Benefits Of Using A Humidifier in Winter

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purple humidifier

Low temperatures and dry air have always been excellent harbingers of winter’s impending arrival. However, for a good segment of the population, cold temperatures and low humidity can also herald an uptick in cold and flu cases, eczema flare-ups, and wintertime nosebleeds. (1) The good news is that you don’t have to grin and bear it until spring (which often comes with its own set of issues); all of the above can potentially be mitigated by using a humidifier in the winter. 

Laura Purdy, MD, MBA, and Board-Certified Family Medicine Physician, tells Sleepopolis that “humidifiers add moisture to the air, preventing the indoor air from becoming uncomfortably dry.” For those plagued with dry skin and respiratory illnesses, relief may be just the flip of a switch away. 

Note: The content on Sleepopolis is meant to be informative in nature, but it shouldn’t be taken as medical advice, and it shouldn’t take the place of medical advice and supervision from a trained professional. If you feel you may be suffering from any sleep disorder or medical condition, please see your healthcare provider immediately. 

Long Story Short

  • Dry air can lead to a host of health issues like an uptick in cold, flu, and allergy symptoms, wintertime nosebleeds, dry skin, and snoring. (2)
  • Using a humidifier in winter can be an excellent way to combat the effects of cold, dry air. 
  • The ideal humidity level for sleep is somewhere between 30 and 50 percent. (3)

The Benefits of a Humidifier 

For some folks, humidifiers are non-negotiable during the dry winter months. For those who aren’t familiar with the benefits of using a humidifier in winter, here’s a quick rundown. 

Reduce Your Chance of Getting Sick

Since 2020, respiratory viruses have been top of mind for many — or, more specifically, curbing their transmission and trying to get some sleep while sick. And while masks and medicines are popular go-to’s for doing so, research shows there may be some benefits of using a humidifier in winter. 

While scientists have found that viruses like influenza and COVID-19 can remain infectious for twice as long in dry air because the saliva associated with coughs and sneezes acts as a protective barrier of sorts, research also shows that bumping indoor humidity levels up to 40-60 percent could strike a significant blow to their infectious potential. (4)

Reduces Risk of Nosebleeds

Nosebleeds are more common in the winter. (2) That’s because dry winter air (indoors and outside) can dry out your nasal passages, weaken the tiny blood vessels in your nose, and rupture, leading to, you guessed it — nosebleeds. (3) In this case, you may find some relief by using a humidifier in winter to add some moisture back into the air and back to your nasal passages. (3)

Reduce Allergy Symptoms 

Dry climates and dry winter air can exacerbate common allergy symptoms like itchy eyes and nose, dry throat, and assorted breathing difficulties. (3) Humidifiers can’t necessarily clean the air or remove allergens altogether, but the moisture boost they provide can help soothe annoying symptoms — maybe even enough so you can get some better sleep during allergy season

Keep in mind here, though, that using a humidifier to relieve allergy symptoms can be a double-edged sword. The extra moisture in the air may be beneficial, but too much humidity can encourage the spread of mold and mites, both of which thrive in moist environments. Balance is key. (5)  

Prevents and Treats Dry Skin 

In addition to nosebleeds and an uptick in flu cases and allergy symptoms, dry winter air can also zap the moisture from your skin, triggering eczema flare-ups more often than you’d like. 

While the National Eczema Association recommends using a humidifier in the winter to give your skin some moisture relief, they remind people that every eczema experience is different. (6) For some folks, a humidifier can be a welcome reprieve, whereas for others, too much added moisture in the air can exacerbate symptoms. 

Reduces Snoring 

For acute bouts of snoring brought on by seasonal colds, allergies and their myriad symptoms like dry mouth and nasal passages, humidifiers can do what humidifiers do — provide some degree of relief by adding moisture to dry air. Ultimately, people who snore and their partners might find that lubricated airways can dial down the snoring

“When your nose is backed up, blocked, or dry, this can cause someone to snore while sleeping,” says Purdy. “[Humidifiers] absolutely may help relieve snoring symptoms because of the added moisture. They help airflow in your sinuses, which may help prevent the snoring.” 

