It’s twelve degrees outside but you wake up every morning feeling like you’ve been trekking through the Sahara. Your eyes are dry and crusty, it feels like there’s sand in your throat when you swallow, and the skin between your fingers is starting to crack. What’s up with that?
Well, if you’re one of the majority of Americans who heat their homes through a forced-air distribution system, you’ve got hot air blowing in your bedroom day and night, which increases the water vapor capacity of the air without actually adding any water to it. When you combine that with the fact that colder temperatures mean dryer air outside, too, it’s little wonder that you wake up looking for a glass of water—especially if already get overnight dry mouth.
So does that mean you have to decide whether to run the furnace overnight or shiver in your bed? Not at all. You just need a humidifier.
Humidifiers use different techniques to put moisture back into the air. Not only should they help with that morning dryness, but they may also help alleviate coughing and sneezing, snoring, sinus headaches, and bloody noses. The benefits of humidifiers are so real, in fact, that when I visited the doctor recently complaining of a lingering winter cold, the very first thing she asked me was whether I was using a humidifier overnight. (I am.)
Humidifiers come in all shapes, sizes, and price points, but here are a few important things to know before you buy:
- Different humidifiers work in different ways. Evaporative humidifiers pull air in to moisturize it, cool mist and warm mist humidifiers blow mist out into the air, and ultrasonic humidifiers create moisture through vibrations. There are also humidifiers that can be installed in ductwork or attached to your furnace.
- There’s no one kind of humidifier that’s empirically better than others, so you’ll have to figure out what’s important to you. Evaporative humidifiers and mist humidifiers are generally less expensive but they require filters, which must be changed regularly, and can also spread bacteria. Ultrasonic humidifiers run quietly and don’t require a filter, but they can leave a chalky dust in their wake.
- More expensive humidifiers aren’t always superior. The Honeywell HCM-350 Germ Free Cool Mist Humidifier, Wirecutter’s pick for best humidifier on the market, is currently $70 on Amazon. It might not look as nice in your bedroom as this $200 sculptural model by Broksonic, but I think this is one of those times where you can sacrifice form for function.
- Follow the operation and cleaning instructions. If your unit has one, be sure to change the filter at the recommended intervals, and keep your humidifier clean. Even germ-free models need cleaning. My personal recommendation is to spend a little more on a humidifier whose non-electrical parts can go in the dishwasher…or else to spend so little on a humidifier that you won’t feel bad throwing it away at the end of the season when you’re too lazy to follow the cleaning instructions. (I’ve done both of these things and there’s no shame in either.)
Waking up all dried out doesn’t feel good and it isn’t good for you. Remember to keep hydrated, use lots of lotion and lip balm, and get that humidifier. Those nighttime desert treks aren’t doing you any good.