Is It Safe To Sleep With An Electric Fan On? You Might Want To Think Twice, According To Experts

T-REX & Flower/Stocksy

Getting a good night's sleep is no picnic in the middle of a heatwave. Is it just me or does the hot, clammy weather turn the whole thing into an Olympic sport rather than a cosy reprieve? Not cool (pun intended). A lot of people tend to stick on a fan to give their bodies some semblance of cool air when the weather gets like this — but what about at night? Is it safe to sleep with an electric fan on?

Yes and no. Obviously, there are more pros than cons, but the cons can be outright dangerous if you don't check that your fan is working properly, that it has been safety tested by the manufacturer, and that you have it set up in a safe environment. You don't really want to have your fan setting light whilst you're asleep, as you'll not only have a delayed reaction time to said fire, but you're more susceptible to smoke inhalation whilst already unconscious.

"In the UK and Europe this [safety testing] is confirmed by a 'CE Mark' on either the product or its packaging," Steve McEvoy, a chartered engineer at Prism Nova — and, full disclosure, my father — explains. "The CE mark means that the product has been safety tested against rigorous international standards and is safe to use in the home." That's easy enough to check, right?

Giphy

"Unfortunately there are lots of fake goods on the market [...] CE marks can be just as fake as the good themselves." And even if your fan is legit, you must "always be cautious when using anything electrical," as products "can contain manufacturing defects that can result in safety issues," he says.

To make sure that your fan — and other electrical appliances — around your home are safe, "regularly check the that the plug and cable is in good condition, in particular make sure the cable isn't frayed, split or excessively twisted." And when it comes to fans, immediately stop using them if it begins to "make unusual noises or if you can smell or see the effects of heat, smoke, scorching or burning anywhere on it."

Sleeping with a fan on can cause some pretty detrimental effects to your overall health too, if used in the wrong way and without proper attention.

Giphy

As strange as it may sound, fans can actually cause dehydration if aimed directly on the body. According to Public Health England, "fans can cause excess dehydration so they should not be aimed directly on the body." This is mainly when temperatures reach above 35 degrees celsius, as the air being blown onto your skin isn't evaporating your sweat (which cools you down), in turn making you sweat even more leading to excessive fluid loss.

Dehydration caused by fans can be especially detrimental when sleeping, as you practically fast for eight hours; but it's not likely that temperatures in the UK will go above 25 degrees during the night.

A sudden loss of fluid from direct air can also effect your skin, especially if it's sensitive. Not only can fans cause dry skin and minor irritation due to lack of moisture, but it can also effect your sinuses, eyes, and muscles according to Sleep Advisor. It's all to do with that "constant stream of air", especially if you're like me and prefer your fan to stay in one direction rather than circulate.

Giphy

If you're one of the few that somehow sleeps with their eyes partially open, "a steady airstream will dry your eyes and may cause major irritation." That irritation can carry on into your sinuses and dry your nasal passages, making you "more susceptible to blockage, stuffiness and sinus headaches. Not the greatest way to wake up in the morning, is it?

Especially not if your entire body is tense. Thanks again to that stream of air, your muscles may react by tensing up and cramping thanks to the "concentrated cool air". Although, this is more likely to occur if you have the fan positioned directly near your face and neck, rather than at a distance.

Then there's those blessed allergies. The summer isn't kind to hay fever sufferers (trust me, I know), and fans don't do much to help. From having to shower constantly to get rid of excess pollen to regularly changing bed sheets and clothes, fans can actually make that job ten times worse as they can cause "flurries of dust and pollen to make their way into your sinuses," Sleep Advisor has reported.

Giphy

There are other — safer — ways to keep cool in the night. Personally, I make sure my windows are open, have a cool shower before I hop into a duvet-less bed, and lay on a flannel that I cool with tap water and leave in the freezer for ten minutes. The National Sleep Foundation also have some tips to keep cool during the night in their Heatwave Plan, which you can read here.

It's not that difficult to keep cool during these muggy nights, you've just got to be prepared.