Last Updated on September 21, 2023 by Louise Carter
A congested nose is uncomfortable but seldom dangerous. The most significant risk of a blocked nose at night is the inability to sleep due to general irritation and discomfort.
If a respiratory infection causes a blockage to the nasal passages, symptoms will likely worsen in the evening. If not, an allergy or acid reflux may have resulted in a nasal blockage.
Attempt to clear your nose before getting into bed. Breathing in steam will loosen mucus in the nasal passages, and you may benefit from applying a saline rinse or taking an antihistamine.
While in bed, keep your head elevated. The ideal position for sleeping with a blocked nose is on the back but be warned that this may lead to snoring.
Apply a nasal strip or vapor rub to clear the airways and increase the humidity in your bedroom.
Usually, a blocked nose will clear up within 7 days.
Why Does My Nose Get Stuffy at Night When I Lie Down?
A stuffy nose at night is usually due to a respiratory condition. The common cold, or a more serious strain of flu, can lead to excessive mucus in the nasal passages.
The immune system is weakened by illness, so this mucus isn’t cleared properly.
If you’re otherwise healthy but always seem to struggle at night, consider if an allergy may be responsible. Monitor when the symptoms flare and undertake a process of elimination, removing or changing different factors until symptoms cease.
Common examples of allergens in the bedroom include:
- Material of pillowcases or bedsheets.
- Laundry detergent used to wash bedding or nightwear.
- Creams, lotions, and other beauty products.
- Dust mites.
- Mold caused by dampness.
- Animal dander or feather dust on pillows and sheets.
Consider when you last ate and what you consumed. According to BMC Pulmonary Medicine, acid reflux is connected to a blocked nose and has similar symptoms.
Is it Dangerous to Sleep with a Blocked Nose?
Sleeping with a blocked nose isn’t dangerous but introduces some unwelcome side effects. The body automatically seeks oxygen through the mouth if the nose is blocked.
This makes snoring likelier than it would be if you could breathe freely through your nose.
The best position to sleep with a stuffy nose is on your back, as this posture allows the sinuses to drain. Unfortunately, the supine position is often linked to snoring when you didn’t previously.
Sleep on your left side if you’re concerned about snoring or your blocked nose is linked to acid reflux.
How Many Nights Does A Blocked Nose Last?
If a cold or flu virus causes your blocked nose, it should clear within a week.
Continue taking steps to minimize the impact of a blocked nose at night during this time. The more quality sleep you enjoy, the sooner you’ll recover.
A blocked nose that hasn’t cleared within 10 days merits further investigation.
At this stage, you risk bacterial infection in the nasal passages. A medical doctor may want to run tests to ensure there isn’t a physical blockage.
A common reason for the nose to become blocked for a long time is enlarged adenoids.
These glands sit behind the nasal passages, blocking and trapping bacteria. If overworked, the adenoids can become swollen. A prescription nasal spray will resolve the issue.
How To Clear A Blocked Nose Before Bed
If you have a blocked nose during the day, it’s unlikely to go away by the evening. Attempting to sleep with a blocked nose is frustrating, so reduce the impact before bedtime.
Start by making lifestyle adjustments during your waking hours.
You’ll be tempted to blow your nose throughout the day to breathe easier.
As explained by Clinical Infectious Diseases, this may have the reverse effect, forcing mucus back into the sinuses and exacerbating the blockage.
Over-the-counter decongestants will clear your sinuses during the day, but they’ll likely make your nose run, so avoid them close to bedtime. You’ll exchange a blocked nose for one that will not stop streaming.
Think carefully about what you eat for your evening meal. Spicy food can clear blocked sinuses but is also linked to disturbing dreams and nightmares.
The journal Chest recommends a classic flu remedy of chicken soup due to its anti-inflammatory qualities.
Add some or all of these suggestions to your sleep hygiene routine.
If you suspect an allergy is causing your blocked nose, take an antihistamine at night.
Antihistamines bind to the histamine receptors in the respiratory system, intercepting and inhibiting reactions caused by your environment.
Some antihistamines list drowsiness as a side effect, which is welcome if you take them at bedtime.
Breathe in Steam
Taking a bath or shower before bed is always advisable because this will lower your body temperature and make it easier to fall asleep.
This will be beneficial if you have a blocked nose because it allows you to breathe in steam.
