A nosebleed, also known as 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, but they should be managed, especially when they arise overnight.
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 subconscious picking of the nose while sleeping or 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 sign of a significant health concern.
A nosebleed is usually preceded by symptoms that include an overwhelming urge to keep swallowing and a sensation of liquid flowing down the back of the throat. Common causes of these concerns 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 trapped within.
- Allergies that aggravate the nostrils.
- Age – According to The Journal of Pediatrics, children between the age of 2 and 10 are particularly prone to nosebleeds, as are senior adults over the age of 85.
Consider speaking to a healthcare professional if you constantly experience nosebleeds.
First Aid for Managing a Nosebleed
If you experience a nosebleed, it’s helpful to know how to manage and stop the bleeding sooner. To achieve this, follow a three-step process:
- Avoid tilting your head backward, as 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 and 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 try applying an ice pack, a packet of frozen peas, or a similarly cold item 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 start to pour down the back of your throat and restrict breathing.
If you are prone to nosebleeds overnight, find out 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 scary experience.
Try to sleep on your side to minimize any hazards connected to 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 in mind 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, there’s no evidence to link insomnia to nosebleeds at night.
Struggling to sleep and nocturnal epistaxis are two disparate concerns.
How about the other side of the coin – does sleeping late cause nosebleeds? This is a likelier outcome. The more time you spend sleeping, the higher the chances of experiencing a nosebleed in your sleep.
How To Avoid Nosebleeds At Night
Having discussed the causes of a nocturnal nosebleed, you may know what is causing your epistaxis overnight. You can take a range of steps to prevent this from happening again in the future and improve your chances of a good, blood-free night of slumber.
Clear Your Nasal Passages Before Bed
If your sinuses are blocked due to a cold or respiratory infection, the lining of your nose will be irritated.
If you’re sleeping, you won’t be addressing the problem. Consequently, this irritation can eventually burst a delicate blood vessel within the nostrils.
Avoid blowing your nose too often in your waking hours, as this can aggravate the nasal lining just as much as letting any irritants build. Take an over-the-counter decongestant to clear the pathways naturally.
These medications can lead to a runny nose, so don’t take them immediately before bed. Give yourself an hour or two 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 during colder months when you’re warming your home with artificial heat sources. Radiators remove moisture from the air, making the air dry, which dehydrates the nasal passages.
Dry, dehydrated nostrils are likelier to crack and bleed while you’re sleeping, especially if the room is still hot. Allow a little cool air into the room by cracking a window or getting a humidifier to make the air a little moister.
If this isn’t an option, keep your nasal passages moist through direct application. Pick up 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. Can sleeping with a fan on cause nosebleeds? Unfortunately, the air of 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?” the answer is that it depends on the chemical makeup of the prescription drugs.
Current Drug Safety lists the following medications as likeliest to cause nosebleeds overnight:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, aka SSRIs.
- Aspirin and other blood-thinning medications.
- Nasal corticosteroids and other drugs inhaled through the nostrils.
Discuss the side effects with your doctor if overnight nosebleeds have only started since you took prescription medication. There may be an effective drug available without this side effect.
Avoid Alcohol or Nicotine Before Bed
If you like to 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 use is linked to epistaxis, as is smoking tobacco.
It should be noted that the study referenced above refers to excessive alcohol consumption, so one drink is unlikely to result in a nosebleed. All the same, alcohol and tobacco products can 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 these allergens. While we’re sleeping, we’re considerably more vulnerable to their impact.
Try to determine if you are exposing yourself to something you’re allergic to at night. If you sleep with a pet on the bed, their dander may aggravate the nose and cause epistaxis. Alternatively, your nose may react to the material of your pillow.
It may not be something in your immediate environment causing the reaction. Ear, Nose & and Throat Journal conducted a study that confirmed air pollution could also cause nosebleeds. Consider using an air purifier or some plants to combat this.
Avoid Touching Your Nose in Your Sleep
Deutsches Arzteblatt International stated that picking at the nose is the most common explanation for epistaxis. The blood vessels in the nostrils are so delicate that it doesn’t take much to cause them to burst and bleed.
You may indignantly claim that you never pick your nose, but can you be sure that you are 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 as short as possible so you’re less likely to cause damage if you pick your nose. If the problem continues, consider wearing gloves in bed to prevent access to the nostrils.
Consider speaking to a doctor if these steps don’t help stop nosebleeds at night while sleeping.