How To Sleep With A Stuffy Nose: 9 Tips For Better Sleep

Written by
 Purple Staff
Last Updated
June 2, 2023
min read

Allergies, the common cold, and environmental factors can all influence your rest. At one point or another, all of us have experienced waking up in the middle of the night unable to breathe causing a rush of frustration, discomfort, and fright.

Fortunately, there are several methods for relieving a stuffy nose to improve  sleep quality. Most home remedies like saline spray or a decongestant will suffice, but there are occasions when you may have to see a doctor.

This guide will provide best practices for relieving stuffy noses and itchy throats with household items and subtle lifestyle changes.

9 Tips To Sleep with A Stuffy Nose

While clogged passages and congestion can keep you up at night, they don’t have to. Start by following these tips.

1. Elevate Your Head

Sleeping in a flat position can cause nasal congestion to worsen because the sinuses can’t drain effectively. When you lie down at night, mucus pools around the head, making breathing difficult and potentially causing a migraine.

You can elevate your head by stacking two plush foam pillows or use an ergonomic wedge pillow. 

Adjusting your sleep position may not seem like an unlikely fix, but it’s just one of many other techniques you can use to sleep better. Consider using an adjustable bed frame to easily elevate your body. Purple’s adjustable bed frames are designed to help improve your sleep quality and daily comfort.

2. Use A Humidifier

Dry air can exacerbate sinusitis, making your nose feel sore and sensitive. A humidifier adds moisture and humidity to the atmosphere, eliminating pain and discomfort when you breathe.

If you prefer adding scents to your diffuser, use essential oils like chamomile, eucalyptus, or peppermint oil. Remember, oils can leave residue and capture bacteria, so you’ll want to clean and disinfect your humidifier and change its air filter regularly.

3. Keep Your Furniture As Dust-Free as Possible

Exposure to allergens like fur, dirt, and dust can irritate the nose and even cause inflammation in the throat when inhaled. Whenever possible, give your bedroom a thorough sweep or vacuum before sleeping.

Dust mites are impossible to see with the naked eye, so you never know when they might make their way into your mattress. Use pillow and mattress covers to limit allergies and keep your sheets clean.

4. Use A Nasal Rinse

A saline solution spray or nasal rinse can help loosen mucus before bedtime and provide much-needed relief. This can be prepared with household ingredients if you can’t find a saline solution at your local drugstore. Here’s how:

  1. Mix three teaspoons of iodide-free salt in a small container with one teaspoon of baking soda. 
  2. Add one teaspoon of the dry mix to eight ounces or one cup of water. 
  3. Use a bulb syringe, squeeze bottle, or battery-operated pulsator to rinse your sinuses.

If you have leftover salt water, you can gargle this to relieve throat pain. However, it won’t flush out a virus.

If a nasal rinse causes swelling or irritation in the nose, consider using a nasal spray instead. Most nasal spray medications contain corticosteroids that reduce inflammation and stop runniness. While they are often the most effective congestion relief products, they can cause minimal side effects like dryness or nosebleeds.

5. Use An Air Purifier

Like humidifiers, air purifiers containing high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters can reduce environmental allergens. These machines absorb pollen, dust mites, pet dander, and mold spores, reducing symptoms like sneezing, itchiness, and coughing.

HEPA filters force air through a dense mesh of fine fibers, trapping particles as small as 0.3 microns. As a rule, you should replace the HEPA filter inside your machine once every 6-12 months. If using a carbon filter, replace it every three months.

6. Stay Hydrated

Hydrating with lots of fluids can loosen mucus and drain the sinuses. If you’re suffering from a cold, experts recommend going beyond the daily recommended dose of 8 glasses to 11.5 cups for women and 15.5 cups for men. 

Add lemon to your water if you’re experiencing a fever and infection with your cold. Lemon is jam-packed with vitamin C, detoxing the blood vessels and boosting your immune system. Alternatively, you can add ginger to your drinks, as it clears the esophagus lining of mucus. 

Another ingredient you can add to a glass of warm water is honey, which helps relieve irritation.

7. Skip Late-Night Dinners And Snacks

Skipping late-night dinners and midnight snacks is essential for sleepers who have GERD. While eating a late-night snack won’t necessarily worsen a stuffy nose, it can cause acid reflux, which may exacerbate your symptoms. Eating late at night can also disrupt your circadian rhythm and make it more difficult to fall asleep. 

Another thing you’ll want to avoid before bed is alcohol, as it triggers upper respiratory symptoms and can cause sneezing and dizziness. In addition, alcohol is a diuretic that increases urination frequency and makes it more challenging to stay hydrated throughout the night.

Caffeine before bed is also not recommended beyond the obvious reasons. Like alcohol, it is also a diuretic.

Still, there are times when late-night snacks feel irresistible. If you’re a midnight snacker, check out our guide on healthy foods to eat before bed.

8. Take A Hot Shower

It may not provide long-term relief, but a hot, steamy shower can thin out mucus. Take deep breaths through the mouth to relieve the sinuses as the steam rises. You can also massage the skin around your nose to clear the passages.

9. Apply A Vapor Rub

Over-the-counter vapor rubs contain menthol, eucalyptus, and camphor oil that improve sleep quality. Vapor rubs won’t necessarily cure a cold but can provide temporary relief, suppress the cough reflex, and reduce overall stress.

How To Sleep With A Stuffy Nose FAQs

How long does a stuffy nose last?

A stuffy nose typically lasts anywhere between two days and two weeks. Generally, most people report experiencing nasal drip for about a week.

Why is one nostril always blocked?

If one of your nostrils is always blocked, the culprit might be an off-center or deviated septum. In addition, allergies, environmental factors, and infections might be more pronounced in one nostril than the other. 

Is it dangerous to sleep with a blocked nose?

Sleeping with a blocked nose is not necessarily dangerous but can be very uncomfortable and disruptive. Depending on your sleeping position, a blocked nose might make you snore or sneeze in the middle of the night