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Do Air Purifiers Improve Sleep?

Sheryl Cannes
Updated on: November 18, 2022

At any given time, 28.5 to 44.1% of adults in the United States get less than seven hours of sleep. Chances are you’ve spent your fair share of nights staring at the ceiling wondering why you can’t get some shut-eye.

You may have heard that air purifiers can improve your sleep quality or duration. Air that’s clear of allergens or air pollutants can certainly make it easier to sleep undisturbed. But will an air purifier help you sleep better? The answer lies in the source of your sleep problems. If it’s due to allergies or air pollution—yes, an air purifier can help. For other scenarios, please see below.

What Do Air Purifiers Do?

Air purifiers have a fan that pulls air through the body to remove certain types of particulates from the air. Depending on the model, they can remove allergens, odors, or indoor pollutants. The most common types of air purifiers include.

  • Carbon Filter: Carbon filter air purifiers have an activated carbon filter. Activated carbon has been oxygenated to open the oxygen’s pores. The carbon absorbs odors into the pores, removing kitchen fumes, pet odors, and more.
  • Mechanical (HEPA Filters): Mechanical air purifiers trap air particles in the purifier’s filter. The most common are high efficiency particulate air or HEPA filters, which can remove particles as small as .3 microns. Mechanical filters remove pollen, pet dander, dust, dust mites, mold, and other common allergens. They don’t remove odors or indoor pollutants like benzene, formaldehyde, and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
  • Ionizer: An ionizer releases charged ions that attach to other particles, making them so heavy they fall out of the breathable air space. They work well for allergens, but you have to either vacuum or wipe up the particles off of the floor or furniture to completely remove them.
  • UV: UV air purifiers use ultraviolet rays to kill harmful bacteria and viruses. Unfortunately, they cannot kill all bacteria and viruses because the bacteria or virus only stays in contact with the UV light for three to ten seconds. Many require at least 30 to 60 seconds of exposure before they are neutralized.

Some models have several purification methods in one so that the purifier can remove multiple particle types. For example, some have a HEPA filter, carbon filter, and a UV bulb to kill bacteria.

Clean Air and Sleep

Air quality affects your sleep for a number of different reasons. If you have allergies, allergens in the bedroom can trigger symptoms while you’re sleeping. For some people, those allergens may cause nothing more than stuffy noses or headaches. For others, it could lead to an asthma attack.

Poor indoor air quality is another factor that affects sleep. It happens when air pollutants either get into the house from outside or are released from household products. For example, some mattresses and furniture have formaldehyde in their adhesives. The formaldehyde can release harmful fumes that cause eye, nose, or throat irritation. A 2019 study found that high levels of air pollutants could increase the chances of sleep apnea by as much as 60%. Those pollutants inflame the air passages and, in part, help trigger the episodes of oxygen deprivation associated with sleep apnea.

Consequently, if you have a home that’s high in allergens, air pollution, and other contaminants, air purity could certainly make a big difference in your sleep quality.

It’s not just the quality of your sleep that may benefit from cleaner air but also the efficiency. Sleep efficiency is how much sleep you get based on how long you’ve been in bed. If you’re in bed for ten hours but only get six hours of sleep, you have poor sleep efficiency. Sleep apnea, congestion, and inflamed airways can reduce your sleep efficiency. They can also hurt your sleep quality by preventing you from reaching rapid eye movement sleep (REM) sleep, one of the most regenerative sleep stages. Consequently, you may not be getting as much sleep as you think you are.

In the right circumstances, an air purifier can make a big difference in your sleep quality and overall health. They remove the particles that cause the symptoms disrupting your sleep.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Air Purifier and Improve Sleep

Remove the Particulates that Disrupt Your Sleep

The first step in getting better sleep is to get the right kind of air purifier. Try to narrow down what kind of airborne particles—mold spores, dust mites, or pet odors—are causing the breathing problems that disrupt your sleep.

If you have allergies, a UV air purifier won’t make a difference. You need an air purifier with a HEPA filter and possibly an activated carbon filter to remove any odors that trigger your allergies as well. If air pollutants are at the heart of the problem, you definitely want an air filter with an activated carbon filter. These filters have a high surface area to absorb odors, fumes, and harmful air pollutants. Of course, you can find an all-in-one solution with an air purifier featuring multiple filtration methods.

Position the Air Purifier Close to Your Sleep Space

The air closest to the air purifier is the cleanest. In the bedroom, that means the purifier needs to be within five or six feet of the head of your bed. Otherwise, the clean air doesn’t circulate near your breathable air space.

Sized for the Bedroom

The air purifier needs to be the right size for the room. Air purifier designs work within a limited square footage. Read the product description carefully to make sure it will work in your bedroom. The biggest potential problem comes if you get a unit that’s too small. If it’s too small, it cannot circulate enough of the room’s air to effectively trap and remove harmful particles. There’s less of a risk if you get a unit that’s too big. However, then you could be left with a large air purifier that takes up space in an already crowded bedroom.

FAQs

Should I run an air purifier all night long?

Yes, to keep the air clean, the air purifier needs to run all night. If the air purifier only runs for an hour or two, gases, ozone, allergens, and chemicals can reenter the room, re-contaminating the air.

Are air purifiers noisy?

Air purifiers have a range of decibel levels, from a low 15 dB to a high of around 60 dB. Most manufacturers include the decibel levels on the packaging. HEPA air purifiers are often the noisiest models, while ionizers tend to be the quietest. Noise levels also depend on the settings. If you’re a sensitive sleeper, you may need to set the air purifier on low to keep the sound from waking you up.

How else can I clean the air in my bedroom?

An air purifier isn’t the only way to freshen the air in your bedroom. The method you use will depend on the air particles in your bedroom.

One of the easiest ways to clean the air in your bedroom is to buy a house plant. There are many plants that absorb indoor toxins like formaldehyde, benzene, and VOCs. They also release oxygen to freshen the air. Some are incredibly easy to take care of even in low light bedroom conditions.

Another option is to buy organic products. Many indoor air pollutants get into the home with products you use every day, from your sheets and mattress to your dresser and shoes. Be selective in your cleaning products, as they can release chemicals into your home, too.

If you have pets, keep them out of the bedroom. Pet dander flies through the air and attaches to everything, including wood, fabric, and upholstery. An air purifier coupled with a pet-free room can help prevent an asthma attack and other dangerous allergic reactions.

The Takeaway

Lack of sleep can lead to body aches, depression, and emotional fluctuations. If all it takes is an air purifier to help you breathe easier and sleep better, it’s worth it. Heavy air pollutants, allergies, and sensitivities to odors are the conditions under which an air purifier can improve your sleep. When you get a full seven to eight hours, you’ll feel rested and ready for whatever the day throws your way.

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