However, if your (or your partner’s) snoring is caused by sleep apnea, humidifiers alone may not be helpful. But a CPAP machine with a built-in humidifier? That’s another story, as noted by researchers out of Sweden who found that sleep apnea patients who used continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines with built-in humidifiers were more compliant with usage. (7) And as a bonus, the researchers also found that patients using CPAP machines with integrated humidifiers were more likely to stick with their CPAP treatment — sounds like a win-win. (7

Other Benefits of Using a Humidifier 

Beyond their many health benefits, humidifiers can also keep your oral health and static electricity in check.  

Improved Oral Health 

While most people probably don’t think about saliva too often, the fluid serves some pretty important functions in our oral health. While it moistens our food to help break it down for easier digestion and aids in swallowing, saliva also helps us maintain an optimal oral pH. (8)

Saliva keeps our mouths at a pH range somewhere between 6.2 and 7.6. Oral pH that consistently drops below a neutral 7.0 can lead to increased bacteria, dental decay, halitosis, and periodontitis. (9

The takeaway: If dry mouth plagues you at night or during the day, try using a humidifier. (10

Keeping Static Electricity in Check 

Cold, dry air is notorious for boosting the static electricity in the air. (11) For many of us, that reminder often comes courtesy of that familiar zap from a doorknob after walking across a carpeted room, or when you’re tossing and turning under your comforter on a particularly dry night. According to Discovery, the charge in the air can be curtailed by, you guessed it, adding moisture to the air with a humidifier. (11

The Best Humidity Level for Sleep

When it’s time to get some shut-eye, dry air likely won’t do you any favors — neither will high humidity. Confusing, we know, but hear us out. 

While dry air can lead to dried-out mucus membranes, making it almost impossible to get comfortable, research also shows that high humidity can impair sleep efficiency by decreasing your time spent in slow wave sleep (SWS) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, not to mention it can increase the duration of nighttime wakings. (12

Ultimately, finding the right balance is key to a good night’s sleep. Purdy tells us “humidity levels around 30 to 50 percent are ideal and what most people find more comfortable in their homes.” (3)

We’ll add here that household thermostats aren’t always accurate, so it might be wise to invest in a hygrometer — a device that measures humidity to help you accurately track humidity levels in your sleep space

How To Choose a Humidifier

When it’s time to choose a humidifier, familiarize yourself with the different types of units, consider the size of the space you’re working with, and be sure to check cleaning and maintenance requirements, as poor upkeep can invite (and spread) mold and bacteria. 

Consider the Size of Your Living Space

Humidifiers are available in a wide range of sizes, and when you’re looking to add moisture to the air in your living space, keep in mind that the size of the unit matters. Small or compact machines may suffice for small spaces like a bedroom, but larger areas like living rooms, for example, may call for a larger machine. 

And there’s no need to reinvent the wheel here; just be sure to measure the room you’re shopping for and look for a humidifier that can tackle that square footage. 

Consider the Cleaning Requirements

Long story short — some humidifiers need more maintenance than others. The best humidifier is the one that fits your aptitude and bandwidth, so be sure to read through the cleaning instructions (noting frequency, in particular). Generally, humidifiers with few components, water reservoirs that are easily removable, and filterless machines are the easiest to clean. 

Know The Different Types 

When shopping for a humidifier, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the different types of units available to you. (11) Some are quite large and intended for whole-house applications, while others may be too small and compact to be effective in the space where you need it. 

The most common types of humidifiers are (11):

Central Humidifiers. These units are built into home heating and air conditioning systems and are typically intended for whole-house applications. 

Impeller humidifiers. These humidifiers use a rotating disk to produce a cool mist that adds moisture to the air. 

