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How to Sleep With a Stuffy Nose at Night?

How to Sleep With a Stuffy Nose at Night?

What are some common causes of a stuffy nose?

There are many causes of a stuffy nose, which include rhinitis (inflammation of the nasal lining due to an allergic or non-allergic cause), upper respiratory infections (e.g. common cold, flu), sinus infection, deviated septum, nasal polyp or benign and malignant nasal neoplasm, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Is it common for people to also just experience stuffiness generally?

It is also common for people to experience a stuffy nose from a variety of environmental and dietary triggers including smoke, perfume, chemicals, changes in temperature or humidity, spicy foods and alcohol consumption.

Is there something that triggers or increases one’s risk for stuffy noses at night?

When a person lies down at night, there is more blood flowing to the head, leading to an increased congestion of the nasal lining. A flat lying position also inhibits gravity-dependent sinus and nasal drainage and can worsen nasal congestion. In individuals with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a lying position can promote more acid reflux, which can irritate your nasal and sinus lining and increase nasal congestion. If a person has a dust mite allergy, close contact with bedding materials (where dust mites often reside) during sleep can lead to allergic nasal congestion.

9 Tips for sleeping with a stuffy nose:

  1. Keep your head elevated with a few pillows -- This will reduce blood flow to the head and improve gravity-dependent sinus drainage.
  2. Take a topical or oral allergy medication before sleep -- This will help reduce nasal congestion during sleep.
  3. Use nasal saline rinse or spray -- This moistens the nasal lining and keeps mucus loose.
  4. Place a humidifier in your room -- This moistens the nasal lining and keeps mucus loose.
  5. Use an air purifier with high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter -- This reduces the number of allergens in the air.
  6. Avoid alcohol consumption before sleep -- Alcohol dilates blood vessels and can increase nasal congestion.
  7. Use bedding covers if you have a dust mite allergy -- Covers will minimize the exposure to dust mite allergens.
  8. Wear a nasal strip during sleep -- This will open the nasal passage and improve congested feeling and snoring.
  9. Drink a plenty of liquids -- Good hydration helps keep the nasal lining moist.

5 Things people can do to help clear a stuffy nose and make it easier to sleep:

  1. Take topical and oral allergy medications -- Do not use a topical nasal decongestant for more than 3 days as this may cause rebound congestion.
  2. Use nasal saline rinse and spray to keep the nose moist.
  3. Avoid certain triggers (e.g. pollens) if you have an environmental allergy.
  4. Stay well-hydrated throughout the day.
  5. Keep the humidity level at 40-50% in your home (use a humidifier if necessary).

At what point should you check with a doctor about a stuffy nose?

Seek medical attention if nasal congestion does not improve with conservative measures after 2 weeks. Also consult a medical professional if you experience the following symptom along with nasal congestion.

Are there certain symptoms that might indicate you should get medical attention?

  • Green or foul-smelling nasal drainage (indication of a sinus infection).
  • Fever (indication of a sinus infection).
  • Facial pain or headache (indication of a sinus infection).
  • Bleeding (indication of a possible nasal mass or neoplasm).
  • Significant nasal blockage affecting the quality of life or worsening snoring/sleep apnea (indication of a sinus infection, nasal mass or deviated septum).

What are some solutions for a stuffy nose that is interfering with sleep?

Your doctor may prescribe one or more of the following medications for a stuffy nose:

  • Topical intranasal steroid spray (e.g. fluticasone, mometasone, budesonide).
  • Topical intranasal antihistamine spray (e.g. azelastine, olopatadine).
  • Oral antihistamine (e.g. cetirizine, loratadine, fexofenadine, diphenhydramine).
  • Topical nasal decongestant spray (oxymetazoline, phenylephrine).
  • Oral nasal decongestant (e.g. pseudoephedrine).
  • Oral corticosteroids (e.g. prednisone, dexamethasone) for severe nasal congestion.
  • Antibiotic (if a sinus infection present).

How can you find relief and sleep better with a persistent stuffy nose?

  • Keep the nasal passage moist.
  • Employ appropriate preventive measures and medical therapy.
  • Know when to see a medical professional (Ear, Nose and Throat or Allergy).

David Kim, MD, is an ear, nose and throat specialist with Torrance Memorial Physician Network in Torrance. He can be reached at 310-891-6733.