Best Position to Sleep with a Stuffy Nose

Let’s be honest: Struggling to find the best position to sleep with a stuffy nose is no fun at all. 

Whether it’s caused by allergies, a good, old-fashioned common cold, or a deviated septum, a stuffy nose can often feel worse at night and prevent us from getting a good night’s rest. 

What’s worse is that this good night’s rest is precisely what we need so that our bodies can recover, repair, and restore themselves to optimum health and help prevent us from getting a cold in the first place.

So what can we do about it?

Thankfully, quite a lot. 

Below, we’ll share with you the best way to sleep with a stuffy nose and offer a few bonus tips on how you can further improve your quality of sleep when your nose is all bunged up. 

Why is a Stuffy Nose Worse at Night?

Why is a Stuffy Nose Worse at Night?

If you’re wondering why your nose seems to be more bothersome at bedtime than any other time of the day, don’t worry, you’re not alone. 

According to Dr Laurence Knott, nasal congestion tends to be worse at night because the way many of us naturally sleep has a gravitational effect that results in mucus pooling at the back of the throat when we lay down.

Ultimately, this makes it harder for our sinuses to drain properly. 

Making things more problematic, if we sleep with a partner, our own stuffy nose may impact their sleep. One study suggests that night-time nasal congestion can increase snoring, which may keep us﹘and those we love﹘awake at night.

Still, there is some good news.

The fact that we know that our sleeping position may be making our stuffed-up nose even worse means that we can change it. Without further ado then, let’s look at how you can adopt the best sleeping position to get all the rest you need, even with a stuffed-up nose.

What is the Best Position to Sleep With a Stuffy Nose?

What is the Best Position to Sleep With a Stuffy Nose?

The best position is on your back with several firm but comfortable pillows propping your head up.

Remember earlier when we said that one of the main causes of nasal congestion during sleeping hours was due to gravity’s pull on our mucus?

Sleeping with our head pushed up on a couple of pillows like this not only prevents it from happening but actually helps us to use gravity in our favor, allowing a gravitational pull to drain our sinuses more effectively. 

What’s more, sleeping on our backs this way also helps reduce blood pressure to the head, which can help us to feel less bunged up and more able to rest well. 

If you struggle to sleep with your head pushed up like this, you might want to try sleeping in a recliner instead. After all, the goal is simply to get more blood flowing downwards from your sinuses, so anything that will help you do that is ideal. 

The Best Ways To Get Sleep With Nasal Congestion 

The Best Ways To Get Sleep With Nasal Congestion 

So, we know that sleeping on your back with your head pushed up on pillows is the best sleeping position for nasal congestion, but even this may not be a magic cure. 

Fortunately, there are a number of other things you can do to help yourself enjoy some quality shuteye when your nose is stuffy. 

1. Humidify Your Sleeping Environment

Humidify Your Sleeping Environment

When you’re suffering from congestion, it’s a good idea to ensure you’ve got the best humidity level for sleeping.

To do this, you can try a good quality cool-mist humidifier. 

Experts suggest that using a humidifier to increase the moisture in your bedroom helps to get rid of the kind of dry air that causes your nose and throat to become irritated and inflamed.

AquaOasis Cool Mist Humidifier

This, according to Mark A. Zacharek, MD, is especially important if you live or work in an environment with a forced-air heating system. “The nose is supposed to provide humidity and warmth and clean the air that passes through it. Forced heating systems in homes and workplaces often over-dry the nasal passages, aggravating allergies and sinusitis”, says Mark, the residency program director for the department of otolaryngology and head and neck surgery at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

Equally as important is that increased moisture also helps to break up mucus and helps your sinuses to drain more easily. 

2. Replace Your Bedding Frequently

Replace Your Bedding Frequently

If you’re waking up multiple times a night with allergies, it may have something to do with dust mites in and around the bedroom.

Human beings shed anywhere between 0.03 and 0.09 grams of skin every hour. For those of us on a good sleep schedule getting the recommended 7- 9 hours per night, that means we’re shedding a fair amount of skin in the bedroom every single night. 

This provides a veritable feast for those not-so-friendly dust mites who feed on fungus made from human skin. 

So it’s no surprise that one study found mattresses, corners of a bedroom, and floors beneath the bed to be some of the most favorable dust mite habitats. 

Given how prevalent mites are in the bedroom, there’s a good chance there’ll be lots of them on your bed covers too, so be sure to change them at least once a week, perhaps even more frequently if your allergy is seriously bad.

3. Use Nasal Rinses, Sprays, and Strips

prays, and Strips

Brushing your teeth and changing into proper bedclothes may be a standard part of your pre-sleep routine, but if you’re struggling with a stuffy nose, you might want to add something else to that routine:

Take a few moments to use saline or simply some nasal spray.

Over-the-counter sprays such as fluticasone and budesonide have both been proven to be effective in significantly reducing nasal symptoms, so it may be worth using them as a short-term solution before going to bed.

If a spray or saline rinse isn’t quite cutting it for you, you can also pick up a packet of nasal strips which open up the nasal passage to reduce congestion. 

4. Stay Hydrated 

Stay Hydrated 

It’s no secret that drinking plenty of water throughout the day can have an abundance of health benefits, from aiding digestion and preventing constipation to normalizing blood pressure, protecting your organs, and keeping your body temperature at a healthy level. 

However, did you know that drinking a cup of hot water or another hot drink before bed can also help to relieve symptoms?