Close all doors and windows in the bathroom while running your hot water to prevent the steam from escaping, and take in some deep breaths.
This will thin mucus in the sinuses, reducing the pressure caused by blockage.
Alternatively, fill a bowl with boiling water and drape a towel over your head. Keep your face away from the water and deeply inhale the steam for 5 minutes.
A saline rinse involves irrigating your nasal passages with saltwater. While this process requires more work in advance, it can clear congestion and blockages in the nose.
You’ll need a Neti pot to conduct a saline rinse. A neti pot is a small container that resembles a tea kettle. Once you have a Neti pot, purchase a pre-mixed saline solution or make your own.
Mix 3 teaspoons of pure salt with a teaspoon of baking soda and combine with 8 oz of distilled water. If you don’t have time for distillation, boil your water and leave it to cool.
Once your solution is cool enough to be applied safely, add it to the neti pot.
Stand over a sink, head titled 45O, and pour the solution into one nostril. It will flow through your nasal cavity and out of the other nostril. If any water lands in your throat, spit it out.
Repeat the process on the other nostril, and blow your nose to remove excess salt or water. If you feel a stinging sensation in your nose, reduce the amount of salt and baking soda in the neti pot next time.
Diffuse Essential Oils or Light Incense
Aromatherapy doesn’t appeal to everybody, but if you find bringing scents into your bedroom relaxing, consider lighting an oil burner or incense sticks in your sleep area before getting into bed.
The most effective scents for clearing the nasal passages at night are as follows:
- Tea tree oil has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory qualities.
- Eucalyptus contains cineole, a liquid that The Laryngoscope links to clear inflamed sinuses.
- Peppermint, of which menthol is a primary ingredient. Menthol is frequently linked to easier breathing, even if the impact is purely psychological.
Apply these scents directly to the skin or pillow using essential oils, but ensure you aren’t allergic. Use a carrier oil to dilute them, perform a test on a small, non-visible patch of skin, and check for a reaction.
Follow fire safety protocols if you prefer to inhale these scents through an oil burner or incense. Never leave a lit flame unattended, and fully extinguish any burning product before you fall asleep.
What to Do if You Nose is Blocked While Sleeping
Following the steps we outlined above will potentially help reduce the impact of a blocked nose immediately before getting into bed.
However, this does not mean your nose will remain comfortable throughout the night.
Take steps to aid easier breathing to minimize the risk of being disturbed and awoken at night. This means it’s likelier you’ll remain asleep long enough to feel rested in the morning.
If you wake up at night and your blocked nose feels so uncomfortable that you can’t drift off again, repeat the pre-bedtime steps to clearing your nose before attempting to sleep again.
If the air in your bedroom is too dry, the nasal passages will become increasingly irritated.
If it’s safe, open the windows in your bedroom during the day, and consider sleeping with them open to increase humidity.
You can further enhance the humidity in a bedroom using decorative indoor plants.
According to HortTechnology, Spider and Jade plants are the most effective. However, avoid plants that thrive in dry air, like cacti or aloe vera.
The best way to increase humidity in a bedroom is with a humidifier. The results can be impressive, and the white noise a humidifier generates overnight may help you fall and remain asleep.
Most pharmacies stock nasal strips that can be applied at bedtime to keep the airways open. Nasal strips resemble thin band-aids and are placed over the bridge of the nose.
If you sleep with a nasal strip, you should breathe easier through the nose at night and will not struggle for air. This approach won’t cure a blocked nose, but it’ll lessen the symptoms.
Consider a menthol chest rub, or make your own using essential oils. As discussed, eucalyptus, tea tree oil, and peppermint are effective if combined with a carrier oil.
Elevate Your Head
If you can sleep comfortably on your back, this is the ideal position for a blocked nose.
After assuming this posture, prop up your head with at least 2 pillows. Add an extra pillow if you can sleep this way without experiencing neck or shoulder pain in the morning.
Keeping your head elevated will encourage the nasal passages to clear while you sleep and reduce the risk of loud snoring, though the latter remains possible.
Sleep on the couch or in a spare room while your nose is blocked. This will prevent any disturbance to a partner if you snore and negate the need to be woken up regularly due to noise.
Sleeping with a blocked nose isn’t harmful to your health, but it can be a frustrating experience that gets in the way of restful sleep. Take steps to clear your nasal passages before and during sleep.