A Message from Perry Santos, MD
What is humidity, and why is it so important? The human nose is an amazing passageway designed to humidify and filter dry air inhaled into our lungs. Winter can be very challenging to the nasal, sinus and pulmonary respiratory tract, i.e., “The Unified Airway .” Cold and dry air in the nasal passages results in inflammation, drying out the nasal secretions with obstruction of the nasal airway with resultant mouth breathing. Mouth breathing in turn causes a dry mouth/throat and an abysmal night’s sleep!
The nose has the remarkable ability to take low humidity air and increase the water content by the time it is passed into the back of the nose. However, the warmer the nasal lining, the more efficiently it can humidify the air passing through the nose before entering the lungs. Studies have shown that cold feet decrease the nose’s ability to humidify dry air. Conversely, warm feet causes a reflex increase nasal lining temperature which facilitates better nasal humidification. So if need be, wear warm socks in the winter!
Multiple studies indicate the target bedroom humidity to be between 40-55%. Prolonged humidity above 60% places the home at risk for mold. Too low humidity is associated with higher rates of influenza virus survival. Bedroom temperatures vary on personal preference. A frequent recommendation is 68degrees. Therefore, a simple warm air humidifier for the bedroom during sleeping hours can dramatically improve sleep quality. Just monitor the humidity with a separate humidity meter on the other side of the room. Dry out the humidifier daily and clean with vinegar once a week.
It is also important to remember that there is more significant water loss with each exhalation in dry conditions, so drink more water. The average adult should be drinking 64 ounces of water per day. In summary, enjoy the winter, bundle up and monitor humidity for a good night’s sleep!