Does sleeping with a fan cause neck or back pain?

Does sleeping with a fan cause back or neck pain?

It's often said that sleeping with a fan on can be the cause of neck or back pain. Is it an urban myth or is there some real scientific basis behind the claim?

On hot nights, sometimes the room temperature is too much even if you have an an air conditioner. That’s why many people choose to have an electric fan in their bedroom, for those just-in-cases.

But you may have heard that fans can cause back pain or neck pain while you are sleeping. So what’s the truth behind this?

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Does sleeping with a fan cause neck or back pain?

It’s widely accepted that exposing the neck to a draft can cause neck pain and stiff muscles. This can happen any time, such as driving with the window down, or sleeping with a fan on in the bedroom.

Why does this happen?

This is because of the cold flow of air, which hits your body and muscles. If you have sore muscles already, the cold air may cause muscles to contract, which results in more pain. Even without sore muscles, the drop in temperature can cause back pain. Your muscles stiffen from the coldness, which makes your muscles susceptible to strains.

Chiropractor Joseph Bittar explains the phenomenon in more detail:

When your neck is exposed to cold air especially when combined with sweat it causes cramping of the neck muscles and surrounding musculature, that is the; Sternocleiodmastoid (SCM) muscle, the upper trapezius, splenis capitus and the levator scapulae.

The cramping is due to the change in blood flow caused by the unexpected constriction of the blood vessels. Put simply this usually makes those muscles ‘unhappy’ thus cramping. The cramping causes that tight (stiff) feeling and as a result causes a restriction in the range of motion in the neck.

The two muscles that are usually affected are the first two from the four mentioned that is the SCM and the upper trapezius, where you may end up with the condition known as ‘wry neck’ or ‘acquired torticolis.’ This condition is self limiting and usually goes away by itself in about 1 to upto 4 weeks (this is different in everyone). Source:Quora:

So whilst you’re asleep with the fan pointed at you, it may feel comfortable for a while, but it can end up making your muscles stiff and resistant to stretching. Match it with a poor sleeping posture and you’ll be waking up feeling sore and stiff if you don’t make the appropriate changes.

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Benefits of sleeping with a fan

While it may cause back pain, sleeping with fans does have its benefits. Here are a few reasons why people use fans while they sleep:

White Noise

This is probably one of the main reasons why people want the fan on. Not only does it produce good air circulation, but it can also produce white noise, which helps many of us sleep better.

Cooler Air

With the cooler air coming from your fan, it can help prevent you from getting heat rash or hyperthermia, which are caused by your body overheating. Plus, if you don’t have an air conditioner or live in a very hot climate, then the extra air circulation can actually help you sleep more comfortably (no night sweats or stuffy rooms!).

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Fatigue and Blood Pressure

For those who live in hot climates, heat can affect your central nervous system and make you feel tired. It can also cause high blood pressure! With extra air circulation from the fans, it keeps you energized and regulates your blood pressure.

Unfortunately, it does have its downsides as well (besides the back and neck pain). It can cause dry skin and eyes, or even allergies from the fan kicking up dust and spores in your room!

Precautions when sleeping with a fan

For many people, using a fan when going to bed is comfortable. So if you want to avoid the back pain that may happen from the cold air, here are some tips to follow:

  • Make sure that the fan isn’t blowing directly on you while you sleep. It’s best to keep your fan oscillating. If you have a ceiling fan or fixed fan blowing air in one position, then bundle up, using clothes or blankets that cover your back and neck.
  • Focus on your air conditioning units as well, as this may also cause back pain. If the vents are blowing at you, then install a deflector.
  • Clean the fan and room regularly to avoid seasonal allergies.
  • Don’t get dry skin from your fan! Moisturize yourself before you go to bed.
  • You may want to invest in a heated mattress pad to maintain your body temperature and prevent any muscle stiffness while you sleep. This keeps the body warm while you sleep without the stiff muscles.


Sleeping isn’t just about investing in the best materials for you to rest on, it’s also about the temperature and air of your room! While it may seem odd that something as simple as a fan can affect your body while at rest, the cool air can actually stiffen your back leaving you in pain once you get up. And no one wants that. That’s why it’s best to take proper precautions to prevent it from happening again.

I hope that this article answered your question, “Does sleeping with a fan cause back pain?” Now that you know how to improve your sleep, start taking the proper precautions to avoid back pain today.

If you have any questions or would like to share your tips and experiences on dealing with back pain during sleep, then comment down below. I would love to hear what you have to think.

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  1. So glad I found this info. I knew within a few hours after getting out of bed this AM that something was wrong. Then I realised last night I had slept all night with the ceiling fan on right over me. I have done this twice the past few years, and ended up at A&E in the early hours when I could not even lift my head off the pillow due to stiffness – I am gutted that I have done it again. I take Gabapentin for a few days while the pain subsides….I am going to invest in an oscilating pedestal fan instead of the overhead fan

  2. Thanks for sharing, I knew the fan had something to do with the torticollis I got after sleeping with a fan.

  3. Once you’ve developed pains in the back and or neck, does anyone know of a way to ease and eliminate it?

  4. I am so happy to read this. This is the kind of manual that needs to be given and not the random misinformation that is at others blog.

  5. It’s called a draft when cold moving air is coming out of a vent and is hovering slowly across your body. This is especially evident when one is asleep and hardly moves about. The result is a stiff neck and who knows what other joints are involved the next morning.
    Any pills and extra clothing are band aid solutions so I firmly believe there are a few solutions to this ‘pain in the neck issue’.
    One is to adjust the vents on the A/C register so the air bypasses one.
    Another solution is to get a plastic magnetic help deflector which gets the air cold air away from the occupants.
    The problem here is that after a while the moving cold air creates a pattern and the draft may still be created and the cold air will be a problem.
    I’ve been thinking about this issue for years and believe I have an answer.
    The air coming out of the A/C vent must oscillate back and forth or move in a non- pattern distribution. This way the persons in that room will never experience a draft.
    My theory even makes it possible that the return air will not be influenced by the new air expelled from the register.
    The concept would be using the forced air coming out of the vent tube making it possible to never establish a pattern. This is certainly not rocket science.
    We are here in the US and the possibility are endless to cheaply design built such a device and make a fortune.
    If I was younger I’d do it.

  6. Have a severe chestache sleeping in AC..
    How can I manage

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