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A short, small study can’t prove opening doors or windows improves sleep quality


3 Star


Open windows and doors can improve sleep quality

Our Review Summary

In this very small study of 17 healthy volunteers in the Netherlands, scientists measured their sleep as they either slept in a closed room or with doors and windows open. The story claims the volunteers “slept better” with windows and door open, but gave no numbers for the amount of improvement, and didn’t do enough to let readers know this study had a lot of limitations.


Why This Matters

Sleep quality can make an enormous difference in the risk of many chronic disorders, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease and depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control. While we welcome a discussion of sleep quality, this story about a small study provides very little context for readers on how much air quality really plays a role in sleep quality.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

The opening of windows and doors has no cost.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The story doesn’t quantify what “improved” sleep quality means, only generalities.

For example, the story claims improvement in fewer awakenings:

“The number of awakenings and sleep efficiency improved as carbon dioxide levels decreased.”

But we are not given any way to understand the magnitude–how much did these things improve?

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?


There appear to be no immediate potential harms, but the story mentions indirect ones like extra noise or concerns about security.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

The story doesn’t sufficiently establish the quality of the evidence here–this was a small study, with lots of potential cofounders, which are factors that could have thrown off the measurements. The story mentions one limitation–the sleep monitors often fell of the study participants. But more needed to be said that this study isn’t rigorous enough to determine that sleeping with open windows or doors leads to improved sleep.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


There was no disease mongering.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?


A sleep researcher who wasn’t involved in the study was interviewed, and we could detect no conflicts of interest.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The story doesn’t provide alternative treatments known to improve sleep quality, such as establishing good sleep hygiene.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Applicable

Windows and doors are widely available, and the story mentions that opening them might not work if there are noise or security concerns.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not establish what makes this research novel. It’s fairly well-known that indoor air quality can be poor, and that ventilation can help circulate the air.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?


The story does not appear to rely solely on a news release, and quotes a researcher who was not part of the project.

Total Score: 4 of 8 Satisfactory


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