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Is it better to sleep with a fan or AC?

There’s nothing worse than struggling to get to sleep during a sweltering summer night. Your skin sticks to the sheets and you can’t get comfortable no matter how much you move. 

Hot nights aren’t just uncomfortable, they’re also bad for your health. Reduced sleep quality has serious effects on almost every area of your health. So what can you do?

This article is a quick and dirty guide to whether you should get a fan or air conditioning to keep you cool while you sleep. 

Is it better to sleep with a fan or AC?

It’s better to sleep with a fan than an AC if you can get your room to a comfortable temperature with only a fan. Otherwise, an AC is better to sleep with. Air conditioners will dry out your room’s air but do a better job of keeping you cool.

A cool room is essential to a good night’s sleep. Experts agree that the best temperature for a restful night is 65 degrees Fahrenheit, well below the summer outdoor temperature in most US states. 

Once you start to hit temperatures north of 80 degrees, the room temperature interferes with your body’s ability to decrease its internal temperature as you fall asleep. Hotter temperatures make you restless and reduce the amount of time you spend in Stage 3 and REM sleep, which are crucial to your overall health.

So, you need to stay cool while you sleep. But what are the pros and cons of choosing a fan vs AC. 

The advantages of choosing a fan over AC while you sleep are as follows:

  • Air humidity: The process of air conditioning sucks moisture out of the air through condensation in the AC unit. Basically, running air conditioning while you sleep means drier air. Less humidity can lead to skin dryness and irritation and exacerbate certain respiratory conditions.
  • Lower noise: Air conditioning can be loud, especially if you use a portable air conditioner. Expect most portable air conditioners to produce 55 – 65 decibels of sound, which is like sitting next to someone having a normal conversation while you sleep. Fans still produce noise but are generally quieter at 45 – 50 decibels, around the sound of gentle rainfall. 
  • Cheaper: Fans are less expensive to buy and run than portable air conditioners. A fan will cost you $10 – $90 depending on the model while you can pay as much as $700 for a portable air conditioner. More permanent air conditioning solutions are even more expensive and can leave your wallet thousands of dollars lighter.

The advantage of choosing AC over a fan while you sleep is that it’s just much more powerful. Fans won’t actually reduce your room’s temperature. They just make you feel cooler and make it easier for your body to control your internal temperature.

So fans will work up to a certain point. But you’ll need an air conditioner once you get into really hot outdoor temperatures. Otherwise, the fan will just blow hot air over you.

Understanding Sleep and Temperature

Sleep researchers are fascinated by how temperature and sleep interact. The body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm, manages our sleep-wake cycle. It also regulates body temperature, signaling sleepiness as the body cools at night.

Temperature’s Effect on Sleep Onset and Duration

As we prepare for sleep, our body temperature naturally drops. A cooler ambient temperature can support this drop, aiding quicker sleep onset and prolonged sleep duration. This is why cooler bedrooms are often linked to better sleep quality.

Disruptions Caused by Warmth

Hot weather can severely disrupt sleep. It interferes with the body’s ability to maintain a cool internal temperature. This can result in difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, and may also limit the time spent in deep, restorative sleep stages.

Finding the Right Bedroom Temperature

Research indicates that a bedroom temperature between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for sleep. Preferences can vary, with some finding comfort in slightly warmer or cooler temperatures.

Managing Bedroom Temperature for Better Sleep

Achieving the right bedroom temperature can be a struggle, especially in the heat of summer or in rooms with poor ventilation. Fans and AC units are practical solutions that can help establish conducive sleep conditions. They should be used thoughtfully, with adjustments made for personal comfort and cost-effectiveness.

The Role of Fans in Sleep

Fans are essential for improving air circulation in warm conditions. They keep air moving, which refreshes the room atmosphere. Continuous air movement prevents the buildup of hot, stagnant air, making the environment more pleasant for sleep.

Aiding Natural Cooling

A fan in the room speeds up the evaporation of sweat. As the body releases moisture, the fan’s airflow helps in heat dissipation. This process cools the skin effectively, contributing to a more comfortable sleep temperature.

