How to sleep with a stuffy nose: tips and home remedies

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Allergies, colds, the flu and other common causes of nasal congestion can make sleeping difficult or even impossible.

A person may wake up dozens of times feeling that he cannot breathe, or he may have difficulty falling asleep amid the pressure of congestion.

Sleep is vital to cure infections. A 2015 study even found that sleeping better can reduce the risk of getting a cold in the first place.

Several strategies can prevent a blocked nose from ruining a good night's sleep. To get the most relief, people can try several strategies at once. The sections below discuss these strategies in more detail.

a woman raising her head to help her stuffy nose while sleeping Share on Pinterest
Raising your head with some pillows can help relieve nasal congestion while you sleep.

Congestion tends to get worse at night because it is more difficult for the nose and sinuses to drain.

This means that mucus builds up in the head, which makes breathing difficult and can cause a sinus headache in the morning.

Try raising your head on some pillows to help your sinuses drain more easily.

Some people also find relief sleeping in a recliner or on a sofa.

A dry nose may feel sore and more sensitive to mucus. Humidifiers moisturize the air, prevent excessive dryness and reduce the pain of breathing while congested.

Some people like to add essential oils, such as peppermint or eucalyptus, to the humidifier.

It is important to clean the humidifiers regularly, as moisture can promote the growth of bacteria and fungi. It is better to read the instructions of the machine to clean and disinfect it.

Congestion is not the only thing that makes it harder to sleep with a cold. For many people, getting up to drink water or scarves can interrupt sleep all night.

Having a box of tissues, a wastebasket and a bottle of water next to the bed can make nighttime interruptions shorter and more comfortable.

Having a blocked nose can cause people to breathe through their mouths, leaving their throat dry and sore. When a person already has a cough or sore throat, this can make sleep difficult. Honey covers the throat, relieving discomfort.

Honey can even function as a cough suppressant. A 2014 study compared honey with a placebo and short-acting bronchodilator salbutamol in children with a common cold.

Honey was the most effective option to relieve cough symptoms. Children may also be more willing to taste honey than medications.

For people without honey allergies, the risk of side effects or negative reactions is very low.

Hot steam can help open the sinuses. The steam loosens dry mucus and can help the nose drain before going to bed, reducing pain and congestion.

Some people find that massaging the skin that covers the sinuses promotes greater drainage. Taking a warm shower before bedtime can also help a person relax before trying to sleep.

A spray or rinse with saline solution, which contains a small amount of salt mixed with sterile water, can help eliminate congested breasts. Saline rinses help relieve irritation and swelling, and can also help a person feel less congested at night.

Saline rinses that do not contain medications are safe to use several times a night, so a person can try to keep a saline spray near the bed and use it when necessary.

The nasal strips adhere to the bridge of the nose and slightly remove the nostrils.

Although many people use nasal strips to prevent snoring, they can also make breathing easier when a person has a blocked nose. Try sleeping with a nasal strip until congestion subsides.

Over-the-counter sprays can help relieve inflammation or congestion due to allergies and infections. They are safe for short-term use and can offer quick relief.

However, some nasal decongestant sprays use a substance that can cause tolerance for the way they work. This can cause rebound congestion if a person uses it for a long time and then tries to stop.

People should read and follow the instructions on the package, including the maximum number of days in a row for them to use it. A person should never take more than the lowest effective dose possible.

Steroid sprays help relieve inflammation, which can help reduce congestion and irritation in the nostrils. They are available without a prescription and with a prescription.

Do not use steroid nasal sprays in children unless a doctor recommends it.

The use of cold and flu medications with decongestants and other ingredients can make breathing easier. They can also help with other symptoms, such as muscle aches and headaches.

People should be careful to avoid "daytime" non-sleepy products before bedtime, as they can make sleep difficult. On the contrary, it is generally better to avoid "nocturnal" products when a person needs to be awake, since these will probably cause drowsiness.

Avoid combining multiple medications and do not administer decongestants for babies or children unless a doctor recommends it.

The common cold often causes nasal congestion. Antibiotics and other medications will not cure the cold virus, so there is little that a doctor can do.

It is better to drink plenty of fluids and sleep or rest as much as possible to give the body time to recover.

The symptoms of a common cold can last between 2 days and 2 weeks. People with the flu usually recover within a week, but some symptoms may last 2 weeks or more.

Consult a doctor if:

  • A person with a weak immune system, such as an older adult or a baby, develops flu symptoms. Early treatment of the flu can reduce the severity of the infection.
  • A baby has signs of congestion. Babies under 2 months only breathe through the nose, so congestion can quickly cause serious respiratory problems.
  • A person finds it impossible to breathe or shows signs of respiratory problems, such as fast heartbeat, blue lips, fast breathing, dizziness or severe changes in mood or personality.
  • A person has congestion for more than 2 weeks or discovers that it gets progressively worse for several days.
  • A person has a high fever of 103.1 ° F (39.5 ° C) or a fever that lasts more than a few days.
  • A person has a blocked nose along with signs of an asthma attack, such as sudden difficulty breathing, wheezing or shortness of breath.

Having a stuffy nose can make sleeping a challenge, but many simple home remedies can offer relief. People should also drink plenty of water and rest as much as possible to ensure that the disease passes quickly.

Staying at home from work or school can prevent the spread of infection.

A person should consult a doctor if the symptoms are very severe or do not disappear.


Some of the products that can help a person sleep with a stuffy nose are available to buy online:

We choose linked items based on the quality of the products and list the pros and cons of each one to help you determine which one will work best for you. We partner with some of the companies that sell these products, which means that Healthline UK and our partners can receive a portion of the revenue if you make a purchase using one or more links.

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