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Nightly Nasal Congestion: How to Clear Blocked Nose at Night

Picture this: you're settling into bed after a long day, looking forward to a restful night's sleep, when suddenly, your nose feels completely blocked. Nighttime nasal congestion is a common dilemma that can hinder your sleep and leave you feeling frustrated. In this blog post, we'll delve into the reasons behind nighttime nasal congestion and explore effective strategies to clear your airways for a more peaceful night.

Woman sleeping at night
Woman sleeping at night / Leung Cho Pan

Why Does It Happen?

Several factors may contribute to your nightly nasal congestion, and understanding these can be key to finding effective relief. Here's a closer look at some common culprits:

  • Sleep Position: When you lay in a supine or prone position, it becomes challenging for sinus fluids to effectively drain from your nose. As these fluids accumulate in your nasal passages, you'll experience increased nasal congestion, leading to a sensation of a stuffy nose.

  • Postnasal Drip: Excess mucus from your sinuses can drip down the back of your throat, making your nose feel blocked and triggering a tickle-induced cough.

  • Dry Air: Nighttime air can be drier, especially with heaters running, further irritating and thickening mucus, making it harder to clear.

  • Allergies: When breathing in air, the hairs and mucus in your nose play a role in trapping dust, debris, and allergens. If your nasal passages become irritated due to allergens, the tissue can become inflamed, leading to an increased production of mucus. This surplus of mucus may deviate from its usual flow to the back of your throat and instead accumulate at the front of your nose, making you feel congested especially as you lie down.

How to Clear Blocked Nose at Night

Now that we've identified potential causes, let's explore practical solutions to help you tackle and alleviate your nighttime nasal congestion:

A woman using a NeilMed sinus rinse. A bag of compress. A cup of hot tea. A bed with two pillows by the head board.
NeilMed Pharmaceuticals / Africa Images / Lesterman Photos / WhyFrameStudio @ Getty Images Pro

Nasal Saline Irrigation

Using a saline spray or a sinus rinse can help flush out mucus and reduce nasal congestion.

  • For saline nasal spray, follow the product instructions and apply as needed throughout the day.

  • If using a sinus rinse, follow product instructions with distilled water. Some drainage may occur into the mouth; avoid swallowing. After rinsing each nostril:

    • Blow your nose gently, avoiding complete occlusion to prevent ear pressure.

    • Optionally, sniff gently once or twice to clean deeper areas.

    • Spit out any solution reaching the throat.

    • To drain the residual solution, tilt your head forward and to the opposite side of the rinsed nostril, then blow gently.

Warm Compress

Applying a warm compress to the nose and sinus area can provide relief by reducing inflammation and promoting better blood flow.

Stay Hydrated

Drinking plenty of water helps thin mucus, making it easier to expel. Proper hydration is essential for overall respiratory health.

Alternatively, you can also drink a cup of hot herbal or decaffeinated tea. This can help hydrate you, open up your nasal passages, and soothe irritated nasal passages.

Use an Air Humidifier / Steam Inhalation

Both air humidifiers and steam inhalation can offer temporary relief from nasal congestion. Inhaling steam can help moisturize and soothe irritated nasal passages. A hot shower or a bowl of hot water with a towel over your head can be effective.

Some people find it soothing to use essential oils like eucalyptus or peppermint by adding a few drops to a bowl of hot water or an essential oil diffuser.

Elevate Your Head While Sleeping

Using an extra pillow or a wedge pillow can prevent nasal congestion from worsening while you sleep by minimizing the effects of gravity.

Over-the-Counter Solutions

Decongestant nasal sprays or oral medications can provide short-term relief. However, these should be used cautiously and for a limited duration to avoid dependency.

When to Seek Help

Determining when to visit the doctor for nighttime nasal congestion depends on several factors, including the severity, duration, and accompanying symptoms. Here are some general guidelines:

Seek immediate medical attention if:

  • You experience sudden, severe difficulty breathing.

  • You have facial pain or swelling, especially around your eyes or nose.

  • You have a fever of 103°F (39.4°C) or higher.

  • You have bloody nasal discharge.

  • You have a stiff neck or confusion.

Schedule an appointment with your doctor within 24-48 hours if:

  • Your nighttime congestion has been present for more than 10 days and is not improving with home remedies.

  • You have thick, green, or yellow nasal discharge.

  • You have a persistent sore throat or earache.

  • You have difficulty sleeping due to your congestion.

  • You have a history of sinus infections or allergies that are not responding to your usual medications.

  • You have any underlying health conditions that could make you more susceptible to complications from nasal congestion, such as asthma or a weakened immune system.

Consider making an appointment within a few days if:

  • Your nighttime congestion is significantly impacting your quality of life, preventing you from working or participating in your usual activities.

  • You are concerned about the cause of your congestion and want to rule out any serious underlying conditions.

  • You have any questions or concerns that you cannot address through home remedies or self-care.

Remember, it is always better to err on the side of caution and seek medical advice if you are unsure about the cause or severity of your nasal congestion. This can be a sign of more serious conditions such as nasal polyps, deviated septum, or respiratory infections. Your doctor can provide a proper diagnosis, recommend the best course of treatment, and help prevent any complications.


Breathe Easy Again

Clearing a blocked nose involves a combination of lifestyle adjustments, home remedies, and, when necessary, professional guidance. If you live around the Hollywood, Florida area, allow ENT Family to be the professional guidance you need!

Find relief today—trust ENT Family for expert care and peace of mind.

Address: 3911 Hollywood Blvd Suite 201, Hollywood, FL 33021, United States

Phone: 754-888-1368

Dr. David Eleff, Otolaryngologist/Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist at ENT Family in Hollywood, Florida.

This article has been medically reviewed by  otolaryngologist, David Eleff, M.D.

ENT Family Blog

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