How to sleep decently in dry winters or environments

This is a post about how to get a good night sleep in very dry environments like the winter. It is written for people whose lungs, mouth, and nose get very dry. You might wonder what the devil such a post is doing on a math blog. Well, I didn’t know where else to put it and I guess mathematicians need sleep too. Why did I even write this? Well, if you actually do a search for this topic, you are going to get a truckload of generic SEO websites with mostly or completely useless information.

Now, I’m not saying this will help everyone, but I’ve spent quite a while trying to perfect a good sleep routine for the horror that is known as winter. My mouth and lungs seem to get very dry very easily.


Okay, this one is the obvious one. Use a humidifier. Don’t get the cheapest one that is impossible to clean either. Get one that can be easily disassembled and cleaned because you are going to use it every day. Now, the amount of humidification you’ll need actually depends on two things: the temperature outside and the size of your room. Therefore, here are the basic guidelines for humidifiers:

  1. If your room is large, you might need two humidifiers or a large industrial one
  2. If the temperature outside is really cold, e.g. -15C or worse, you might need two even though you might be able to get by with one if it’s a little warmer. That’s because your furnace will be working extra hard and drying out the air more quickly
  3. Turn it on at least two hours before sleeping


Did you know that even if your humidifier is on maximum you can still feel the air to be dry? That’s because warmer air holds more humidity and ingesting cold, humid air will warm up in your lungs and pick up some of that moisture, drying them. So you actually need to keep a decent temperature. I have found that 18C-19C is actually a little too cold, whereas 22C is much better. Even a few degrees can make a massive difference.

To keep the temperature fairly constant and controlled, you can set your thermostat. I find it easier to keep a floor heater and experiment with the dial until the best temperature is reached. The dial might need to be set in a few different places for different outdoor temperatures. Using a floor heater also prevents too much additional dry air from being pumped in from the furnace.


Drink tons of water during the day. I have found that I sometimes forget to drink water because it seems I don’t crave it in the winter. But another thing that helps is drinking warm water. A lot of people do this and it’s much more pleasant than cold. Just 1.5 minutes in the microwave will make an unpleasant cold glass of water into a nice warm one. I don’t recommend tea. Because tea contains additional stuff its not as hydrating. However, tea is not bad, just not optimal.

Reduce food intake past a certain time

I have found that my mouth is much dryer after I eat, and I only start to feel less dry several hours after I’ve eaten. I recommend eating dinner no later than 5pm, and the earlier the better. The best method to avoid getting too hungry is eating a massive breakfast! Yeah, I know, it takes getting used to! But you can get used to it after a few days.

For dinner, I don’t recommend eating any salt either. That is also quite dehydrating. The same goes for any caffeine.

You’re doing this right if you feel just slightly hungry when you’re going to bed.

Exercise before bed

This one is kind of weird but I found that getting my heart pumping for five to ten minutes right before sleeping seems to improve matters. I’m not sure what the mechanism is here.

Use an air purifier

I feel like dusty air can dry out my mouth and nose when I breath. Now, this is a lesser factor but using an air purifier in your bedroom a few hours before you go to sleep can’t hurt.


I’ve found getting quality sleep in the winter to be hard due to dryness. Dryness causes pain and reduces my quality of sleep. However, finding the right temperature with ample humidity, drinking water, and eating lighter dinners has helped immensely. I hope this is a good starting point for anyone else with this problem.


  • Elizabeth Henning says:

    Hey Jason, I have a tough time with this too and I find using a saline nasal spray very helpful. Just pressurized plain saline, and the drugstore’s house brand is fine.

    I’ve had doctors suggest a neti pot or nasal irrigation with saline, but it’s a huge hassle to keep sterile and using them is like being waterboarded. The spray is a lot more pleasant. And +1 for the air filter.

    • Jason Polak says:

      Very good point about nasal sprays. I forgot about those but definitely used those too many years ago. I can’t remember its effects but I should try it again.

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