Utilizing the Wind-Chill Effect

Fans create what is known as the wind-chill effect. By moving air over the skin, they make the room feel cooler than its actual temperature. This perception of coolness helps in making warm temperatures bearable.

The Impact of AC on Sleep

AC units impact sleep by cooling and conditioning indoor air. They remove hot air and replace it with a cooler breeze. This process also reduces excess humidity. The result is a sleep-friendly environment, perfect for escaping the heat.

Stabilizing Bedroom Temperature

A constant temperature is vital for good sleep. AC units excel in providing this stability. They ensure the bedroom environment stays consistent. This consistency is key for the body’s sleep processes and overall rest quality.

Air Quality and Health Benefits

AC units can filter out common irritants. They capture dust, pollen, and allergens. This feature is a boon for allergy and asthma sufferers. It can transform a night of discomfort into one of tranquility.

Cost Comparison and Efficiency

Fans are the winners in terms of upfront affordability. They are inexpensive to buy and run. Operating a fan overnight typically costs just a few cents. AC units, however, have a higher purchase price and consume more electricity, leading to higher bills.

Measuring Efficiency

Efficiency for fans means more air movement for less electricity. AC units are judged by how much cool air they produce per watt. While modern ACs are more efficient than older models, fans still consume less power overall.

Installation and Maintenance Expenses

Installing a central AC system can be costly due to the need for ductwork and professional services. Window ACs and portable units are less expensive to install. Fans are the simplest, often requiring no more than placement in a room. Regular maintenance for ACs can include filter changes and coolant refills, while fans typically just need cleaning and occasional lubrication.

Health Considerations for Fan and AC Use

Health is important in this decision. Fans can be better for those with respiratory issues. They avoid the issue of overly dry air. AC can be a relief for those with allergies. It filters out pollen and dust.

Using Fans: Benefits and Cautions

  • Air Quality Improvement: Fans circulate the air, preventing it from becoming stale and may help reduce the presence of irritants.
  • Dehydration and Dryness: Overuse of fans can lead to dehydration by increasing the rate of evaporation on your skin.
  • Allergy Considerations: Fans can stir up dust and pollen, which might aggravate allergies if the room is not kept clean.

Using Air Conditioning: Health Impacts

  • Temperature Control: ACs maintain a cool environment, which is beneficial for those with certain medical conditions that are exacerbated by heat.
  • Air Humidity and Respiratory Health: ACs can dry out the air, which may affect those with respiratory conditions. Using a humidifier can help.
  • Filtering Capabilities: Many AC units filter out common allergens, improving air quality for allergy sufferers.

General Advice for Optimal Use

  • Regular Maintenance: Keep fans and AC units clean to ensure they are not contributing to indoor air pollution.
  • Balanced Use: Use both fans and AC in a way that maintains comfort without creating a too-dry environment.
  • Hydration: Stay hydrated, especially when using fans, as the increased airflow can lead to more rapid water loss.

Noise Levels and Sleep

Noise can significantly affect sleep quality. Loud or inconsistent noise can disrupt the transition to sleep and prevent the deep, restorative stages of the sleep cycle. However, not all noise is bad for sleep. A consistent and soft background noise, such as the hum of a fan, can serve as white noise. This type of sound masks other potential disturbances and can be beneficial for sleep.

Fan vs. AC Noise Considerations

Fans are generally quieter than air conditioners, operating at noise levels of around 45-50 decibels. They can provide a steady, soothing background noise that many find conducive to sleep. On the other hand, air conditioners can be noisier, with noise output ranging from 55-65 decibels depending on the model. Portable air conditioning units are often the loudest and may be more likely to disrupt sleep, especially for those not used to the sound.


Choosing between a fan and AC depends on many factors. Consider cost, health, noise, and the environment. A cool room helps sleep. Evaluate your needs carefully. Make the best choice for a cool, comfortable night’s sleep.