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May 30, 2024 7 min read

Dealing with a stuffy nose at night can significantly disrupt your sleep, turning what should be a restful period into a struggle for comfort.

A good night's sleep is crucial not just for recovery from illnesses like the common cold or allergies, which often cause nasal congestion, but also for overall health and well-being.

Understanding how to manage a stuffy nose effectively at night can help alleviate discomfort and promote better sleep quality.


Battling with a stuffy nose at night? Discover ways to sleep comfortably and breathe easier

Understanding the Causes of a Stuffy Nose

Nasal congestion, commonly referred to as a stuffy nose, is caused by the swelling of nasal tissues and the accumulation of fluid in the adjacent tissues, resulting in a feeling of blockage. This condition can be triggered by various factors:1

  • Common Cold and Infections: Viral infections are the most frequent culprits behind a stuffy nose, which can lead to inflammation of the nasal membranes.

  • Allergies: Allergic reactions to pollen, dust mites, pet dander, and mold can cause significant nasal congestion as the body releases histamines to combat perceived threats.

  • Sinus Infections: These infections cause the sinus cavities around the nasal passages to become inflamed, exacerbating congestion.

  • Weather Changes: Shifts in humidity and temperature can also impact the nasal tissues, leading to increased blood flow and swelling that contribute to a stuffy nose.

Lying down can increase blood flow to the head, leading to inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the nose, which exacerbates nasal symptoms.

The impact of nasal congestion on sleep is substantial. Difficulty breathing comfortably due to a blocked nose disrupts the normal sleep cycle, leading to frequent awakenings and poor sleep quality. If prolonged, this can result in feeling less rested upon waking and diminish overall health and well-being.1

Understanding these causes is crucial in addressing the root of congestion and finding effective ways to manage it, especially at night when it tends to worsen due to lying down, which can further impede the nasal passages.

Using a humidifier to ease breathing during sleep—see how it can help clear your stuffy nose.

Preparing Your Bedroom Environment

Creating an optimal sleeping environment is key to managing a stuffy or runny nose at night:2

Humidity and Air Quality

Using a humidifier can add moisture to the air, helping keep nasal passages moist and more comfortable. This can ease breathing and reduce the irritation in the nasal cavities.

Additionally, air purifiers can remove allergens like dust mites, pet dander, and mold growth from the air, further reducing nasal irritation and congestion.

Temperature and Ventilation

Maintaining a cool and well-ventilated room helps prevent excessive dry air, which can exacerbate nasal congestion. Ensuring good air flow can also help reduce swelling in the nasal passages, promoting easier breathing throughout the night.

Natural Remedies to Relieve a Stuffy Nose

Several natural remedies can offer relief from nasal congestion and help you sleep better:3

  • Saline Solutions: Saline nasal sprays or rinses, like a saltwater solution, can help relieve congestion by thinning the mucus and reducing the swelling in the nasal passages. These are gentle yet effective and can be used frequently throughout the night if needed.

  • Essential Oils and Herbal Remedies: Essential oils such as eucalyptus and peppermint oil can help clear nasal passages and offer relief from a stuffy nose. Placing a few drops in a steamer or on a tissue near your bed can also help make breathing easier. Additionally, drinking hot herbal teas before bed can soothe the nasal passages and reduce congestion, making it easier to fall asleep.

  • Decongestant Nasal Sprays: Utilizing decongestant nasal sprays can significantly ease congestion and inflammation, offering a quick solution for a stuffy nose. These sprays work by narrowing the blood vessels in the nasal passages, which helps to reduce swelling and congestion.

Sleeping on Your Side can help facilitate drainage better than lying flat on your back, reducing the buildup of mucus in your nasal passages.

Positional Tips to Reduce Nasal Congestion

Adjusting how you sleep can significantly impact nasal congestion:

  • Sleeping on Your Side: This position can help facilitate drainage better than lying flat on your back, reducing the buildup of mucus in your nasal passages.4

  • Elevating Your Head: Using an extra pillow or two to elevate your head can help prevent mucus from pooling in your sinuses, which minimizes congestion and makes breathing easier. This position helps improve airflow and can be especially beneficial for those suffering from sinus pain or acid reflux, which can exacerbate nasal congestion.5

  • Maintaining Comfort: Keeping a comfortable sleeping position throughout the night is essential. Experiment with different pillow configurations and mattress settings to find what best supports your body and reduces congestion.

Over-the-Counter Solutions and When to Use Them

For immediate relief from a stuffy nose, over-the-counter solutions can be effective:

Nasal Decongestants

Available as sprays and pills, these can quickly clear nasal passages and relieve congestion. However, they should be used only for a short duration—typically no more than a few days—as prolonged use can lead to increased nasal congestion once the medication is stopped.6


These are particularly useful for allergy-induced congestion, helping to reduce nasal inflammation and symptoms related to allergic reactions. Be mindful of potential side effects like drowsiness, which can impact your daytime activities.

Nasal Strips

These strips can be placed on the nose to physically open the nasal passages, improving airflow and making it easier to breathe. Nasal strips are a non-medicated and safe option for nightly use.

Lifestyle Adjustments for a Good Night's Sleep

Warm drinks before bed can soothe your throat and clear nasal congestion for a peaceful sleep.

Long-term management of nasal congestion often involves lifestyle adjustments that not only aim to reduce symptoms but also enhance overall sleep quality. Environmental factors can trigger nasal irritation, leading to difficulty breathing and disturbed sleep.


Recommendations to alleviate this irritation include nasal irrigation, using humidifiers, elevating the head while sleeping, applying adhesive strips, and staying hydrated.

