Sleep Care

Nighttime Nasal Congestion

Nighttime nasal congestion. For many people, this is not a temporary condition. It’s a chronic problem they deal with on a daily basis. More than a cold, a case of the flu or a sinus infection, people with chronic nasal congestion suffer with a stuffy nose most of the time. As a result, it can be hard to eat, drink, sleep soundly or sometimes even to talk clearly and comfortably. It also can lead to headaches and snoring too.

This condition occurs when the little bony structures covered by mucous membranes inside the nasal passages swell up. This, in turn, makes it difficult to breathe through your nose and can be especially irritating during sleep.

Causes

1.) Your nose prepares the air before it reaches your lungs. But, this process is largely impacted by humidity levels. For instance, when there is an inadequate amount of humidity in the air, nasal membranes cannot produce enough mucous. The result is dried out nasal passages that can become irritated and swollen, making breathing through the nose difficult.

2.) Your sinuses are small airbags, found in the bones of your face. When they cannot drain properly, it can be difficult to breathe through your nose. The problem is amplified at night because of gravity. When you are lying down, the sinuses may drain down the back of your throat, causing irritation. But if you lay on one side, the sinuses drain to that side, making it difficult to breathe through the nose.

3.) Sometimes allergies cause nighttime stuffiness. Allergens often cause an increase in histamines, which lead to a stuffy nose. If nighttime is the only time you experience breathing issues through your nose, you may be allergic to the material or stuffing that is contained in your pillows. Or, you may be allergic to dust mites which appear to be more prevalent in bedding.

4.) If you notice your nose only gets stuffy when you lay on your side, you could have a deviated septum. The septum is the thin layer of cartilage that lies between the two nostrils. A deviated septum can be the result of a birth defect or an injury. If you have a deviated septum, when you lay on your side, the obstruction narrows your breathing passage making breathing more difficult.

5.) Sometime pregnant women will start snoring because of nasal congestion due to the influx of hormones as well as their increasing size and the uterus pressing down on the diaphragm. In fact, about 30 percent of pregnant women snore because of increased swelling in their nasal passages.

Remedies 

1.) If you feel humidity is the issue, you can try a humidifier or saline nose spray to relieve your stuffy nose. This will add moisture to the environment.

2.) If sinuses are your issue, elevate your head to help sinuses drain through the night. Use several pillows or place a folded towel beneath your pillow.

3.) Also, there are a number of over-the-counter remedies you can try including adhesive nasal aids and strips, decongestants, antihistamines and even nasal sprays. However, nasal sprays should be used sparingly because some can become addictive. Instead, seek out a medical professional on how best to treat your situation.

Finally, if nasal congestion is a reoccurring barrier to sleep, talk to your doctor. Your nasal congestion may lead to more serious issues. For instance, initial research indicates that nasal obstruction or restricted airflow may result in pharyngeal collapse in the airway. In fact, during one study, nasal packing to artificially induce nasal obstruction caused increases in snoring, hypopneas, apneas and arousals. Additionally, increased nasal resistance has been found in patients with sleep apnea.

In the end, nighttime nasal congestion is not something you should take lying down. Because the nose represents half of the total respiratory system, a stuffy nose is not a small problem and if it occurs more often than not, you need to see a professional.

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