Can a Humidifier Help You Sleep Better and Snore Less?

By Ron Pereira Updated on June 5th, 2020

They say good leaders are willing to be vulnerable and share things they may not want to…even things they’re slightly embarrassed to admit.  Well, I’m about to test that theory by sharing something most people don’t know about me. I battle a snoring problem. I’ve been able to improve the situation over the last few years by losing weight and eating better. But even though I feel fit and healthy, the snoring remains a lingering issue.

Now, aside from my wife telling me about it, I know how much I snore (to the minute) since I use a Sleep app on my phone that uses the phone’s microphone to record every move and sound you make.  It’s pretty slick and “learns” how to tell the difference between you and anyone else in your bed. And, for snoring, it actually records you so you can hear yourself by playing it back!  And before the cell phone police come for me…yes, I do switch to airplane mode and disable WiFi before bed.

I haven’t sought medical treatment since I’m stubborn and want to try as many things on my own as possible.  I’ve tried those bandaid things that go on your nose to supposedly open your airways. Didn’t help. I’ve tried forcing myself to sleep on my side which does help…but not enough.  I’ve tried different essential oils that also seem to help a little. But, up to a week or so ago, nothing I have tried really seemed to move the needle.

After doing some research I learned that humidifiers have helped folks snore less. So, after some more research, I picked up a slick little ultrasonic humidifier and gave it a try. Now, it’s been less than a week which I know isn’t enough to get too excited about statistically speaking. But one thing is becoming crystal clear…it’s most definitely helping me sleep better.

The sleep app also gives you an overall “sleep quality” score every night…and as this Individual and Moving Range control chart above shows my sleep quality scores have been 100% since I started using the humidifier.

Again, it’s only been 9 days so I don’t want to get too excited…but still, 9 days in row of 100% is pretty incredible and has never happened in the years I’ve used this app. Side note; since you can’t have more than 100% sleep quality I set an upper bound limit of 100.  I’m also still trying to figure out what caused the three special cause signals in January.

Now, how about the snoring?  That’s also improved.  In fact, last night the sleep app only recorded 3 minutes of snoring.  That’s pretty darn good! See the I MR chart above.  I used Minitab’s “stamping” function to reset the control limits after introducing the humidifier, since I definitely made a fundamental change to the process.

I also wanted to do some statistical analysis to see if my snoring reduction was statistically significant.  The first thing I did was check to see if the snoring data was normal by running an Anderson Darling normality test.  The P value was 0.007 which means I needed to reject the null hypothesis that the data are normal. P was low… so Ho had to go.  The snoring data is not normal.

Knowing this I decided to run some non parametric hypothesis tests to see if the medians were significantly different.  I ran both a Mood’s Median and Kruskal-Wallis and both confirmed with P values of 0.006 and 0.014 that, yes, the medians were statistically different.  Introducing the humidifier has definitely helped me snore less.  Below is a box plot showing what the snoring data looked like before and after the humidifier was introduced.

Of course, like a good CI practitioner, I will continue to monitor this to see if the trend continues. There’s always a chance something else has helped.  But, given that my sleep quality went to 100% the night I started using the humidifier I feel pretty confident it’s a significant factor.  In fact, in a week or two from now I plan to stop using the humidifier in order to see what happens.

Obviously, Gemba Academy isn’t in the sleep improvement business, although I guess it is technically continuous improvement, right?  The real point I wanted to make with this article was to show how we can use many of the same lean and six sigma tools we have at our disposal in a number of ways…even whether a humidifier can help you sleep better and snore less!

Now, the biggest question is whether I’ll have the guts to share this article about my snoring issues across the interwebs.  If you’re reading this, I guess you know the answer.

  1. Brent Weichers

    February 7, 2020 - 10:33 am

    Awesome Ron, enjoyed the use of the tools in your personal life. I try and do the same and this is an excellent example. I feel your pain, I too or I should say my wife suffers from my snoring.

  2. John Hunter

    February 7, 2020 - 12:04 pm

    Interesting post.

    “I’m also still trying to figure out what caused the three special cause signals in January.” One nice aspect of improvement is sometimes you can make a system improvement that even without knowing the causes of previous problems, the new improvement stops those from happening again. Maybe that won’t be the case this time but maybe it will. Health related issues are so touchy that I could imagine it is something like a couple bad factors stacked on top just push things over the limit. So being a bit tired and say too low humidity and you didn’t drink quite enough liquid and sleep quality is bad but just 1 or 2 of those and it might be a bit worse but not horrible.

  3. Pedro Monteiro

    February 8, 2020 - 12:23 pm

    In a business, being it continuously improving, the results are often a change in the process flow (doesn’t apply here) or layout change – this one is something you could (seriously) consider. There are goeological factors that mau bem affecting your nights (hartmann and curry lines). Or, from a less scientific standpoint, feng shui! 😀 Check it out.

  4. Jerome Ngugi

    September 13, 2020 - 11:36 am

    Such a good read.
    I love that the role of the humidifier in helping you sleep better and reduce snoring has been statistically captured. While a few days might be too soon to draw conclusions, it is nevertheless encouraging to learn that the possibility of a humidifier helping with snoring is quite high.

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