Why does nasal congestion and allergy symptoms get worse at night?

We already know how important sleep is. It’s necessary for maintaining your physical and mental health, and directly impacts how you feel during the day. 

Unfortunately, nasal congestion can make it difficult, if not  impossible to get a good night’s sleep. It can leave you feeling stuffy and exhausted when it’s time to get up in the morning.

Why does nasal congestion and allergies become worse at night? 

Nasal congestion or a “stuffy nose” at bedtime is especially noticeable when you have an environmental allergy, cold, sinus infection or the flu. The runny nose you struggled with in the daytime quickly turns to a stuffy nose once you lie down to go to sleep.

There are a few reasons why this happens.

  1. Your movements and positions, such as sitting upright compared to lying down, affect your bodily functions. This includes blood circulation. When you are lying down, the vessels of the nose and sinuses become engorged,  which can cause you to experience  nasal congestion or shortness of breath at night. Even if you aren’t experiencing cold or flu symptoms during the day, your breathing can become more challenging at night.
  2. Posture can also affect the mucus build up in your nose and sinuses. When standing or sitting up straight, gravity helps to drain the mucus from your nasal cavity. This is why when you lie down, it becomes easier for mucus to accumulate and cause congestion. 
  3.  The body’s production and levels of certain allergy-regulating hormones is different during the day and night. The production of these hormones is in alignment with the sleep-wake cycle. When we are fully awake, the body produces more of these hormones. The levels start to dip when we are getting ready to sleep, which leaves our bodies more susceptible to allergic reactions.

What you can do about it

You don’t  have to resign yourself to nights of restless sleep  caused by a stuffy nose. 

There are certain steps you can take according to the NIH to help you breathe more easily and get more restful sleep during the night.

Here are some steps you can take to improve the quality of your sleep. 

  • Rearrange your pillows so your head can be slightly elevated. 
  • A humidifier will prevent the air in your bedroom from  becoming  too dry. 
  • Hydrate! Drink more water and decrease your intake of sugar and caffeine during the day.
  • Usa a nasal wash or a saline nasal spray.

If you suffer from allergies, removing allergy triggers from your bedroom can make a huge difference.  Frequent cleaning will decrease the presence of allergens in your indoor air. Additionally, a quality air cleaner like HEPA can help reduce 99.7% of unhealthy microscopic particles while profoundly reducing the levels of airborne allergens in your room. 

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