Last Updated on September 21, 2023 by Louise Carter
A nosebleed (epistaxis) is a common medical condition. According to Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, 60% of Americans experience nosebleeds, usually caused by a blood vessel in the lining of the nostril bursting, leading to increased blood flow.
A nosebleed at night while sleeping can be a frightening experience, especially if you wake up with your pillow or bedsheets covered in blood. Thankfully, nosebleeds are rarely serious.
The delicate blood vessels in the nose can be aggravated without us realizing it, so it’s important to understand how to prevent a bloody nose at night.
Common causes of nocturnal nosebleeds include dry skin, stale and recycled air, and excessive heat in the atmosphere. Exposure to allergens can also lead to nosebleeds, as can subconsciously picking the nose while sleeping or the side effects of medications.
Why Do I Keep Getting Nosebleeds?
There will be an explanation if you experience frequent nosebleeds in one or both nostrils. However, epistaxis is rarely a significant health concern.
A nosebleed is usually preceded by symptoms, including an overwhelming urge to keep swallowing and a sensation of liquid flowing down the back of the throat. Common causes include:
- Excessively fragile blood vessels.
- Infection in the lining of the nostrils or sinuses, potentially caused by an upper respiratory infection.
- Picking the nose and disrupting the interior lining of the nostrils.
- Impact or damage to the nose or the presence of a foreign object.
- Allergies that aggravate the nostrils.
- Age – According to The Journal of Pediatrics, children between the ages of 2 and 10 are prone to nosebleeds, as are senior adults over 85.
Consult a medical doctor if you regularly experience nosebleeds.
First Aid for Managing a Nosebleed
If you experience a nosebleed, knowing how to manage and stop the bleeding sooner is essential. To stop a nosebleed, follow this three-step process:
- Avoid tilting your head backward because this will lead to blood running down the back of your throat. Instead, get upright and tilt your head slightly forward.
- Hold a soft tissue or piece of cloth against your nostrils, delicately pinching them closed.
- Maintain this pressure for 5-15 minutes.
If your nose is still bleeding after this time, head back to step one and start over.
You could also apply an ice pack, a packet of frozen peas, to the bridge of the nose. This will constrict the vessels in the nose, halting blood flow.
What Happens If You Have A Nosebleed While Sleeping?
Nosebleeds while sleeping are comparatively common but can be quite dangerous. If you’re sleeping on your back, the blood may pour down the back of your throat and restrict breathing.
If you’re prone to nosebleeds overnight, discover what’s causing this problem. Even if you’re not placing your health at risk, waking up to pillows and sheets covered in blood is a worrying experience.
Sleep on your side to minimize the hazards of getting a nosebleed at night. While still messy, this will reduce the chance of problems with your breathing.
What Causes Nosebleeds While You’re Asleep?
Our environment usually differs while we’re sleeping compared to our waking hours. These variances can be enough to cause significant nosebleeds, but you can manage epistaxis by changing your lifestyle.
Common explanations for nosebleeds while sleeping include:
- Dry skin.
- Picking the nose while sleeping.
- Bumping the nose in your sleep.
- Nostril blockages.
- Inhaling allergens while you sleep.
- Consumption of alcohol or smoking cigarettes before bed.
Keep these explanations for nosebleeds at night if you’re frequently awoken by epistaxis.
Can Not Sleeping Enough Cause Nosebleeds?
While failing to sleep has many unwelcome side effects, including brain fog, irritability, and heightened stress or anxiety, no evidence links insomnia to nosebleeds at night.
Struggling to sleep and nocturnal epistaxis are two disparate concerns.
Does sleeping late cause nosebleeds? This is a likelier outcome. The more time you spend sleeping, the higher your chances of getting a nosebleed.
How To Avoid Nosebleeds At Night
Having discussed the causes of a nocturnal nosebleed, you may know what’s causing epistaxis overnight. You can take steps to prevent this from happening:
Clear Your Nasal Passages Before Bed
If your sinuses are blocked due to a cold or respiratory infection, the lining of the nose will be irritated.
If you’re sleeping, you won’t be addressing the problem. Consequently, this irritation can eventually burst a blood vessel within the nostrils.
Avoid blowing your nose too often in your waking hours because this can aggravate the nasal lining as much as letting any irritants build. Take an over-the-counter decongestant to clear the pathways.
These medications can lead to a runny nose, so don’t take them immediately before bed. Allow 1-2 hours for the decongestant to work, and give your nose a gentle blow last thing at night.
Avoid Dry Skin and Moisten the Nasal Passages
Overnight nosebleeds are likelier when warming the home with artificial heat during cold weather. Radiators remove moisture from the air, making it dry and dehydrating the nasal passages.
Dry, dehydrated nostrils are likelier to crack and bleed while sleeping, especially if the room is hot. Allow cool air into the room by opening a window or using a humidifier.
If this isn’t an option, moisten the nasal passages through direct application.
Get a nasal spray made from saline water, or place a cotton swab in petroleum jelly and dab a thin layer in your nostrils. This will tickle, but that’s better than a nosebleed.
Sleeping next to a fan is rarely advisable, especially when you’re prone to developing nosebleeds at night. The airflow from a fan will dry out the skin, making nocturnal epistaxis likelier.
Check Medications for Side Effects
Many medications have side effects, which can include epistaxis. If you’re wondering, “Can sleeping pills cause nosebleeds?” it depends on the chemical makeup.
Current Drug Safety lists the following medications as the likeliest to cause nosebleeds overnight:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
- Aspirin and other blood-thinning medications.
- Nasal corticosteroids are inhaled through the nostrils.
Discuss the side effects with a doctor if overnight nosebleeds have only started since you took prescription medication. There may be an alternative without this side effect.
Avoid Alcohol or Nicotine Before Bed
If you indulge in an alcoholic nightcap before heading to bed, you’re increasing the likelihood of a nosebleed in your sleep. European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology explains how alcohol and tobacco use is linked to epistaxis.
The study refers to excessive alcohol consumption, so one drink is unlikely to result in a nosebleed. All the same, tobacco and alcohol impact sleep and are best avoided close to bedtime.
Prevent Exposure to Allergens
Allergens that irritate the nasal passages are another common cause of nosebleeds. When we’re awake, we may take action to avoid exposure to allergens. While asleep, we’re far more vulnerable.
Determine if you’re exposing yourself to something you’re allergic to at night.
It may not be something in your immediate environment causing the reaction.
Avoid Touching Your Nose in Your Sleep
Deutsches Arzteblatt International stated that picking at the nose is the most common cause of epistaxis. The blood vessels in the nostrils are so delicate that bursting them doesn’t take much.
You may claim that you never pick your nose, but are you sure you’re not doing so in your sleep? If your nostrils feel blocked or aggravated, you may instinctively seek to clear them without realizing it.
Cut your fingernails so you’re less likely to cause damage if you pick your nose. If the problem continues, consider wearing gloves in bed to prevent easy access to the nostrils.