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When you’re sick with a cold, or your allergies are flaring up and causing a stuffy nose, sleep is often the best medicine. Unfortunately, when you’re so congested that you can hardly breathe, it’s hard to even fall asleep, never mind stay asleep and get a good night’s rest.
Your first instinct when you have a stuffy nose and want to get some rest might be to take a decongestant to clear your sinuses. That’s not always your best option, though, as many decongestants contain ingredients that will actually keep you awake. Not to mention, it’s not always a buildup of mucus that causes your stuffiness, but rather swelling of the nasal passages that create the blocked feeling.
So before you head to the medicine cabinet, try some of these tricks to get to sleep — even when you can’t breathe through your nose.
Getting rest when you have a stuffy nose begins well before bedtime. There are some things you can do throughout the day to help alleviate your symptoms and get more rest throughout the night.
Many people find that their congestion worsens at night, but taking care of yourself all day can help keep that from happening. But that’s not all you can do to sleep well.
Sometimes, you might feel fine when you get into bed, only to have your congestion worsen as you try to fall asleep. Every time you try a new position, the stuffiness eases for a few minutes, but then returns.
To keep your sinuses clear once you get in bed, try these tips.
When your stuffy nose is keeping you awake, and none of the other remedies help, medication may be the answer. However, before you stumble to the medicine cabinet in search of relief, keep a few things in mind.
First, while a decongestant might be useful for getting you through the day, it may not be ideal for helping your sleep. In many cases, decongestants are stimulants, and will actually keep you awake. While some decongestants, like Sudafed, are designed to only treat congestion, others include painkillers and other medications to treat multiple symptoms. Carefully read the packaging for these medications and choose the one that treats the symptoms you have, and skip those that have medicines you don’t need.
If you’re taking other medications, check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any over the counter decongestants. Some medications aren’t recommended for people with certain conditions. For example, if you have high blood pressure, medications containing pseudoephedrine can raise your heart rate and blood pressure to dangerous levels. If you opt to use a decongestant, choose one developed specifically not to raise your blood pressure.
A better option for treating a stuffy nose with medication is to choose an antihistamine instead. Antihistamines tend to make you drowsy, so they are best taken right before bed. They work by blocking histamine, a hormone that helps trigger allergic reactions, including congestion. Although they work best when your congestion is due to allergies rather than a cold, they can help alleviate a stuffy nose enough to help you fall asleep.
Another medication to try is a corticosteroid nasal spray. Available over-the-counter, these sprays help reduce inflammation in your nasal passages that causes congestion. Typically used by allergy sufferers, some of these medications require multiple doses before they are effective, so they aren’t ideal when you have a cold.
An increasingly popular option for treating a stuffy nose before bed is nasal irrigation. This is usually done with a neti pot, a container specially designed to flush water through your nasal passages.
To use a neti pot, you fill the container with a sterile saltwater mixture. This mixture can be purchased premade, or you can make your own with distilled or boiled water. Leaning over a sink and turning your head sideways, you pour water into your top nostril and let it drain out the bottom one.
You then repeat the process on the other side. By doing so, you flush the mucus out of your nose and reduce stuffiness. In addition to neti pots, you can use specially-designed squeeze containers to irrigate and rinse your nasal passages.
Neti pots can be effective, and some people swear by them. However, it’s vital that the solution you use is fully sterile, and that you completely clean and sterilize the device after using it, otherwise it could introduce more bacteria into your sinuses that can lead to serious infections.
Not all stuffy noses are brought on by the cold or flu. Allergies can also cause nasal congestion, along with sneezing, a runny nose, sore throat, and other symptoms, including trouble sleeping. In fact, the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology reports that about half of people with seasonal allergies have trouble sleeping when their allergies flare.
The best way to sleep well with allergy-induced congestion is to keep it from happening in the first place. Taking antihistamines or corticosteroid medications, whether over-the-counter or prescribed, can help lock the allergens that cause the reaction. Other steps to help allergy-proof your bedroom include:
Although in most cases, a stuffy nose is temporary — albeit annoying — there are times when you should see a doctor to rule out a more serious issue, like a sinus infection. Infants and anyone over age 65, or who has a compromised immune system, should see a doctor when they have a stuffy nose.
You should also make an appointment if your congestion lasts for longer than a week and is accompanied by a fever, you’re having trouble breathing, or the discharge changes to a green or yellow color with pain or fever, or if it becomes bloody or pus-like. This usually indicates an infection that needs prescription treatment.
Trying to sleep with a stuffy nose is no one’s idea of a good time, but it doesn’t have to keep you awake all night. With a few simple home remedies, you can reduce the pressure and congestion, and get the sleep you need to get over your cold and get back to yourself as quickly as possible.
Need more insight into getting the best night’s sleep you can? Follow the links below to learn more: