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Friday, December 13, 2013

Crack a Window…Please

Crack a Window…Please
Years before it cost an arm and a leg to heat your house, my mom always advised us to leave a bed room window open, “Just a crack.”  I never really knew why this was her advice, she had lots of other strange demands.

“Don’t go into the water for at least an hour after eating.”

“Don’t sit too close to the TV.”

“Always wear a hat in the winter.”

There was a reason for most of these directives.  Some reasons were pretty vague; as in “just because” vague.  The window thing was, “the brain needs fresh air.”

In the 70’s the cost of heating your house suddenly rose to astronomical heights, astronomical at least for my wife, me, and my measly salary.  My wife paid the bills.  She was very conscience of the gas bill.  She insisted that we close all the windows in the house in the winter.

For twenty years, I suffered periodic migraine headaches in the winter.  I blamed it first on having a hangover, but then I had headaches on mornings after I had no alcohol the night before.  Then I noticed a correlation between the headaches and Chinese food.  I avoided Chinese food and monosodium glutamate (MSG) and still I had headaches.  I figured it was just an issue I would have to live with from time to time for the rest of my life.

When I divorced and married wife number two the headaches left.  I figured the first wife must have been the cause of my headaches.  Too much stress, and not enough…er…release was the cause of my headaches.

But wife number two was no cakewalk stress wise.  In fact she was a living breathing stress factory.  For thirteen years I walked on eggshells in the land of crazy, and yet I never had a migraine headache.  I drank like a fish in those years and never had a hangover.  I ate Chinese weekly with extra MSG, and never had a migraine.  I did always sleep with the window open a crack.

Mom knew. 

The brain needs fresh air over night.  More to the point, the brain needs oxygen.  If your house is closed up tighter then a drum, overnight you will suck in oxygen and breath out climate changing carbon dioxide. Around five in the morning the lower oxygen air content will starve your brain.  The result is a migraine headache.

It is OK to swim right after eating.

If you watch TV from way up close you will be just fine.

A hat in the winter will keep you warm, but if you leave the house without one you will not catch cold.

When it comes to fresh air, listen to your mom. 

Open the window a crack.


  1. What do you do when you NEED fresh air & your husband likes the house & car to be hermetically sealed?

  2. I'm a fanatic when it comes to sleeping with an open window. I need to feel the air moving around me to fall asleep. Maybe I should place my bed in a wind tunnel.

  3. makes perfect sense, although i don't do it. the a/c bill here is outrageous for about 9 mos. out of the year. :)

  4. Interesting about the migraines. My husband likes the windows cracked open at night. I like them shut up tight, to keep the vampires out. In the movies they always come in at night through an open window. I'm not taking any chances.

  5. Your mother may have been menopausal when she said it of course! But yes, I agree with her (but then maybe I'm just a little menopausal too)

  6. When I first moved Down Under, it took some getting used to. Rarely was there central heating, so it meant that I just never warmed up. I used to long for the days when I would walk in from the chill outside and instantly feel warm because of the furnace chugging away in the basement.

    For years in Sydney, I would spend winters huddled in front of a one bar heater, but windows were often open a crack at night, once we were snug under the doona.

    We went to visit friends in Melbourne and they had central heating. The funny thing was I simply could not sleep, because I found it completely stifling.

    Now we have the best way to heat the house and still get fresh air, we call it living in the tropics! Windows are always open at night and that's the best way to sleep. Your mom was a smart cookie.

  7. I'm always cold. Of course I'm also always headachey. You and your mother may be onto something.

  8. hope you don't mind if i expound, you're "close but no cigar".

    Keeping the window cracked predominantly originated in the days when heating sources were, at best, suspect and were known to pump all kinds of smoke, gasses, and carbon monoxide into houses. people didn't necessarily know WHY they did it, they just knew that if they didn't headaches and/or death could result.

    carbon dioxide does not typically cause the symptoms you describe and it does not build up that fast in a house unless it is a super-insulated, super sealed house. chances are pretty good that that first house had a heating system issue that caused carbon monoxide to back into the house. i lived in such a house for a while unaware. did you ever experience mild disorientation or minor balance problems with the migraines? another less likely possibility is that the house was exceptionally dry which can cause sinus and migraine issues. it can also increase instances of nose bleed and other fun things like dry eyes and terrific static zaps. we run 2 humidifiers here to keep things in check.

  9. My mother was of the generation that subscribed to the "fresh air" theory. This may have been correct in the days when people heated with wood or coal (as my parents did), or the gas/oil furnace was old and of questionable quality.

    If I kept a window open, we would have stale, sticky, humid air wafting into the house. Air conditioned air is actually cleaner ("conditioned") than most outside air. Kinda like bottled water vs. water from a river.

  10. If I didn't know better, I would say you obviously work for the gas/electric company.

  11. I knew I slept better with the window open! Except in hayfever season. My migraines mostly disappeared when I quit working, still get the occasional one, but not as severe.

  12. Hey, whatever works. K suffers terribly when she's all cooped up and the heat is turned on. I have a pretty wide tolerence range, so I just go with the flow.

  13. Hmmm... I'm wondering if that's worth a try.