Is sleeping with a fan on really bad for your health? We have the answer.

Like any other striking realisation that you might be living your life the wrong way, my most recent quarter-life crisis was born out of a very natural conversation at work.

Korean Fan Death was at the crux of the conversation, a old-age theory Koreans hold in the highest of regard and one that sits firmly in their folklore.

It’s all about how leaving a fan on while you sleep, as its name suggests, can lead to your untimely death.

More specifically, it’s a common myth that running an electric fan in a closed room with unopened or no windows can lead to death. It has grown to become a cult-like superstition in Korea, with stories dating to the 1920s and 1930s warning of the risks of nausea, asphyxiation, and facial paralysis from the use of fans in homes.

Of course, most refer to the theory itself as a myth. But it did prompt a more general curiosity about the use of fans at night, and perhaps a greater necessity for me to question what was both habitual and what I assumed was the unquestionable.

Am I, with every uncomfortably hot night made that much easier with a flick of the fan on, doing myself more harm than good?

Robin Bailey’s trick to getting more sleep. Post continues after audio.

I enlisted the help of Dr Dasha Fielder of Sapphire Family Medical Practice in Bondi Junction to sort out every curiosity fermenting in my brain.

First up was the obvious question: Is it safe?

In a word, Dr. Fielder says yes.

“All the fan is doing is circulating air. Especially in Australian climate with such hot summers, I would probably recommend that if you don’t have another way of finding fresh air, using a fan probably a good thing,” she told Mamamia.

More than that, Dr. Fielder says she would go as far to say she would recommend the practice.

“In fact, I recommend it for my younger patients as well as my elderly patients on hot days if they are indoors they do sit next to a fan.

“One of the problems we see in the clinical practice is people suffering heatstroke and dehydration so I think there isn’t any medical grounds for it to be unsafe. In fact, it would be something we recommend.”

Interestingly, Dr. Fielder considers sleeping with a fan much safer than sleeping by an air conditioner. It is all about what air is being circulated and where it is coming from.

The important of sleep, and sleeping well. Post continues after video.


“If you think about our culture, a lot of people have air conditioning in offices and in households and I certainly don’t recommend sleeping with the air conditioner on if you have the option of using a fan or opening a window. It’s a healthier air you’re breathing in.

“You hear of air conditioning, at times, getting contaminated with things like legionella which can sometimes contaminate air conditioning pipes. People who are exposed to that may succumb to illness such as pneumonia. On that basis, the fans that simply circulate air are safer,” she says.

A quick Google search of fan safety not only brings up a bottomless pit of results for Korean Fan Death but also a general theory that sleeping with the fan on can cause a sore throat. I put this idea to Dr. Fielder.

“I think what happens at times when people do wake up with a sore throat is that it has nothing to do with having the fan on and much more to do with sleeping with your mouth open. That may happen when you are hot and therefore people make that correlation between having the fan on and waking with a sore throat.


“But you actually had the fan on because it was a hot day and you were sleeping with your mouth open, and when you sleep with your mouth open you become dehydrated and saliva production can’t keep up. What then happens is you develop dryness and when you wake up you can have a really unpleasant sore throat. So I don’t think it’s from the fan, it’s just how you slept,” she says.

If this is the case, Dr. Fielder suggests pulling on a warm lemon drink to stimulate saliva production and ease the pain.

Coming to the conclusion that sleeping with your fan on is actually safe, Dr. Fielder does acknowledge that for a small few, precautions must be put in place. Those with allergies and asthma, or even those who are finding themselves waking at night coughing or with breathing difficulties will need to upgrade their fan.

“Obviously, all equipment has its expiry date. If you’ve had a fan for ten or 15 years, I think it’s time to replace it and make sure it’s clean,” she suggests. “However, for the general population I cannot see a problem with a fan.”

So there you have it. Keep your fan swinging, check it’s clean and stop blaming your sore throat on anything other than the funky way you sleep.

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