Blocked nose at night

If you’ve suffered from a blocked nose or congestion, you’ll know that sleeping with a stuffy nose at night isn't always easy.

Your blocked nose can feel worse at night because more blood flows to it when you lie down, which can add to the nasal inflammation and congestion1.

There are a number of reasons why your blocked nose will feel worse when sleeping, making it more difficult to get a good night’s sleep. But there are also plenty of things you can try to help relieve it and improve your chances of getting the rest you need.

Find out what makes a blocked nose at night worse and how you can ease it to help you sleep.

Why is my blocked nose worse at night?

You might think your blocked nose feels worse when you’re sleeping because there are fewer distractions to stop you thinking about it. That’s partly the case, but it's not the whole story2.

These are some of the main reasons your blocked or stuffy nose at night might feel worse:

Increased blood flow

Lying down can increase blood flow to your upper body – including your face and nose. As more blood flows to your nose, the blood vessels in this area become more inflamed3. This is because the vessels need to expand in order to let white blood cells, proteins and other immune cells get to the infected area4.

As they expand to accommodate the blood flow, your blood vessels split, allowing water and other fluids to get inside, causing the swelling and inflammation associated with a blocked nose5.

Less mucus drainage

Lying down also makes it harder for your body to drain the excess mucus in your nose and sinuses that can cause a blocked nose6. When you're up and moving around, gravity helps pull the mucus down to your throat or out of your nose7.

As you lie in bed, or even if you start lounging on the sofa in the evening, mucus may start to pool within your nasal cavities instead of draining properly8.

Acid reflux

It's easier for your stomach acid to reach your throat and nasal passageways and cause irritations when you lie down9.

If this happens, you may also notice other symptoms like a sore throat, postnasal drip and a cough10. You might find that your symptoms are worse first thing in the morning until the reflux settles down as well11.

How to sleep with a blocked nose

Getting a good night's sleep can help your body recover from a cold or blocked nose12. But having a stuffy nose at night can sometimes make that feel like an impossible task.

That's why we've put together a few top tips to help you get some much-needed shut-eye if you’re experiencing congestion at night. 

Prop yourself up

The best position to sleep with a stuffy nose is typically on your back with your head slightly elevated13. A blocked nose at night often feels worse as your body position causes more blood to flow to your nose, increasing the swelling14.

It also means your body can't drain mucus properly15. Elevating your head with an extra pillow can help the mucus drain from your nose easier, so you can get a decent night's sleep16.

Drink warm tea before bed

Warm drinks like herbal or decaffeinated teas could help relieve your congestion and soothe inflammation in the lining of your nose and throat17.

Take a hot shower

Before heading to bed, have a hot steamy shower to help loosen some of the mucus in your nose18. Take in plenty of deep breaths of the steamy air, and you should slowly start to feel some relief in your nose19

Use a humidifier

Turning on a humidifier in your bedroom can add moisture to the air20. This may help prevent your nose from drying out and feeling sore or painful while you sleep21.

You could also try adding essential oils to help relieve the discomfort of your congestion22:

  • Peppermint oil contains soothing menthol, which can make breathing through your nose feel easier25

Be prepared

Needing to get up for tissues or water in the middle of the night is bound to disturb your sleep26. Make sure you take a glass of water, tissues and any pain relief you might need to bed with you27. Keep it by the side of your bed within easy reach when you need it. 

Wear a nose strip

You might associate nose strips with regular snorers, but they can also help relieve a stuffy nose at night. They help to open your nasal passageways, which can make breathing through your nose easier28

Cold and flu medication

Taking cold and flu medicines as part of your bedtime routine could contribute to a better night’s sleep.

Try to avoid taking 'daytime' medications that contain caffeine too late in the day.29

Decongestants

Taking an over-the-counter decongestant  can help relieve the swelling in your nose and sinuses, making it easier to breathe comfortably through your nose as you sleep30

When to see a doctor

The common cold is caused by a virus, so it can’t be treated with antibiotics31. Instead, it’s best to stay as hydrated as possible and get plenty of rest to help your body fight the illness32

In most cases you should only see a doctor if you:

  • Have a weakened immune system and your cold symptoms develop into flu-like symptoms33
  • Have a baby under two months old who develops signs of congestion34
  • Can’t get rid of congestion that lasts for more than two weeks35
  • Have a high fever of 39.5°C (103.1°F) or it lasts for longer than a few days36
  • Experience an asthma attack while suffering from congestion37
  • Struggle to breathe and experience symptoms including a fast heart rate, blue lips, rapid and shallow breathing, dizziness, or severe mood swings38.

Is it dangerous to sleep with a blocked nose?

Getting plenty of sleep is key to helping your body fight infections like the common cold39. Nasal congestion is rarely anything to be seriously worried about40.

So, while it may be a little uncomfortable, sleeping with a blocked nose is not only safe but essential41. Try using some of the tips we’ve suggested to help yourself sleep easier, so your body has the energy it needs to fight off the infection.

For quick relief from your blocked nose at night, try the SUDAFED® Decongestant range . With active ingredients like pseudoephedrine hydrochloride, our decongestant tablets fight nasal congestion by reducing swelling so you can breathe more easily through your nose42.