other half using items like a space heater or a fan. The experiment showed that surprising amounts of carbon dioxide stayed in the room for the people who slept with a window closed. While it wasn’t considered a dangerous level, it could potentially lead to sleep problems — or exacerbate problems that already existed.
Carbon Dioxide Levels are Key to Understanding Sleep
The levels of carbon dioxide were measured over the span of five days, while the participants were asked to also keep a journal of their perceived sleep health. The researchers found that as carbon dioxide levels increased, there was a direct correlation with a decrease in this perceived sleep health. With a window or door closed, the average carbon dioxide level was 1150 parts per million, compared with 717 parts per million when a window was open.
Humidity levels and temperature were similar in both test groups, leading researchers to believe that sleep quality is directly tied to the amount of carbon dioxide in the air. This could lead to new areas of research as we seek to understand the complex systems that help us sleep.
There are some areas of potential downside. Sleeping with the window open has been known to increase the cases of sore throat, this has less to do with exposure to airborne illness, and more to do with a lower level of humidity in the air at night. If you’re waking up over and over again with a sore throat, but you’d like to keep a window open, try running a humidifier next to your bed to counteract those difficulties.
While there are often expensive sleep therapies, phone apps, and surgeries you can try, this is a nice and inexpensive (free) way to make sure that you’re getting the best sleep you can. It’s totally natural and has been used since the beginning of time. So if you’re worried that you aren’t getting the quality sleep you desperately need, try cracking a window. You may be surprised at the results.