Ultrasonic humidifiers. As their name implies, ultrasonic humidifiers use sound waves to produce and release a cool mist into the air. 

Evaporators. These devices use a fan to blow water through a filter and into the air. Evaporative humidifiers are typically self-regulating (they will shut off when the desired humidity level is reached), and the filters must be replaced regularly. 

Steam vaporizers. These machines heat water until it turns into steam, which is then released into the air. Warm mist humidifiers are a type of steam vaporizer. 

Tips for Sleeping With a Humidifier

Using Only Cool Mist Around Children 

While people often like the feel of the warm mist during the cold winter months, Purdy warns, “Warm mist humidifiers are a burn risk, so best to skip this type if you have babies or little kids at home who are likely to grab and reach for things.” For those in search of a humidifier for nurseries, Purdy adds, “Cool mist humidifiers (including ultrasonic, impeller, and evaporative humidifiers) are safer and a better option if you have children in your home.” 

Using Distilled or Filtered Water

The EPA recommends using water with “low mineral content” with humidifiers. (11) Distilled water is an excellent option and is less likely to disperse minerals into the air. Another benefit to using distilled water — they don’t make the machines as gunky and grimey as tap water might. 

Choosing the Right Level of Humidity 

The EPA also recommends keeping indoor humidity levels to 50 percent or less, as higher levels may encourage the growth of mold and mites in your home. (11) If you’re not sure or have concerns about managing the humidity levels in your home, consider purchasing a hygrometer. If the area around your humidifier gets damp or wet, or water condenses on windows, it may be best to adjust your machine or reduce the frequency of use. 

Keep It Clean 

Proper cleaning is a must for humidifiers. If left unchecked, these machines can quickly become breeding grounds for mold and bacteria — both of which can make you sick. (11)

The EPA recommends following the manufacturer’s guidelines for cleaning and maintenance. (11) For those without access to specific instructions, they recommend cleaning all surfaces coming in contact with water with a 3 percent solution of hydrogen peroxide and avoiding cleaning products or disinfectants. 


Should you sleep with a humidifier in the winter?

“You absolutely can,” says Purdy. “Humidifiers can provide some measure of relief for congestion and dry skin that peaks during cold winter months.”

Is it okay to sleep with a humidifier every night?

According to Purdy, it’s fine to sleep with a humidifier every night. “The best overall would be the cool mist humidifier if you are willing to take the time to clean it regularly. These machines are great for colds and safest for the entire family nightly as long as it’s clean and not pushing out mold along with the water into the air.”

The Last Word From Sleepopolis 

Humidifiers are a relatively simple way to combat many of the issues that come with dry winter air. From lowering your risk of getting sick to providing relief from dry skin and a possible reduction in snoring, the benefits of using a humidifier may outweigh the annoyance of upkeep.


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  5. Environmental Protection Agency. (n.d.-a). EPA. 
  6. Coman, C. (2023, December 4). 6 tips to manage eczema in the Winter. National Eczema Association. 
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  10. Byber K, Radtke T, Norbäck D, et al. Humidification of indoor air for preventing or reducing dryness symptoms or upper respiratory infections in educational settings and at the workplace. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2021;12(12):CD012219. Published 2021 Dec 10. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD012219.pub2
  11. Environmental Protection Agency. (n.d.-a). EPA.
  12. Tsang, T., Mui, K., & Wong, L. (2021). Investigation of thermal comfort in sleeping environment and its association with sleep quality. Building and Environment, 187, 107406.         Purdy, Laura.  Author interview. January 18, 2024.
Sharon Brandwein

Sharon Brandwein

Sharon Brandwein is a Certified Sleep Science Coach and a freelance writer. She specializes in health and beauty, parenting, and of course, all things sleep. Sharon’s work has also appeared on ABC News, USAToday, and Forbes. When she’s not busy writing, you might find her somewhere curating a wardrobe for her puppy.