To really help shift that stuffy nose for good then be sure to stay hydrated throughout the day and enjoy a relaxing hot drink as part of your nighttime ritual.

5. Stay Away from Alcohol

Stay Away from Alcohol

There’s nothing quite like a relaxing glass of wine or a cool, refreshing beer of an evening, is there?

Maybe not, but as nice as that drink may be, it may actually be doing you more harm than good when it comes to sleeping with a stuffy nose. 

A study of 11,933 randomly-selected adults found that for 3.4% of participants, alcohol intake triggered respiratory problems such as nasal congestion and sneezing. 

It’s also widely reported that alcohol can decrease sleep quality in general, so if you’re already struggling to find the best way to sleep with your stuffy nose, it’s a good idea to make that glass of wine one of your things to avoid doing before sleep.

Of course, nobody’s saying that you have to go teetotal for the rest of your life, but it may be worth cutting it out for a while as you adjust to your new optimum sleep position.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sleeping With a Stuffy Nose

Which side should you sleep on with a stuffy nose?

For a stuffy nose, it’s best to lie on your back with your head pushed up on a pillow so that your sinuses can drain more easily. However, if you do want to sleep on your side, sleep on the left with your head slightly elevated. 

Can you suffocate in your sleep from a stuffy nose?

While a stuffed nose is certainly uncomfortable and makes it difficult to breathe through your nose, it’s incredibly unlikely that you’ll die in your sleep from it. Breathing through your mouth will be possible and will be just fine. 

Is it good to sleep on your stomach when congested?

Not really. Sleeping on your stomach means that your head is lying flat, which prevents your sinuses from draining properly. 
If you have to sleep on your stomach, elevate your head with a pillow but be prepared that this may not be as effective as sleeping on your back.

Sleeping With a Stuffy Nose – A Final Piece of Advice

So, there you have it. By now, you’ve learned almost everything there is to know about the best way to sleep when your nose is stuffy.

You know, for example, that the absolute best sleep position for nasal congestion is on your back with your head raised on your pillow.

You also know just what to do throughout the day to help make sleeping at night much easier. 

However, if you do all of that and find you’re still not getting the quality sleep you need, it may be time to see a medical professional.

Your doctor can provide you with suitable allergy medication, prescription-strength nasal sprays, and other treatments to help you. And if even that isn’t helping? It may be worth attempting something a little bit different. Check out our guide to acupuncture for sleep to discover how it may be able to help you banish that blocked-up nose once and for all.

References

1. Aric A. Prather, PhD, Denise Janicki-Deverts, PhD, Martica H. Hall, PhD, Sheldon Cohen, PhD, Behaviorally Assessed Sleep and Susceptibility to the Common Cold, Sleep, Volume 38, Issue 9, September 2015, Pages 1353–1359, https://doi.org/10.5665/sleep.4968

2.  Knott, L. Dr, Nasal Congestion – Causes and Treatment, March 2021, https://patient.info/ears-nose-throat-mouth/nasal-congestion

3. Young T, Finn L, Palta M. Chronic Nasal Congestion at Night Is a Risk Factor for Snoring in a Population-Based Cohort Study. Arch Intern Med. 2001;161(12):1514–1519. doi:10.1001/archinte .161.12.1514 https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/648438 

4. Medlineplus (2021), Humidifiers and Health – Medical Encyclopaedia https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002104.htm 

5. Liliades, C., MD (2010), The Right Way To Use a Humidifier for Sinusitis – Everyday Health, https://www.everydayhealth.com/ear-nose-throat/humidifier-for-sinusitis.asp

6. Villazon, L. (2022), How much skin does a human shed in their life? BBC Science Focus Magazine

https://www.sciencefocus.com/the-human-body/how-much-skin-does-a-human-shed-in-their-life/

7. Nadchatiram M. House dust mites, our intimate associates. Trop Biomed. 2005 Jun;22(1):23-37. PMID: 16880751 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16880751/ 

8. Day J, Carrillo T. Comparison of the efficacy of budesonide and fluticasone propionate aqueous nasal spray for once daily treatment of perennial allergic rhinitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1998 Dec;102(6 Pt 1):902-8. doi: 10.1016/s0091-6749(98)70326-4. PMID: 984742 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9847429/ 

9. Harvard Medical School (2022), How much water should you drink? Harvard Health Publishing https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-much-water-should-you-drink 

10.  Sanu A, Eccles R. The effects of a hot drink on nasal airflow and symptoms of common cold and flu. Rhinology. 2008 Dec;46(4):271-5. PMID: 19145994. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19145994/

11. Nihlen, U., Lennart, G., Persson, C., et al (2005), Alcohol-induced upper airway symptoms: prevalence and co-morbidity, Respiratory Medicine – Volume 99, Issue 6, P762-769 https://www.resmedjournal.com/article/S0954-6111(04)00437-8/fulltext

12. Stein, Michael D, and Peter D Friedmann. “Disturbed sleep and its relationship to alcohol use.” Substance abuse vol. 26,1 (2005): 1-13. doi:10.1300/j465v26n01_01 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2775419/ 

Sarah Wagner

I'm Sarah Wagner, and I founded Sweet Island Dreams in 2022. It's a blog dedicated to helping people mental vacation virtually anytime they want. By providing information about the best sleep of your life, I help people drift away to paradise without ever having to leave their bed!

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