Here’s how you can adjust your daily and nightly routines:

Avoiding Triggers

Minimizing exposure to allergens is crucial for managing nasal congestion:7

  • Dust Mites: Use allergen-proof bed covers, wash bedding in hot water weekly, and keep humidity low to discourage mite infestations.

  • Pet Dander: Keep pets out of the bedroom to reduce allergen exposure during sleep.

  • Pollen: Close windows and use air conditioning during high pollen seasons. Shower before bed to rinse off any pollen from hair and skin.

Optimizing the Bedroom Environment

Creating an allergen-reduced space can help alleviate nasal congestion:

  • Air Quality: Use HEPA filters in air conditioning units and air purifiers to remove particulate matter from the air.

  • Humidity Control: Maintain indoor humidity around 40-50% to help keep nasal passages moistwithout promoting mold growth.8

  • Cleanliness: Regularly clean surfaces and declutter to reduce dust and potential allergens.

Set up your bedroom for the best sleep environment to combat a stuffy nose.

Evening Routines

Implementing soothing pre-sleep routines can significantly reduce congestion:

  • Steam Therapy: Inhaling steam from a hot bath or shower can help loosen mucus and clear nasal passages.

  • Saline Rinses: Using a saline nasal spray or a neti pot can help flush out irritants and moisturize nasal cavities.

  • Warm Beverages: Drinking a warm herbal tea can soothe the throat and reduce congestion.

Staying Hydrated

Keeping the body well-hydrated is essential for thinning mucus and promoting better breathing:

  • Water Intake: Drink ample fluids throughout the day. Warm liquids can be particularly soothing.

  • Monitor Hydration Levels: Ensure that you’re adequately hydrated, especially if you’re using central heating, which can dry out the air and your mucosal linings.

By integrating these lifestyle changes into your routine, you can significantly improve your ability to manage congestion and ensure a restful night’s sleep. These strategies, coupled with proper medical advice for persistent symptoms, form a robust approach to dealing with a stuffy nose at night.

Set up your bedroom for the best sleep environment to combat a stuffy nose.

Conclusion: How to Sleep with a Stuffy Nose

Managing a stuffy nose at night requires a combination of immediate solutions and long-term lifestyle changes.

Whether it's adjusting your sleep position, using over-the-counter aids, or modifying your environment and habits, these strategies can help you achieve a better night's sleep despite nasal congestion.

Remember, if your symptoms persist or progressively worsen, consult with a healthcare provider to rule out any underlying conditions and obtain tailored treatment options.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do I get a stuffy nose at night?
Nighttime stuffiness can be due to allergens like dust mites or pet dander in your bedroom or a drop in temperature causing nasal passages to dry out.

How can I quickly relieve a stuffy nose so I can sleep?
Using a saline spray or taking a hot shower before bed can help clear nasal passages and promote easier breathing.

Are nasal strips effective for sleeping with a stuffy nose?
Yes, nasal strips can enhance airflow by physically opening nasal passages, making them effective for reducing congestion at night.

Can changing my sleep position help with nasal congestion?
Sleeping with your head elevated can help prevent mucus from blocking your nasal passages and improve your breathing.

What should I do if my stuffy nose gets worse at night?
Consult a healthcare provider to rule out conditions like allergies or sinusitis, and discuss other treatment options that may offer relief.


  1. Naclerio, R. M., Bachert, C., & Baraniuk, J. N. (2010). Pathophysiology of nasal congestion. International journal of general medicine3, 47–57. https://doi.org/10.2147/ijgm.s8088

  2. Okamoto-Mizuno, K., & Mizuno, K. (2012). Effects of thermal environment on sleep and circadian rhythm. Journal of physiological anthropology31(1), 14. https://doi.org/10.1186/1880-6805-31-14

  3. Mammari, N., Albert, Q., Devocelle, M., Kenda, M., Kočevar Glavač, N., Sollner Dolenc, M., Mercolini, L., Tóth, J., Milan, N., Czigle, S., Varbanov, M., & On Behalf Of The Oemonom (2023). Natural Products for the Prevention and Treatment of Common Cold and Viral Respiratory Infections. Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland)16(5), 662. https://doi.org/10.3390/ph16050662

  4. Roithmann, R., Demeneghi, P., Faggiano, R., & Cury, A. (2005). Effects of posture change on nasal patency. Brazilian journal of otorhinolaryngology71(4), 478–484. https://doi.org/10.1016/s1808-8694(15)31203-9

  5. Souza, F. J. F. B., Genta, P. R., de Souza Filho, A. J., Wellman, A., & Lorenzi-Filho, G. (2017). The influence of head-of-bed elevation in patients with obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep & breathing = Schlaf & Atmung21(4), 815–820. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11325-017-1524-3

  6. Deckx, L., De Sutter, A. I., Guo, L., Mir, N. A., & van Driel, M. L. (2016). Nasal decongestants in monotherapy for the common cold. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews10(10), CD009612. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD009612.pub2

  7. Raulf, M., Bergmann, K. C., Kull, S., Sander, I., Hilger, C., Brüning, T., Jappe, U., Müsken, H., Sperl, A., Vrtala, S., Zahradnik, E., & Klimek, L. (2015). Mites and other indoor allergens - from exposure to sensitization and treatment. Allergo journal international24(3), 68–80. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40629-015-0049-1

  8. Okamoto-Mizuno, K., & Mizuno, K. (2012). Effects of thermal environment on sleep and circadian rhythm. Journal of physiological anthropology31(1), 14. https://doi.org/10.1186/1880-6805-31-14